Tag Archives: Barry Bonds

No Need for Hank to Go Groupie

By Jason Menard

Now that Barry Bonds is but two dingers away from tying Hank Aaron’s career home run total, the pressure is mounting for Hammerin’ Hank to start following BALCO Barry around like a wayward Dead Head.

My question is why? Aaron is 73 years old and the way that Barry’s been hitting home runs lately, the record could be broken as soon as tonight or a month down the line. Is it fair to ask Aaron to turn into the world’s biggest groupie, following Barry’s oversized cranium from city to city on this less-than-magical mystery tour?

And for what reason? So Aaron can come out to a raucous applause, one that will probably overshadow the applause Barry receives for breaking the all-time home run mark of 755. After all, Aaron has long displayed grace, elegance, and dignity – three characteristics that aren’t exactly dripping off of Bonds.

Aaron chased down Babe Ruth and did so in the face of very real threats against his life. For a misguided few, the idea of a black man surpassing the Caucasian Babe Ruth was too much. Fortunately, as most racists are also cowards, Aaron was able to safely pass the all-time mark on Apr. 8, 1974 with his 715 th career home run.

Bonds has disgraced those who actually have experienced real racism by insinuating some of his negative perception is based upon the fact that he’s black. It’s not his skin colour that’s the problem – it’s his attitude, lack of respect for others, and general surliness that makes people hate him.

Aaron also received the support of Ruth’s widow, who stated that her husband would have enthusiastically endorsed Aaron’s campaign to break his own record. Those accolades aren’t exactly pouring in for Barry. Most people would be quite content to see him hang up his cleats shy of the record.

A short while ago I defended Barry because I think he’s good for the game in terms of attracting attention. As well, when he feels like opening up, he’s a good quote who doesn’t constrain himself with the standard baseball clichés. That said, do I think Aaron should be following him around to be in the park when Barry finally breaks his record? Only if that’s something he wants to do.

I don’t get the need to trot out former greats to celebrate someone breaking their record. If Aaron genuinely wanted to be there for Barry to congratulate him, then fine. But if he’s only going to show up because he feels he has to for HIS image, then there’s something wrong.

For 37 years, Aaron’s been the Home Run King. For many people, he will continue to be the only one worthy of the crown – a modern day slugging King Richard to Barry’s usurping John. And for some he may become akin to the Tibetan spiritual leader in exile – a veritable Dalai Hank, a king without a kingdom. In no way should Aaron’s reputation be tarnished by not being amongst the first to shake Barry’s hand once he makes that historic rounding of the bases.

For me it’s neither here nor there. Barry did hit those home runs. If he was juiced, he was not alone. And he’s the only one that’s even come close to Aaron’s record, so I give a solid measure of credit to his accomplishment. But would I feel bad if Hank decided to pass on the tour of the National League to wait for his pinnacle achievement between the white lines to be broken? Not at all.

I know I’d be bitter. After all, for years you’ve had the name Home Run King attached to your name and now the crown has been passed. Would I want to celebrate that? And sure, there’s an argument for showing grace and class, but Hank can do that by placing a phone call after that rerun of Matlock finishes. There’s no reason he has to wander around the country, waiting for an opportunity to clap.

As Bill Walton’s shown us, there are few things as sad as an aging groupie. In fact, the only thing worse may be one who’s obligated to attend because anything less would be an unfair denigration of his character.

Finally, by having Aaron attend in spite of his obvious preferences, it cheapens this and future moments like it – potentially when Barry has to swallow his pride and sit in the stands as Alex Rodriguez laps him on the homer track in just a handful of years.

The best of these types of moments come when they’re rooted in honest respect and appreciation. Those are the moments when fans and athletes alike stand up in pride. Faking it – like Major League Baseball’s going to do with Barry’s home run choice – represents a swing and a miss of an epic proportion.

Barry Bonds Is Good for Baseball

By Jason Menard

As Barry Bonds approaches the magical 755 number, he’s endured personal attacks that number at least a hundred-fold the number of dingers he’s sent over the wall of baseball diamonds throughout North America.

I won’t be adding my voice to the chorus of Barry-haters out there. In fact, I’m here to argue that – in a way — we need more Barry Bonds’ in sports.

Barry’s big head’s been in the news on an ever-increasing basis, thanks to commissioner Bud Selig bungling yet another aspect of his job. His on-again, off-again flirtation with being present for the game when – and it’s now truly a when, not an if – Barry breaks the all-time home run mark has been a source of embarrassment and amusement.

You may not like Barry, you may think he cheated to get where he needed to go. That’s your right. But to ignore such a monumental event would be exceptionally wrong – especially when Barry’s one of the best things about the game of baseball.

OK, before you call for the good people in the white jackets to wrest me away from the mike, let me explain. Barry, although being the bane of media people everywhere, is exactly what those same media people have been begging for all these years. And his antics ensure that baseball maintains a place of priority on sportscasts.

And when Bonds finally pops 756, barring unforeseen circumstances, baseball will once again be the lead story in daily newspapers around North America – and when was the last time that happened?

Bonds also represents what the caveat “be careful what you wish for” truly means. After all, what’s the one complaint that most media people – and many fans – have about their athletes? That’s they’re as dull as watching paint dry once you get them off the field of play and in front of a microphone.

Athletes have their own language of boring platitudes, designed-to-be-non-offensive statements, and banal generalizations that offer absolutely no insight into the game or the person. After all, how many athletes have you heard giving 110 per cent, while taking it one game at a time and making sure to bring their A game each and every night because there’s no I in team and winning takes a total team effort, so guys need to step it up, keep their focus, circle the wagons, get off their heels and fight their way back off the ropes so they can answer the call, go for the jugular, and pull it out in the end.

The call has rung out loud and clear for someone to break through the platitudes and tell it like it is. We cry for honesty, then howl with disapproval when Barry gives it to us. Unfortunately, you can’t pick and choose how honesty is served. Sometimes you’ll get an engaging, genuinely funny, and insightful person spinning witty yarns that speed the beat grunts towards carpal tunnel syndrome in their efforts to catch every precious word.

And then sometimes you get the rude, boorish SOBs.

The thing is, Barry’s not just a mashing machine carnival side-show – he can still play. He currently leads the National League in on-base percentage and on-base-plus-slugging percentage. And his relatively healthy performance this season has led to Bonds’ agent making noise about the slugger returning for yet another season next year.

In 78 games so far, he’s within a hair’s-breadth of his career batting average, as his .295 mark stands just four thousands of a percentage point shy of his lifetime mark. On a woeful Giants roster that offers little support or protection for Bonds, he’s still managed to crank out 17 home runs and chip in 42 RBIs. And let’s not forget that when he’s allowed the chance to hit. He’s drawn 91 walks – a pace that would find him amongst his top-three career walk totals if it continues until the end of the season.

In the end, whether Barry was juiced or not really doesn’t matter. Pitchers were juiced, hitters were juiced – heck, I’ve seen some suspect peanut vendors who have a little too much oomph in their tosses… That isn’t real-life – it’s sport, so there’s no need to work yourself up into a fit of indignant apoplexy.

Athletes from all walks of life cheat to get ahead. They always look for that extra edge. Taking steroids, in truth, is morally no better or worse than popping Sudafed between periods – it’s an attempt to gain a competitive advantage. Singling Barry out for something many others were alleged to be doing seems at best a little malicious, and at worst too much like a witch hunt. The legal aspect of obtaining an illegal prescription for a drug – that’s a different story. But it’s also one that has no impact on the field of play.

We prefer to remember our sporting past as a halcyon time, but the reality was probably much different. And I’m pretty sure the same was happening in Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth’s time – instead of steroids, it could have been amphetamines, cocaine, or other illicit substances. It’s just that a co-operative media would look the other way. No more.

In the end, Barry’s Barry. Great hitter? Best player ever? The game’s biggest cheater? Obnoxious buffoon? Or an example of being careful what you wish for? I choose the latter.

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