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Barry’s Crucible

Posted by Charlie Hustle on May 17, 2007

Witch hunt: An investigation carried out ostensibly to uncover subversive activities but actually used to harass and undermine those with differing views.

Barry Bonds and his chase for Hank Aaron’s home run record is arguably the most important story in sports today. The implication is that Bonds took steroids, tainting baseball’s record books, and about to ruin the most sacred record in all of sports. My first response to that implication?

Baseball fans deserve it.

Baseball fans are notorious about vilifying record breakers if they don’t fit the All-American mold. The fans drove Roger Maris almost insane in 1961. Hell even the commissioner, Ford Fricke, tried to put an asterisk by his record for playing more games than the Babe…

Maris was 27 years old when he broke the record. He played baseball 7 more seasons, and averaged 16.7 home runs a year.

How about Hank Aaron? In 1973, the year he was on pace to break Ruth’s home run record, Aaron received death threats daily, mainly based on his race. That summer, William Leggatt wrote in Sports Illustrated,

“Is this to be the year in which Aaron, at the age of thirty-nine, takes a moon walk above one of the most hallowed individual records in American sport…? Or will it be remembered as the season in which Aaron, the most dignified of athletes, was besieged with hate mail and trapped by the cobwebs and goblins that lurk in baseball’s attic?”

Hank Aaron was certainly no Babe Ruth. In his 23 seasons, the most home runs he ever hit in a year was 47 (1971) and his average was 37. For reference’s sake, Adam Dunn is averaging 39 home runs per year. In his career, Aaron only led the league in home runs 4 times. He was certainly not the typical dominating force that should wear the all-time HR crown.

Sammy Sosa:

1997 (162 games) : .251 AVG, 36 HRs, 119 RBIs, 174 Ks, 45 Walks

1998 (159 games): .308 AVG, 66 HRs, 158 RBIs, 171 Ks, 73 walks (14 intentional)

In the time span of one year, made an enormous leap in power, without his batting eye getting significantly better. Clearly something wrong here, yet Cubs fans certainly weren’t booing Sammy. In fact, they were riding his back all the way to the playoffs, where they eventually lost to a superior Atlanta Braves team.

Yet, in 2003, the tides changed. In a game against Tampa Bay, his bat exploded and cork shot out. He was suspended 7 games and suspicions began to arise that his home run figures were “tainted.”

The following year, Sosa had a freak sneezing accident talking to reporters and pulled a back muscle. Cubs fans turned against him, booing him unmercilessly. Even his own teammates destroyed his boom box in the locker room with a baseball bat.

The following year the Cubs traded Sosa to the Orioles for Jerry freakin’ Hairston Jr. and 2 minor leaguers. The same Sammy Sosa who hit over 60 home runs 3 times in his career. Sosa’s career seemed over.

Also consider the actions of Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield, both clients of infamous trainer Greg Anderson. Giambi, the 2000 AL MVP, testified to a grand jury in 2003 that he had used several different steroids and HGH. Sheffield, the 9-time All-Star, also revealed to the media that he used products that contained steroids (the “cream”) but had no knowledge of the steroids.

Where are these 3 CLEARLY implicated steriod users today?

Sosa: Batting 4th for the Rangers, hit his 9th HR yesterday.

Sheffield: Batting 3rd for the Tigers, received a $28 million extension through 2009 this year.

Giambi: Even awarded the 2005 Comeback Player of the Year Award by Major League Fucking Baseball, Giambi currently bats 3rd for the Yankees.

What mistake is Bonds making that these guys aren’t? Being in the news. No news coverage? Who cares if they took steroids?!?! Hey look, I forgot already!

Which brings us to Barry and the current witch hunt against him…

The all-knowing Skip Bayless wrote in 2001, the year Bonds broke the single season HR record, in the San Jose Mercury-News that Bonds had attained his physique…

“By purifying his diet, supplementing with over-the-counter muscle builders… and lifting until he cried.”

Bayless was among many sportswriters at the time who hesitated to investigate any more into Bonds’ gaining 15 lbs. of muscle in 100 days. After all, as was said in The Game of Shadows, by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams*,

“the example of [Mark] Wilstein, the AP writer who had broken the story of McGwire’s use of Andro, showed sportswriters that if they succeeded in getting the scoop, they would likely be subjected to intense criticism from the most powerful people in the game. It was little wonder that the media wasn’t more inquisitive.”

*Even Fainaru-Wada and Williams, in today’s Bonds witch hunt, didn’t avoid scrutiny. In September 2006, they were sentenced to 18 months in jail for failing to reveal the sources of the leaked grand jury testimony of Barry Bonds. However, they avoided jail time when attorney Troy Ellerman admitted to leaking the testimony.

Needless to say, the media told baseball fans to be in awe of Barry Bonds. Following his 73 HR year of 2001, Bonds led the Giants to the World Series in 2002 and the fans cheered along the way.

2002 marked the year when MLB actually MADE a steriod policy, except it wasn’t official until 2005.

This means that before 2005, NO ONE WAS EVER SUSPENDED FOR STEROIDS.

The illustrious list of MLB players suspended for steroid use: Alex Sanchez, Jorge Piedra, Agustin Montero, Jamal Strong, Juan Rincon, Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Palmeiro, Ryan Franklin, Mike Morse, Carlos Almanzar, Felix Heredia, Matt Lawton, Yusaku Iriki, Jason Grimsley, Guillermo Mota, and Juan Salas.

Other than Palmeiro, that list could be either be suspended steroid users or your grocery bagging and cart boy lineup at the local Kroger’s.

So now that Bonds is on the brink of breaking Hank Aaron’s all-time HR record, and his Crucible of witch hunts and accusations of “tainting the game” fill the storylines of newspaper and TV reports, it has come time for baseball fans to look in the mirror.

You booed Roger. You threatened to kill Aaron. You throw needles at Barry. Yet you were the same ones that stuck your head in the sand when Big Mac* and Sammy were breaking HR records. The same fans that roared when Bonds hit his 73 HRs. Why? Because you were told to by the media.

*Big Mac luckily got a pass on the fan hatred because A) he retired relatively early at age 38 and B) his record only stood for 3 seasons

So now that the media points the finger at Bonds and he becomes the poster child of steroids and everything that is wrong with the game, what do baseball fans do? They blame him with the utmost venom and anger. Nevermind the other admitted steroid users in MLB. Bonds is going to break our beloved home run record. And just like for Roger Eugene Maris and Henry Louis Aaron, you will boo and hate.

Why is a steroid-using asshole who cheated to get ahead and lied to the entire baseball community about to own the most sacred record in all of sports?

Baseball fans deserve it.

— Charlie Hustle

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One Response to “Barry’s Crucible”

  1. Matt said

    According to Mike & Mike In The Morning on 5/25/2007, steroids was a banned substance “long before Giambi was in the league,” there was just no testing or testing policy for it until later. Thought this applied to your piece.

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