Barry Bonds isn’t evil, he’s just drawn that way…

You know I really do feel sorry for [tag]Barry Bonds[/tag]. Sure, he screwed up and made some poor choices, but for so many people, particularly baseball fans, right now Bonds is a loser and a cheat, nothing else. These folks have all forgotten two rather important things (one slightly more important than the other):

  1. Barry Bonds is a human being, and just like the rest of us human beings he’s prone to errors in judgment and filled with, well, human weaknesses.
  2. Barry Bonds is still one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

On the first point anyone, be they fans or journalists, who is simply trying to tear the man down ought to be ashamed of themselves. For one thing what we are talking about here is a game. Bonds didn’t set off a radioactive bomb in the middle of a heavily populated area. He didn’t eat a live kitten in front of a classroom full of pre-school kids. Barry Bonds made a poor choice involving the use of drugs to make himself a little bit better ballplayer. In the grand scheme of things this is not an issue of major import to anyone but baseball stat-heads and some really pissed off mediocre pitchers.

It’s also just plain mean-spirited and vicious to be constantly on the attack against one player who used questionable methods to improve his game when by many accounts Barry Bonds was only one of hundreds of players doing precisely the same thing. As I’ve stated before, [tag]Major League Baseball[/tag] is largely at fault for this. The sport hyped [tag]home runs[/tag] over everything to bring the fans back after the strike and it worked. Casual baseball fans love home runs. They’re big and spectacular – like a fireworks display. But like a fireworks display they also lack substance. I loathe the fans who only come to the ballpark to see the fireworks shows just as I loathe fans who only come to games to see home runs. To me these people have one thing in common – a lack of any sort of sophisticated understanding for a game that I consider sublime and brilliant.

To the second point, Bonds is the sole member of baseball’s 500/500 club. He’s been an [tag]All-Star[/tag] 7 times and won 8 [tag]Gold Glove Awards[/tag]. He’s also one of only two active players in the 40/40 club. Barry Bonds, if he’d quit playing in 2000 would have been a lock on the Hall of Fame in the first ballot. What he did was make a mess of the last few years of his career and tarnish his reputation. And I have to make this point too – even though he took illegal performance enhancing drugs he wasn’t cheating, because it is only within the past two years that Major League Baseball made use of such substances against the league rules.

So yeah, I feel sorry for Barry. Is he a nice man? Probably not. Would I like to invite him over for dinner? No. But if I’m picking an all-time all-star team there’s no one else I’d put in Left Field.

What brought this musing on Barry on is an interview with [tag]Jeff Pearlman[/tag] on Deadspin, who has written a biography of Bonds called “[tag]Love Me Hate Me[/tag].” Pearlman says that Bonds is who he was made to be by his upbringing, which was hardly normal. Read the interview. I’m going to buy the book.

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