On a cool summer night, Tuesday August 7th, 2007, Bonds surpassed the most hallowed record in all of sports. For a man who has been fighting the media, his teammates, and his coaches for over 20 years, it was fitting that he would hit a solo home run.
However you feel about him, Bonds has now hit the most home runs in Major League Baseball history. No amount of complaining or bitching about it will change that fact. There will be no asterisk, nor will home runs be taken away. As much as MLB have botched this entire episode in their history, they will certainly not change records, even if Bonds is one day found guilty of steroid abuse. Even if Bonds has hit the most home runs, this does not immediately make him the greatest home run hitter of all time or even the greatest slugger of all time. Many fans and historians will continue to claim that Babe Ruth, and not Hank Aaron or Barry Bonds, holds this title.
Bonds’ baseball card will always show him as the player who hit the most home runs in baseball history. His legacy however will forever be tainted. Much like Pete Rose, he will be remembered as the false idol of the steroid era – correctly or incorrectly.
Personally, I find it disappointing that such a historic event was not celebrated but was rather simply observed. Much like a road-side accident, sports nation have watch on with disgust over the previous months. Baseball executives, the media, and many fans turned a blind eye to steroid allegations in the late 1990s, while juiced up life sized Hulksters tore the skins off baseballs. Fans cheered. The media extolled the virtues of the home run. Executives smiled as the money continue to pour in. Ironic that the McGwire – Sosa HR race of 1998 should have set MLB straight following the contract disputes of the early 1990s. The outcome of that race, the steroid use in both Bonds and many other MLB players, is now what is plaguing MLB. Strangely, the sport is as healthy as ever, financially anyways. Ticket sales are at an all-time high. Are fans simply paying the money to come to the ball park, in hopes of gaining some sort of moral high ground over what has essentially become a modern day gladiator spectacle? It think rather that fans care little about the health of these entertainers, and simply want to see the spectacle of the HR. How else do you explain that there is little to no outrage at pitchers who are on performance enhancing drugs?
People have been cheating since the beginning of time. Once you introduce competition, you introduce cheaters. The fact that Barry Bonds is a repugnant human being really has no effect on my view of him as a baseball player. He is paid to entertain, and he has admittedly done this better than any athlete today. If he has cheated, he has frankly only done damage to his own body and his own morality. The fact remains that steroids were not against baseball regulations in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Even today, baseball-doping offences are paltry at best. Still, the media, fans and baseball’s front office continue to shun Bonds while doing very little to discourage future instances of this happening. Should we continue to vilify players who cheat? Absolutely. But rather than focusing on stupid arguments (i.e. you decide - Bonds is now 20 lbs stronger, no shit dummy, how do you look now that you are 43 vs. when you were 24?), and mocking others, lets try and celebrate those who play the game the right way.