Thursday, February 08, 2007

Barry Bonds...

...should retire.

Up until 2004, if you looked at the alphabetically sorted list of players, the name at the top would be Henry "Hank" Aaron. The thought was that it was extremely convenient since in Hank Aaron, that was all you needed to know about baseball.

Aside from holding the immortal record of 755 career home runs, he also stole 240 bases during his career and had a Fielding Percentage of .980. Aside from the 755 homeruns, perhaps the most important thing is that he did all of this with the upmost class. Baseball writers never wrote about how he isolated himself from his teammates or the nearly definitive proof that he used steroids. Most importantly, there is no controversy about how he broke Babe Ruth's record of 714 career home runs.

Barry Bonds is the son of a great major league baseball player and the godson of one of the greatest. More than anyone else, he should know that he is not worthy to break the greatest record in all of sports. If he re-signs with the Giants and hits 22 more home runs, then he will start the biggest controversy in the history of baseball. If he cares at all about the history of the game, he should step down and let history judge his legacy.

1 comment:

Matt said...

How to respond to this without opening the "steroids aren't really cheating" bag of worms...

Fine. So I lost my Baseball Purist card years ago. I like the DH. I love the Wild Card. I fully embrace VORP, Win Shares, and FRAA and shun things like wins, RBIs, and errors. So it isn't a surprise for me to suggest that perhaps this whole steroid thing is just another era.

Frank "Home Run" Baker led the majors in homers for four straight years (1911-1914), hitting no more than twelve longballs in any season. In fact, in 1913, Baker hit 25% more home runs than the next closest player. In 1968, Bob Gibson led the majors with a 1.68 ERA, the lowest mark of all time. However, the league average ERA was just 2.50, also lowest of all time. The mound was lowered six inches the following season to compensate. In 2001 Barry Bonds led the majors with 73 home runs, but he did it in a season when eight players hit 45 or more HRs.

Point being, it is not a revelation to take the statistics of baseball and put them in context of the period in which the statistics were generated. When it comes to counting statistics like home runs, I think most baseball fans wouldn't call sluggers from one era better or worse than sluggers from another era. Simply having a greater number in one category does not indicate absolute superiority.

Back to Bonds, I don't think that having him hit his 756th home run necessarily defames the history of baseball. For example, the all-time hits leader committed what baseball people consider the worst clubhouse crime- betting on baseball. Did this give him an advantage over his opponents such that he was bound to get more hits than anyone else? No... but neither did steroids for Bonds. In the mid-1990s, it is obvious that many many batters, and pitchers, enhanced their performance with anabolic steroids. This was not against the rules. It was (perhaps still is, with HGH) an era in which muscle enhancement affected the statistics. I don't think that's any different from a dead ball affecting the statistics, or a mound being too high, or parks getting smaller. What is ultimately true is that in an era of steroids Barry Bonds was undeniably the best slugger. For that, he should reap the rewards handed out to generations of baseball fans who similarly dominated their own eras.

And then this will all become moot in 2012 when Alex Rodriguez hits his 800th home run. The real crime we should be focusing on is David Aardsma's crime of making it to the major leagues and sucking, taking Aaron's alphabetic title for nothing.