Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Have you ever been dragged into the middle of a fight you didn’t really want to be a part of? Well, as a sports writer, I feel like I’m dragged into the middle of this whole Barry Bonds steroid issue. I tried to avoid it, I really did. But if you pay attention to any of the mainstream media, it’s almost impossible not to get involved.

Personally, I just want to see an end to all the lies and deception. And I’m not even talking about Barry Bonds. The talk in recent weeks about investigating Barry Bonds has as much to do with Major League Baseball and baseball’s sports writers not wanting to see Barry Bonds break Hank Aaron’s home run record as it does with any of the other reasons given like the “integrity of the game.”

By now I’m sure that most of us have seen all the famous picture of a young, skinny Barry Bonds from the early 90’s next to a picture of the swollen homerun hitting machine that he currently is. But has anyone seen a picture of Barry Bonds from five years ago next to a picture of Barry Bonds right now? I have. They’re pretty much the same.

The point is that Barry Bonds’ body didn’t make this transformation overnight. He’s looked the way he does for some time now. But Major League Baseball and the media never really had a problem with it, until now that he’s coming close to one of baseball’s most impressive records.

Bud Selig and Major League Baseball could have stopped all of this from happening. There have been complaints about steroids in the game of baseball for over a decade now, but Selig never took the initiative to stop it. They made a few half-hearted attempts at getting a drug-testing policy, but backed down at the first sign of resistance from the players. You’d think they would have fought harder for something so vital to the purity and integrity of the game, but they mainly used it as a concession to the players to give them leverage for their other priorities.

And then there are the baseball writers. Baseball’s media is as close to a modern-day version of the mafia that you’re going to get. If you help them out, give them good quotes, tell them funny stories, they will give you their protection. If you don’t help them out, you’ll have to endure their wrath. You can’t blame them for it. Trying to make the same story interesting 162 different times over the course of a season can be extremely difficult. But that’s why I view things like the Hall of Fame voting, which is voted on by baseball writers, to be about as legitimate as a South American election.

Bonds has always been surly and standoffish with the media. He doesn’t give smiling interviews in front of the camera the way Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa did, and he has always been punished by the media for it. Can you imagine the reaction if Bonds bat split open in tomorrow’s game and cork came flying out the way it did with Sammy Sosa’s bat a few years ago? I’m willing to bet they wouldn’t accept the “I accidentally grabbed the wrong bat” accuse like they did for Smilin’ Sammy. It’s also why we get the annual story about why Barry Bonds is such a bad teammate, despite the fact Bonds performs better than any baseball player in history. I don’t know how you could be a better teammate than by going out and doing your job well every single day, but like I said, what happens in the clubhouse is more important to baseball writers than what happens on the field.

The steroid hysteria around Bonds is no different. There’s a bunch of writers who would love nothing more than to put an asterisk next to all of Bonds achievements just because they think he’s a bad guy. The potential steroid use is just a convenient means to go after him.

So while everyone is making a big deal out of this now, it’s no different than how gay marriage becomes a hot button issue near every election. If Major League Baseball and the baseball writers really cared as much about this issue as they say they do, it would have been corrected long ago. If they want to stop steroid use in the future, they should make a rule to start testing players. But don’t single out and attack Barry just because you don’t like him. And try to leave me out of it.


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