Given the illegal leaks from the trial last month of that shady character Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi were hanging out with, it’s become more difficult to believe that Bonds has not used steroids. I remain in the innocent until proven guilty camp (a camp that, along with great s’mores, boasts the absence of both our former and our soon-to-be Attorneys General), but assuming the testimony is accurate as reported, then Bonds is either dumb, which anyone who’s watched him play knows he’s not, or he used some steroids that his shady trainer gave him.
So say Bonds used steroids. How does that make me feel about his accomplishments, since I’ve spent the last few years in the “Bonds is probably the greatest player ever” camp? King Kaufman gave his take on it at Salon: Bonds has fallen, in Kaufman’s estimation, from best player ever to one of the best ever.
I still wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Then one day, it hit me. I realize this isn’t by any means a perfectly analagous situation, but I feel a lot about Bonds probably using steroids as I do about Bill Clinton getting blown in the Oval Office: I honestly don’t really much care about the act itself, but I am irritated that either man would be so dumb as to do what he did, knowing the tremendous, irreparable damage it would do to his overall achievements if it came out.
As I said: not exactly analagous. For example, while there’s no rule against getting Oval Office action, there is a rule against using steroids while playing Major League Baseball. And while the damage to Bonds’s reputation is sad for me as a baseball fan (and as a champion of players of this era as, overall, the best ever), the damage to the country from Clinton’s public gelding at the hands of Ken Starr’s inquisition is much, much worse. Bonds’s possible cheating was unfair to those who played by the rules, while Clinton’s definite cheating was only unfair to his family.
But other than that, I find I can’t get all worked up about it. Sure, I wish Bonds definitely hadn’t used steroids. I wish Clinton hadn’t unzipped. But that doesn’t fundamentally change what I saw. With Bonds, I saw the best batting eye I’ve ever seen coupled with baseball smarts, a fierce competitveness, and a punishing work ethic. Without steroids, I firmly believe he would still have been the best player of his generation–he was well on that path way back when he was still skinnny. With Clinton, I saw the best politician of our lifetimes, who, while frequently frustrating me on particular issues, left our country in much better shape than it was when he took office. The fact that the Democrats were unable subsequently to capitalize on that, though partially his fault, doesn’t change my perception of Clinton’s gifts.
We’re less than six weeks away from pitchers and catchers.
Dan: One small point, though… Steriod use was illegal only from the beginning of 2003 (I think), which makes him “legal” for certain for at least 613 of his homers.
Sure, if he was using it, it was an unfair advantage, from the standpoint that he used it and the pitchers (that we know of) didn’t. But it was within the rules, on a very technical level. And all those pitchers could have used the same drugs to enhance their performance, too, during the same period.
All that said, the greatest player of all time remains Howard Johnson. With Barry Bonds and Melvin Mora “among the best.”
Toby: In my opinion, he’s not even the best Giants player ever (Willie Mays) or the best Pirates player ever (Roberto Clemente). Of course that could be a little biased since he left the Pirates (and made no secret he was going to…