Barry Bonds and 756

Regardless of your opinion of Barry Bonds, if you are a baseball fan, you'll be paying attention this season — perhaps reluctantly — as Bonds pursues Henry Aaron's 33-year-old MLB record for home runs in a career.

Until last year, I was more-or-less a Bonds fan. The man's talents were undeniable, and I didn't especially care if he was rude to sportswriters and Jeff Kent didn't like him. He was the best player of the 1990s — I strenuously disagree with anyone who says otherwise — and when he belted 73 home runs in 2001 and starting setting records for walks and on-base percentage, he put himself in the echelon of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams and Hank Aaron. As recently as 2004, I dreamed of Bonds sacrificing a little power and batting .400.

I'm no longer a Bonds fan. By the time 73 was in the record books, everyone had heard the steroid rumors. But rumors are rumors, and they seemed to swirl around everyone who hit for power. I was still in awe of what Bonds was doing. In 2003 — two years after Bonds broke Mark McGwire's single-season home run record — two San Francisco Chronicle writers, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, uncovered what has become known as the BALCO Scandal. Bonds' name was quickly mentioned in association with the investigation, and for many fans, it was all the evidence necessary to prove that Bonds was juicing. It looked bad, but I wasn't convinced yet.

The case against Bonds became even stronger when his grand jury testimony was leaked to the press shortly thereafter. There was still some small case for reasonable doubt, though. For the last year, however, it has been apparent that people who still believe Bond never took steroids are fooling themselves. Game of Shadows (written by Fainaru-Wada and Williams) and Love Me, Hate Me (by Jeff Pearlman) were published less than a month apart, and their function was to verify the rumors as fact: Barry Bonds took performance-enhancing drugs.

I don't know how much of Bonds' incredible performance the last few years should be attributed to performance-enhancing drugs. I'm sure that Bonds isn't the only one taking them, and his accomplishments are spectacular regardless of what he's taking. But I know he's been trying to cheat, and that's why I can't support him any more. I stayed in Barry's corner until it became impossible to remain there.

This year, with 734 career home runs, Bonds will continue his pursuit of arguably the most famous record in all of sports: Aaron's mark of 755 home runs. It's reasonable to expect that, barring major injury, Bonds will hit the 22 homers he needs for the record. Other than 2005, when injuries limited him to just 14 games, Bonds has hit at least 25 home runs for 16 consecutive seasons. Health problems and intentional walks have slowed Bonds in his pursuit of baseball's most revered record: not since 2002 has Barry gotten 400 at-bats. Nothing else, however, is likely to stop him. Since 2001, Bonds has fewer than nine at-bats per home run, meaning that he probably has a good shot at Aaron's record even with only 200 at-bats.

As the 2007 season kicks into gear, I'll be among those rooting against Bonds, hoping that Aaron's record somehow holds up. I know that if Bonds doesn't get 756 this season, he'll probably do it next year, but I'll take what I can get. Barry Bonds evokes strong emotions from most sports fans, so no matter how you feel about him, you'll probably be paying attention this season as Bonds chases Henry Aaron and 755.

Comments and Conversation

April 6, 2007

Joey Cardoza:

Sorry to hear you have been a Bonds fan but are no longer. From my point of view Bonds has done nothing others haven’t don except excell beyond belief. Also it is still possible that Bonds hasn’t done near the things everyone suspects him of doing.

He is truly the very best baseball player since Willie Mays, my all time favorite. Another thing or two and i’ll let you go; Bonds has accomplished all these records and feats under the very harshest media bashing of a player in history, and, last year he finished amonst the very top power stat hitters in all baseball even though he played the first half season hurt, would have finished 4th i think but needed a few more at bats that he didn’t get cause they don’t count walks intentional or otherwise. Truly amazing!!

GO Giants! Go Barry!!

August 8, 2007

adam talcott:

With Barry passing Hammering Hank today I feel mixed emotions. I congratulate Barry for resetting the most restpected records in all of sports, and achnowledge him as the best baseball player of his era. However, loving not only my childhood heroes, and my home team, I have always felt that I had a love for the records that the best players of the game before my time had set. It has a lways been a thrill to watch Griffy Jr. chase Roger Maris every year. The passion for such renound records don’t exist anymore, anywhere. When the foundation that the previous generations of baseball players have laid for us to enjoy are destroyed my performing enhancing drugs baseball as a whole suffers. That why I don’t have respect for Barry Bonds and others that have made similar decisions

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