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Barry Bonds is innocent.
No, I don't like him either. No one likes him, except maybe his mom and a couple of amped-up geeks kayaking around McCovey Cove with fishing nets. But Bonds is on the precipice of becoming baseball's all-time home run king, and not only does nobody care, most fans seem to wish he never happened.
Forget banned substances for a moment. No, let's focus on banned substances: Let's assume Barry was on something from 2000 to 2004, like everyone else in the Needles and Creams Era, right down to the kid selling the anemic chowder at Fenway. During those five years, Bonds had 248 homers, 544 RBI, 615 runs, and batted .339. Juice or no juice, that's amazing, considering the fact that the pitchers - who walked him 872 times rather than risk giving up another embarrassing dinger - were also juiced. Bonds, already one of the greatest ever, was the undisputed heavyweight champ of the era. He was so dominant during those five years that he won the MVP award four times. The other time, he finished second to his teammate Jeff Kent, which was a joke - even to Kent.
Diehard fans want to discount those numbers, because they "taint" the history of baseball. People: baseball was born tainted. Its history has is filled with a lot more pine tar, cork, Vaseline, emery boards, thumbtacks, and sharpened spikes than sportsmanship. John McGraw reportedly hid balls in the outfield and Whitey Ford doctored his pitches so well he said it was as though he had his own tool bench on the mound with him. The '51 Giants, one of the game's all-time feel-good stories, used telescopes to steal opponents' signs. I mean, Christ, there's an entire family of groundskeepers that has been altering fields to the home team's advantage for more than 80 years. That's baseball.
Should we throw out the numbers from McGraw's and Ford's eras, too?
Purists would scoff at such an idea, because it would be an admission that their national pastime has always been dirty and the Hall of Fame is packed with cheaters and assholes.
Fans are now skeptical. That's good. They're finally awake to the notion that their precious game is populated with men who will do whatever it takes to get an edge. But we shouldn't be so naive to think that it hasn't always been that way. Barry Bonds may be about as popular as Bin Laden these days,
but he is not a symbol of society's deteriorating values. He is simply the best at the newest kind of cheating, and I say more power to him.
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