Barry Bonds….

…used to be my second-favorite player of all time. Used to be.I’ve held the view I develop below here for quite awhile now, but the raid on two pharmacies yesterday morning in Florida and Texas for illegal steroid distribution that has already turned up the name of athlete Gary Matthews Jr. as a client has made all this fresh on my mind one again.Sooooo, I used to respect Barry Bonds.I even gave him the benefit of the doubt when the accusations of steroids came out in force, precisely because he was such a dominant force in the game before that point. No one, and I mean no one in the game of baseball EVER has been a talented in their raw tools as Barry Bonds. That might be a bit contentious to say, but I think it’s true. I mean, for the love, in 1990 (his fourth full season in the majors) the boy hit .301, cranked 33 homers and 114 RBIs, stole 52 bases, won the MVP, AND won his first of EIGHT Gold Gloves in left field. Ridiculous talent there that he was living into in a BIG way.In 1998, when Sammy Sosa was on his way to 66 homers (probably with the help of steroids) and Mark McGwire hit 70 homers (definitely with the help of steroids) as they “saved baseball”, Barry quietly hit .303 with 33 homers and 122 RBIs. How one “quietly” does such a thing is tough to understand, though the obsession with Sosa/McGwire explains a lot, but without a doubt Barry’s time out of the spotlight started the downward spiral that we are well aware of today. You could sum what precipitated that spiral in one word really. JEALOUSY. Supplemented by a false charge of the racism of the suits in the MLB offices against Sosa and Bonds and all black athletes everywhere, basically.Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams quote Bonds in their book Game of Shadows as saying”They’re (MLB) just letting him (McGwire) do it because he’s a white boy,” (though several short seasons later, Bonds broke his record….hmmm…..). “The pursuit by Sosa, a Latin player from the Dominican Republic, was entertaining but doomed,” Bonds declared. As a matter of policy, “they’ll never let him win,” he said. Link to the quote in full here.It just so happened that 1999 (physical growth) and 2000 (numerical explosion) marked Bonds’ prodigious growth and assault on the record books, with him reaching the pinnacle of achievement in 2001 (73 homers) and 2002 (batting an absurd .370 while shattering the MLB record for on base percentage (.582) that he promptly broke again two years later by getting on base a superhuman 60 % (.609) of the time). And just to quantify the change in Bonds’ physique in this time, in his time with the Giants, Bonds grew from a size 42 to a size 52 jersey; from size 10 1/2 to size 13 cleats; and from a size 7 1/8 to size 7 1/4 cap, even though he had taken to shaving his head.”The changes in his foot and head size,” Fainaru-Wada and Williams write, “were of special interest: medical experts said overuse of human growth hormone (HGH) could cause an adult’s extremities to begin growing, aping the symptoms of the glandular disorder acromegaly.”All because of JEALOUSY. Because Barry wanted his. All he had to do was wait the home-run-driven media firestorm out (especially since McGwire and Sosa had such steep dropoffs soon thereafter), keep producing like he always did, and he would have been a lock for the greatest five-tool athlete to ever play the game (maybe the best ever all around). But now, today, he has lost all respect in the eyes of fans around the game and worse, now is the model athlete held up as the seedy, disgusting, cheating element of competition instead of one to look up to in all manner of ways.Sometimes I feel like I want to throw up now, that I ever invested this much and cared this much about an athlete like him (maybe that’s a commentary on the nature of our society to exalt certain individuals in importance solely for their athletic prowess or good looks or a couple good movies rather than people of integrity who have worked hard to get where they’re at; people who recognize they are looked up to and live into that responsibility). At one time, Bonds was my second-favorite athlete of all time behind (though leagues behind) Cal Ripken Jr, and just in front of Lawrence Taylor (and HE’s a big winner too; if you want your kids to smoke crack, then by all means, have them look up to him, or Mike Vick, or Ron Artest, or Jason Grimsley, or Steve Howe). Today, I’m a bigger fan of the Dallas Cowboys than Barry, and for those who know me, that’s saying something!Fainaru-Wada and Williams document now in the afterword to their book added following 2005;”For those who cared about the game (2005) was a difficult time, as Dodgers radio announcer Vin Scully, the dean of baseball broadcasters, told the Los Angeles Times. Scully had been at the microphone in 1974 when Atlanta’s Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, against the Dodgers, to break Babe Ruth’s record. Scully cherished that memory, but he wanted no part of Bonds making history.”With Aaron, it was a privilege to be there when he did it,” Scully said. “With Bonds, no matter what happens now, it will be an awkward moment. That’s the best word I can think of now. If I had my druthers, I would rather have that awkward moment happen to somebody else.”Keep shifting blame on others forever, Barry, and you’ll die a sad, sad man knowing you have no integrity, cheated on your wife, were a poor example of fatherhood for your children, and carried no awareness of accountability to yourself or the beautiful game of baseball you stained with your decision. Today, you’re a pariah, an overbulked joke of a man who used to be one of my heroes. I’m sorry I ever looked up to you. Maybe I can again someday. I hope to, because I’m in the pits now.

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