Thursday, February 24, 2005

Barry Bonds

Forget about the idea of cheating. Forget about the lying. Set aside the fact that this man who is obsessed with himself and his body claims he rubbed cream on his body and put a drop of "clear" under his tongue without knowing what he was putting in his body--and expects us to believe this Lamest Excuse Ever. Let's even forget about the bizarreness of Wednesday's press conference soiling my Spring Training.

That's not the worst part.

Here's the worst part:

It's that I, a massive baseball lover and a huge lover of statistics and numbers, obsessed to the point that I keep track of leaders in the stat of Most Wins, Saves, Home Runs, and Stolen Bases attained in games I've attended* (as well as Most Wins, Saves, Home Runs, and Stolen Bases by non-Rockies or non-Mariners in games I've attended**), am about to watch Bonds pass Ruth and Aaron, possibly as soon as this season. And incredibly, I couldn't give a crap.

That's the worst part.

*Jamie Moyer/Freddy Garcia, Mariano Rivera/Kazuhiro Sasaki/Randy Myers, Edgar Martinez, and Alex Rodriguez/Ichiro Suzuki.

**Mike Mussina, Rivera/Myers, Carlos Delgado, and 21-way tie.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be better for baseball if they just legalized this stuff? I mean, the lying and the hypocrisy would go bye-bye, and then we fans can concentrate on enjoying the game.

Then again, I'm just a neophyte, about to enjoy his first season of hometown baseball. Maybe I'll feel differently at season's end. But I don't think so.

Regards,
tommyspoon

TeacherRefPoet said...

Spoon,

There are a few people who agree with you. I am not one of them. The Bonds record won't feel special next to the Aaron record. The home run is now boring and tainted...

Actually, my beloved Bat-Girl (www.bat-girl.com) puts it far better than I ever could. She says:

"Barry hurts, I think, more than the rest because he has given us a glimpse of the finest professional sports has to offer--true greatness. There is little doubt that Bonds would have been one of the best players of his era without the BALCO--but these substances have elevated him into one of the best players of all time. And it is a lie. A fraud. Smoke, mirrors, and 'the clear.' He pretends to show us something beautiful and rare, but he lies. Professional sports are supposed to be fun, a wonderful diversion--but they can come to mean so much more. And when we see Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, or even when we see Torii Hunter make a dazzling catch, Joe Mauer take a swing, Justin Morneau send one into the upper decks...President Santana do anything--we're reminded of humanity's capacity for greatness. True greatness inspires, excites, and enlivens--whereas false greatness breeds nothing but disappointment and cynicism. And it hurts baseball. And no one hurts baseball on Batgirl's watch, dammit."

Or on mine.

(Full link to this is at http://www.bat-girl.com/archives/2004_12.html. Scroll down: the entry is dated December 4.)

lemming said...

(yawn) Yet another record broken - and how long will this one stand?

TeacherRefPoet said...

Lemming demonstrates another reason we've got to get rid of the steroids. Should Barry break this record--a thirty-year-old record!--this year or next, nobody's gonna give a crap. And it's not because of the lying. It's because of the cheating. Barry's innocence or guilty doesn't even matter. It's the fact that the stats of the entire decade from 1995 to now is tainted by obviously juiced players. Would Barry have made it without 'roids? We'll never know. And that sucks.

Anonymous said...

Then what is your stand on Hall of Fame pitchers who threw spitters? Isn't that cheating too? Isn't MLB past the point of no return on the whole issue of cheating?

Regards,
tommyspoon

TeacherRefPoet said...

Spoon,

Poor analogy. For starters, spitters were legal for a while. And while I suppose one could argue that steroids were legal for a while, a spitter was a tool that could be used both poorly and well, like a knuckler. Steroids aren't like that. Secondly, throwing a spitter doesn't shrink one's testicles, increase violent behavior and aggression, and lead to chronic health problems and possible early death. I'd have less of a problem with high school athletes throwing spitballs to get ahead than I do with them taking steroids to get ahead. Which many are.

In any event, you've ignored all of my (and Batgirl's) arguments about true greatness being tainted. I believe that the fun of watching the best athletes do wonderful things is, in good part, the notion of God-given talent combined with hard work that got them there. Getting it from a bottle taints it...makes it a lie. You didn't address that argument--you ignore it and instead simply advocate giving up because people get away with cheating. That's not enough to convince me. Until you say why your reasoning trumps mine, your argument of "C'mon, people cheat, just leegalize it and it's not a problem anymore!" looks pretty weak next to my two: "We need beauty to be true and not faked from a bottle" and "People, and not just major leaguers, but kids, are hurt and die from this."

tommyspoon said...

OK, point taken. My argument's a weak one. And your point about the stuff being harmful is well-reasoned and documented. Two points to you.

But I'm having trouble drinking the Koolaid on the whole "We need beauty to be true and not faked from a bottle" argument. How does MLB enforce this? Are they gonna fund some sort of "Anti-Doping Squad" that can keep pace with the myriad of labs in Mexico, Eastern Europe and other places? Don't misunderstand me, I want this to happen. I'm just dubious of this happening.

MLB has demonstrated a keen ability to turn a blind eye to rather inconvenient truths. I consider MLB's claim on the notion of truth and beauty a fraud when Ty Cobb's presence in the HOF is taken for granted while the sandbags are stacked high and deep to prevent Pete Rose's entry.

So... when's our Fantasy League draft?

TeacherRefPoet said...

Spoon,

First, about Ty Cobb--"Truth" and "Beauty," at least in this construct, do not apply to the personalities of the guys on the field. Ty Cobb is a documented mean SOB, but nobody questions his .367 lifetime batting average. I think the game is hurt a lot more by events (like steroids) that make us question the accomplishments and legitimacy of what's on the field than by the fact that some of its best players were (and are) buttheads. Incidentally, I put Rose's gambling on his own team in the "makes us question the legitimacy of what's on the field" category, which is why I'm fine with his ban.

You're right about MLB's struggle to keep up with the cheaters. Where we differ is how we react. Even though we both want to fix it, you're advocating punting. I want to put up a fight to clean up the game I love--at least as far as the product on the field goes. Remember--5% of players were caught (anonymously) last year, even though they knew the tests were coming. Ben Johnson was caught. If we catch a couple of stars, the game will get a hell of a lot cleaner.

tommyspoon said...

TRP, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on Ty Cobb. I vehemently disagree with your notion that the following incident doesn't "question the accomplishments and legitimacy of what's on the field":

"On May 15, 1912, Ty Cobb attacked Claude Lueker, a New York Highlander fan who had been verbally sparring with Cobb. In the third inning a particularly taunting remark, especially to a man who grew up in a segragated South, sent the outfielder on a rampage. He charged into the stands and viciously beat Lueker, who could not defend himself - he had lost a hand in an industrial accident. A. L. President Ban Johnson, who was at the game, suspended Cobb on the spot."
-- http://ngeorgia.com/people/cobbt.html

And I suppose all the spiking he did was just "part of the game", right?

TeacherRefPoet said...

Spoon,

Cobb's a butthead. Nobody's arguing that. But your argument doesn't address the meat of mine. I'll put it another way: how do Cobb's racism, spikings, assaults on fans, etc. take away from his .367 lifetime batting average? Did they add to his stolen base total? That's what I mean by "accomplishments on the field." Cobb's buttheadedness doesn't make me wonder "Gosh, I wonder how many of those 4,191 hits were legit?" as the steroid mess does. I wonder that about every 50-home-run season in the past 15 years now. IMHO, that hurts -the game- more than Frank Francisco throwing a chair into the stands, Albert Belle beaning a fan, or any Cobb-like behavior hurts -the game-. As far as sins against your neighbor, yeah, Cobb's and the others' are worse than a steroid-taker who lies under oath. I concede that. But sins against the game? Acting in a manner that calls the legitimacy of game results into question is far worse for the game. Case in point: Baseball was in no danger of dying due to Cobb. It could have gone under due to the Black Sox Scandal--because only the latter impacted what happened between the lines.

In an almost-related question...do you hold other confirmed buttheads such as William Faulkner and even Richard Wagner to the same standard as you do Cobb? Can't complete buttheads be honored for their greatness in other, amoral, slim areas of life where they have caused joy, even if the joy pales next to the pain they have caused in other areas? Saying "Wagner is a Nazi" doesn't lower the quality of his operas, does it?

tommyspoon said...

So you don't see a connection between Cobb's spikings and his stolen base percentage? Doesn't that conduct fit your defintion of "Acting in a manner that calls the legitimacy of game results into question"?

Regarding "buttheadery", you have a point. I still read Faulkner and listen to Wagner (heck, I've seen the _entire_ cycle). But the last time I checked there's no HOF for either literature or opera. When someone is inducted into the HOF, they become an object of adulation and emulation, right? So why, I ask again, does Cobb deserve enshrinement while Rose doesn't?

I guess I believe in the whole "truth and reconciliation" approach. If you are going to showcase someone, showcase the complete person, not just their highlights. Now, I have not been to Cooperstown and I have no idea about how Cobb is displayed there. Are his spikings and assaults mentioned? They aren't on the HOF website. Why not add something to his plaque like some propose for Rose?

tommyspoon said...

A question for you: If Ty Cobb were alive and playing in today's league, and performed on the field (and off) as he did in his time, would you consider him a HOF candidate?

TeacherRefPoet said...

1. Cobb may have gained a stolen base or two by spiking, I guess; but hardly a number that would make the difference between HOF and not. If you're going to take Cobb out, you'd better eliminate Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, Roger Clemens (when his time comes), and many other pitchers who'd knock down a batter to gain an advantage. Spiking isn't right, but your seeming requirement that hall of famers be choirboys is far too strict.

2. Yes, if Cobb batted .367 in today's league and did nothing to harm the integrity of the results of the game, I'd vote him in on the first ballot.

There might not be a HOF for lit and music, but you can't tell me we don't "adulate" Wagner and Faulkner in a similar way by teaching/enjoying their work. We don't have to do that...why not junk it and look at something else?

t said...

(Sound of tommyspoon throwing in the towel.)