Okay. So let's review.
In the past four games the Milwaukee Brewers have:
--Blown a five run lead in the 9th inning
--Lost to a guy with a BROKEN LEG
--And given up 19 runs in a game in which their pitchers got hit harder than a white trash mistress on a Jerry Springer show…
Yep. It's safe to say I'm still not ready to discuss the state of the Brewers. So let's turn to something a little more cheerful--
Back when he was frequently hollering about Rickie Weeks (who, by the way, is making his return to the big club with Graffanino's injury), my friend Darren would also fill my ear with rants on why in the world ESPN was even acknowledging the accomplishments of guys like Sosa and our newest home run king, Barry Bonds.
In my intro to the Midseason Forum, I mentioned briefly that I thought keeping the home run hitters of the steroid era out of the Hall of Fame was wrong. Look, I'll be the first to tell you that I think Barry Bonds took steroids. I think Mark McGwire took steroids. I think Sammy Sosa took steroids. And, yes, I think Rafael Palmeiro took steroids. You'll get no argument there from me whatsoever.
But I also think that the use of steroids extended to ALL of major league baseball. Not all players, mind you, but all types of players. I don't understand why the media, Congress, and the baseball loving public in general only focuses on home run hitters. Steroids are not only used for strength. They can be used for speed, for endurance (AKA pitching), and most importantly for muscle recovery. So why aren't we scrutinizing the guys who made a living stealing bases and stretching singles into doubles and doubles into triples? After all, one of the first to be busted after the new drug testing went into place was ex-Brewer Alex Sanchez. In case you've forgotten--Alex is not exactly a power hitter. Or what about leading an investigation on all of the middle-relievers who somehow managed to set all kinds of major league appearance records by popping out of the bullpen five or six times a week? You think steroids might have played a role in their ability to throw in games on six consecutive days? Or what about taking a look at the 40-something year-old pitcher who constantly decides that his season can't start until late May or June. Am I really the only one who wonders if this gives him enough time to flush some roids out of the old system? I'm just saying. It's a theory.
As a matter of fact, I thought it was very appropriate that Bonds 755th came off of Clay Hensley, who was suspended for steroid use as a minor leaguer. Does that mean that homer number 755 doesn't have an asterisk? I mean, if one steroid user hits a long ball off another steroid user, that should count for something, right? And I truly believe that (although we'll probably never know for sure) when push comes to shove, more pitchers ended up using steroids than hitters.
And--if you'll allow me to switch sports for a second--I can't help but wonder why Shawn Merriman isn't looked at as cheater after he tested positive for steroids and was suspended for the first four games of last season. No, Merriman is a football god. Bonds, however, is the baseball devil.
And now I'm about to do something very dangerous. I'm going to somewhat make an effort to defend Barry Bonds. Now hold on, hear me out.
First let me start by assuring you that:
1.) I strongly dislike Barry Bonds the person and think he is a big league prick.
2.) We need to all agree that Barry has a big head. No wait. Of course he has a big head, that's how we know he was using. No, I mean he has a big ego. We can agree on this, correct? And yes, he has quite the melon too.
Now onto my dangerous defense of Bonds... (I realize that I could lose four of my six readers forever by doing this.) The thing is--I kind of understand why Bonds took them. Now, don't get me wrong. I don't condone it. So please don't accuse me of advocating the use of steroids and blame me when they show up in local high schools. Don't misinterpret what I'm saying. Steroids are bad. Very, very bad. And they do very bad things to your testicles.
BUT--if we take into consideration my two points above--that Barry is a big league prick with a huge ego--I do understand why he took them.
Think about it. It's 1998 and you're Barry Bonds. You're arguably the best baseball player of the past two or three decades (and really, if you look at the numbers, I'm not even sure how you can argue). You were the NL MVP in '90, '92 and '93. You won a gold glove every year since '90 except in '95. Since that same summer of 1990, you have finished no worse than 5th in the league in on-base-percentage, no worse than 6th in the league in slugging-percentage, and no worse than 3rd in the league in OPS. An amazing accomplishment that may not be rivaled by another player in any equal span of 8 seasons. Oh, and you also never finished lower than 4th in the league in Home Runs since '90 either.
Until, of course, the magical summer of 1998. Then you get to sit back and watch as all of America becomes infatuated with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as they chase down Roger Maris' single season home run record. And you see them become more and more beloved every single day. There are rumors and jokes that these two guys might be getting a little assistance, but no one seems to care. Not the fans, not the Commish, and surprisingly, not the media. (And yes, I consider every member of the media who calls Bonds a cheater a hypocrite because I know they knew what was going on back in '98. I knew it. And I was just a silly 25 year old fan. There's no way they didn't know too. No way.) But worst of all you have become the forgotten man. Nobody is talking about you. No one. Even though you hit .303 with 37 HRs and 122 RBIs and 28 SBs, you finish 8th in the NL MVP voting. And although those 37 HRs are the 4th most you've ever hit, they're only enough for you to finish 9th in the whole NL. 9th. That's just not acceptable. Not with your ego.
And look, every guy who has ever played a sport can relate to the power of ego. I just had my ass handed to me in a game of horse by my friend Brent tonight, and yes, my ego took a hit. Hell, you don't have to even be playing the sport for ego to take you places you wouldn't normally go. Come sit and listen to some of the arguments between Brewers and Cubs fans. Or stop by our fantasy football chat room sometime. Yep, men who know sports know egos.
But the thing is--I can't even relate to Barry's ego because I have to admit that I am not the best at anything I do. (I am pretty good at tetris on the toilet, but I'm not about to brag.) So I can't relate to the ego of a Barry or a Peyton or a Kobe. But it must be pretty intense. Non-stop ego.
And so Barry made a choice. His ego won out. And in three years he was back on top of the world. winning four more MVPs from 2001-2004.
But the saddest thing in my humble opinion is not how Barry tarnished the game. It's how he tarnished himself. You see, I don't think he needed to take steroids to be the greatest player of my lifetime. Now, don't get me wrong, he wouldn't have won the home run title. But without the muscle mass he gained, he might have kept stealing bases and kept winning gold gloves--two parts of his game that were never the same after that summer of '98. And we'll never know just how great his summer of 2001 really was. Because I will go on the record in saying that we will never again see a player as locked in as Barry was that summer. And I've said it before--I don't think steroids help guys hit a baseball. It's a point that's argued by very intelligent people (Darren included) who say, "well if it doesn't help them, why would they bother taking it?" But I'm not arguing that it helps them. I'm sure it helps them hit farther and stay stronger through the course of a season. I just don't think it helps you stay locked in on pitches for a whole summer. Not like Barry was. He drove every pitch, no matter where it was, with authority to all fields. Opposing managers feared him like no other. Didn't matter how you pitched him, if you even had the courage to, he was hitting it hard somewhere. Would he have hit 73 HRs without the steroids? Probably not. But considering his previous career high was 46, I think 60 was realistic. He was just that locked in. Unfortunately, now we'll never know.
I heard an argument that Ken Griffey Jr. is the biggest loser of the steroid era because, had he taken them, he might have stayed healthy enough to break Hank's record before Barry. I can't argue that fact. It's a shame to think about what Griffey's career might have been without all the injuries. And I hate that people make jokes about him being soft, considering the majority of his injuries were sustained while he was going all out--the only way he knows how to play.
Yep, if Griffey had taken steroids he would have easily been the greatest home run hitter of our day.
And if Barry had not taken them, there would be no debate that he was the greatest overall player of the day. Too bad his ego came around before we could eliminate any doubt.