The fans of San Francisco can have their little moment. Good for them, being all cheery and adulatory when Barry Bonds sent his tainted home run into the AT&T Park bleachers. At least someone was happy.
I know there's supposed to be a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, but considering the facts as we know them and the glaring omission of any kind of evidence from Bonds to prove that he never took steroids -- simply rehashing, "I've never failed a drug test," only works for the last few years, not the "record" 73 season -- we certainly cannot simply dismiss any rumors or accusations regarding Bonds' mysterious marked improvement as he got older. Remember: Bonds admitted he took steroids, but he claimed he didn't know what they were. That's like believing George Bush started the war in Iraq without knowing there was oil there. Why would Bonds, who is supposedly so diligent with his training and workout schedule and so careful and controlling with his body and his health, take something he wasn't completely familiar with? That just doesn't make sense to me. And let's not forget that baseball still has no test for HGH, though it does ban the drug.
But all those suspicions aside, the fact that Bonds "broke" the record in front of his home fans is good for baseball. The record was going to be broken, so it certainly helps the sport's image to have it accomplished in front of the friendly home crowd, instead of in Atlanta, Dodger Stadium or New York, where the opposition would've surely been heard. I'm not happy it had to happen, but I'd resigned myself to it at the end of last season, when he put together a strong final two months and showed he was clearly healthy -- enough -- to get there. At least it happened in the middle of the night, when I was asleep, my phone off and the text message from MLB.com undelivered. I only found out this morning, when I turned on my computer.
I saw the photographs and watched the video clip, and it's a shame that Bonds has to be so brash and arrogant about it. Hank Aaron was humble, no doubt in part because of the threats and backlash he received, and while Bonds is clearly not anywhere near Aaron's stature in terms of class, reverence and humility, it would have been nice to see him hit the ball and watch it soar into the seats while he jogged around the bases. Instead, he stood at the plate, raised his arms, and upon touching home plate, gave an exaggerated two-fingered point to the sky. A salute to dad, no doubt, but a simple gesture still would've gotten the point across.
Baseball got what it deserved, too. "Commissioner" Bud Selig refused to be in attendance, sending two representatives instead and releasing a brief statement following the game. For a sport that ignored whatever evidence and warning signs it had while steroid use expanded out of control through the 90s, it deserves to have its most cherished record held under such suspicion. The commissioner and the owners could've taken action sooner, the players association could have policed itself sooner, so now whatever light they're perceived in is the result of their own inaction. They can clear themselves over time, but for now, that's the way it is.
With this home run comes relief. No more Bonds Watch, no more Pedro Gomez reports on the Giants' left fielder sitting out day games after night games. No more Giants games as circus, no more daily press conferences to avoid -- or at least they'll be less prevalent and easier to avoid. Each home run now is rather insignificant, another notch on a tainted record and merely one more added to the eventual benchmark that will be surpassed by Alex Rodriguez, then Albert Pujols and then Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder or some fresh-faced minor leaguer we've yet to realize is the heir to the home run king's crown.
Now we get to spend three weeks wondering if the Giants will try to get something for Bonds, to slide him through waivers and deal him to a contending team before the Sept. 1 postseason roster deadline. Surely no team will claim him to block the deal and risk assuming so much money for a controversial and aged slugger, so it's possible. It's just not likely. I don't see it happening, but it's fun to speculate nonetheless.
The ball Bonds hit landed in a crowded section of bleachers at AT&T Park, where it ended up in the hands of a Mets fan literally passing through town. That puts a smile on my face and some symmetry to the moment, considering the Giants' roots in New York City. I'm not quite sure why a Mets fan on his way to Australia who apparently went to the game on a whim during his layover was bringing his Jose Reyes jersey to the Southern Hemisphere in winter, but I guess that's part of his regular wardrobe. At least he has as much right to the ball as Bonds does hitting it.
But it's only just for now.
Labels: Barry Bonds, Bud Selig, Hank Aaron, home run, records, steroids