Define Great

Last night Barry Bonds hit his career 756 home run. This makes him the all time career major league home run record. I think the all time professional record is Sadaharu Oh with 868 home runs in the Nippon Professional Baseball League. (In high school I had a history teacher who would use this as a trick extra credit question.)

The record is his. It is record that will stay his no matter what anyone thinks about his alleged use of steroids, the book Game of Shadows, the Balco Scandal, Victor Conte, or Greg Anderson. No one will take the record away from him. It will have to be beaten on the field. Even with evidence of steroid use that is spelled out in Game of Shadows. The record will belong to Barry Bonds and there will be no asterisk.

This has to be laid at the feet of Major League Baseball, The Major League Baseball Players Association (The players union), and sportswriters. Blind eyes were turned all around. There were whispers about steroid use back in the early 90s. I remember whispers about Lenny Dystra using steroids after he came back from the 1991 car accident with Darren Dalton. People on the radio where talking about it, but no one thought it was worth investigating.

Most of that blame has to go to Major League Baseball. They did not want to do anything to upset the cart. Even if everything going on was not above board, it was important for them to keep labor peace. It did not matter what happened to the game. It did not matter what players were doing to there bodies. It does not matter that Ken Caminiti admitted to Sport Illustrated that he used steroids to win his 1996 NL MVP. That did not get baseball to snap into action. There is a chance if Baseball acted sooner that it might not have ever come to a day where the holder of the home run record has a cloud over his head.

With the truth of the world what it is, I will not write that Barry Bonds does not deserve the record. I will not say that he deserves an asterisk. I will not grit my teeth when people call him the Home Run King. You can say that Barry Bonds is the greatest home run hitter of this era, the greatest player of this era, or even the greatest hitter of this era.

There are some things that I do not want to hear from sports writers, sports talk show hosts, or sports fans.

1. "Barry Bonds is the greatest hitter, home run hitter, or player of all time." The current era has made this a meaningless statement. How can I measure the greatness of a man how did not have modern chemistry helping him v. a man how did what he needed to do to compete with other home run hitters? Barry Bonds and Willie Mays are almost apples and oranges at this point.

Every time I hear this I feel that history gets a little cheaper. I did not get to see Willie Mays or Hank Aaron play, but I respect what they meant to the game. I got to see Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt play in the dead ball era of the 80's. I feel discounting these players disrespects the game. Just call Barry Bonds the Best hitter of his era.

2. There is no drug that can help you hit. There is no drug that could help me hit. No drug would have made me good enough at baseball to get in into the minor leagues. Performance enhancing drugs work without question. The history of sport can show us that. The idea that only weight lifters and offensive linemen benefit from steroids is outdated. Just drop that. One of the key elements of hitting is bat speed. Steroids and Human Growth Hormone can both help with that. The line between Barry Bonds being a first ballet Hall of Famer and the best home run hitter is not that large. Performance enhancing drugs.

3. Fans don't care about steroids. I am tired of hearing this. I might not be so hurt by steroid use that I walk away from the game. I love baseball, but right now I feel like a sap. I feel like I have been taken advantage of by a friend I really love. I am willing to give baseball some slack for now, but I am sad about what I am seeing. I know I am not alone. Every baseball fan might not feel this way, but I know enough do.

In the end, who knows where baseball is going. I would love to think that the young heroes of the game like Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder are clean, but I don't know. I do not know if the next person to break the Home Run record will be clean. We will have to see what the game looks like in 10 years.


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