Kings in name only
I’ve been paying little to no attention to the Barry Bonds trial, which wrapped up yesterday. The former slugger dodged most of the charges in his steroid case though he was found guilty of obstruction of justice.
Like most other fans, I’ve tired of Bonds and the whole steroid era. It almost feels like it doesn’t exist. In the history of baseball it has it’s own numbers, quartered off to themselves in a different, shadier part of the building.
Listening to Chuck Oliver and Matt Chernoff during lunch today I heard a great example of just what this faux period did to to its participants. Technically, Bonds is the home run king. Quick, how many did he hit? This is a record any baseball fan (and most non-fans) could instantly recall for decades. Oliver and Chernoff, guys who snatch random sports dates and figures from mid-air for a living, couldn’t come up with a definitive number.
Now, how many did Hank Aaron hit? Babe Ruth? What was the single season homer record for Roger Maris? None of these stand as the record, though they are quickly recalled by most and seen as such. (755, 714, 61, by the way. Yeah, I recognize Maris over the Babe.)
The large lesson here, of course, is that men like Bonds, Mark McGwire and Raphael Palmeiro had career years for a brief time, but the shortcuts taken to get there wiped out their place in the game’s history. No other sport in America is as intertwined with the country as baseball. Each player dreams of having a legacy that lives on in Cooperstown. For these guys, that legacy was forfeited.
The end of the Bonds trial could mark the end of retracing the steroid era in baseball. Could. I’m ready for it to be as such. In my mind and apparently many others, baseball’s records may have changed in the books, but never did for those who love and appreciate the game.