Designated HitterAugust 08, 2007
Roid Monster (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Tolerate 756)
By Brian Gunn

Let’s say you’re a PR director for a major-league baseball team. And you want to design your dream player, the guy who’ll look just perfect on the cover of a media guide or during a photo op at the hospital ward.

You want him to be a fun player – someone who plays with glee. You’d also want him to be a battler, maybe the type of guy who had to overcome a rough upbringing, or some physical deficit. He’d be selfless – kind to coaches and teammates, never showboating or yapping off. He’d be gritty, clutch, someone who always rises to the occasion and leaves it all on the field. And lastly, you’d want to make him… well, not white necessarily – that’s not essential these days – but someone who’s not about race, someone who makes his race a non-issue. What you’d end up with is someone who plays with a mix of joy and humility. You’d end up with Kirby Puckett, or Sean Casey, David Ortiz, Stan Musial.

What you would not want – the last thing in the world you’d want – is Barry Bonds. In fact, you could take just about every positive PR attribute I mentioned above, turn it on its head, and you’d have Barry Bonds. He’s not a team player. He comes from a privileged baseball background. He’s self-important and swaggering. He’s irritable. He badmouths his superiors. He plays the race card. He even, for a long time anyway, had a rep as a choke artist (think 1991 NLCS and his turkey-wing throw to try to get Sid Bream). And as for giving it 110% in the Gas House style of, say, Craig Biggio – well, let’s just say Bonds has thrown a lot of spotless uniforms onto the postgame laundry pile.

That Bonds is MLB Enemy #1 is not news. Hell, Rick Reilly owes at least half his weekly shtick to Bonds bashing, and every hack sportswriter (this includes you, Curt Schilling) has had a field day portraying Bonds, as Bill Maher once said, “like he’s the BTK Killer.”

Here’s the thing, though. I basically agree with those sportswriters. Sure, their methods are cheap, their thinking knee-jerk, but, like them, I absolutely loathe Barry Bonds. I hate how he adores his home runs and sometimes turns doubles off-the-wall into long singles. I hate how he comes across like every jock asshole you knew in high school. I hate how he paraded his son Nikolai before the media during spring training, 2005 – the kid was barely a teenager, clearly dying inside, but Bonds insisted on using him as a prop for his persecution complex, instructing photographers to take pictures of him “so you guys can see the pain you’re causing my family.”

But more than anything else about Bonds, I hate his voice. You don’t expect it from a guy of his stature. You expect something commanding, stentorian. Instead it comes out gentle and sedated. Or, more accurately, it comes out synthetic, as if he shared a soul with HAL 9000. It’s so out of character with everything else you know about the man that it creeps me out. It’s always reminding us, as Jeff Pearlman put it, that Bonds is “completely, undeniably 100% full of shit… Nothing he says holds any meaning.”

So yes, I hate Bonds. But truth be told, I don’t hate that he’s the new home run king. And I think it’s a complete waste of time to get exercised about 756. How come? Well, I can think of five reasons:

(1) No one has any idea how much Bonds has been helped by steroids.

Well, let me rephrase that: some people have some idea how much Bonds has been helped by steroids. But unfortunately they don’t form a consensus, and each of them would admit that he’s more or less playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Nate Silver estimated that steroids give position players 10 extra points of AVG, OBP, and SLG. J.C. Bradbury found that the benefits are negligible. Others – notably Patrick Hruby, who reckoned that about a hundred of Bonds’ homers can be chalked up to steroid use – fall more in line with popular thinking.

Even with these studies, we’re still left with a quagmire. How many other players were using steroids during Bonds’ home run spree? How much of an advantage was he getting? More to the point, how many pitchers were juiced up over the last ten years? (Oddly enough, Bonds hit #755 off of Clay Hensley, who, unlike Bonds, has actually failed a drug test.)

And did steroids make Bonds more durable or less durable as he got older? Sure, the evidence shows that Bonds hit more homers after age 35 than anyone in history, but evidence also shows that steroid use can lead to soft-tissue deterioration, tendon damage (particularly triceps tendon injuries, the kind that caused Bonds to miss 7 weeks in 1999), as well as the type of back and knee problems that have plagued Bonds the last few years. When you look at the shortened careers of known or alleged steroid users like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Jason Giambi, you wonder if steroids gave Bonds a boost when it came to breaking short-term records, like the single-season home run record, but had mixed results when it came to toppling career records, like Aaron’s 755.

Of course, we’ll never know. And that’s precisely the point. Until we have good, solid data – as opposed to armchair theorizing – regarding the effects of steroid use on ballplayers, then I think it’s best to extend a bit of graciousness (the kind, incidentally, that often seems missing from Bonds himself) and give him the benefit of the doubt. Because the bottom line remains that Bonds was a great ballplayer – the best of our generation – before he supposedly began taking “the clear,” and he’s been a great ballplayer, one of the very best in the league, even after he presumably stopped using steroids. That’s no small feat for a man well into his 40’s.

And if nothing else, we can say that Bonds is truly the greatest steroids hitter in major league history. I know, I know, that’s a stupid statement, satisfying to no one… but then again, as Chuck Klosterman pointed out rather amusingly, the Beatles took performance-enhancing drugs (how else do you think they came up with side two of “Revolver”?), and no one holds it against them.

(2) Bonds is a product of his era, just as Aaron and Ruth were products of theirs.

A few weeks ago, baseball’s éminence grise, Bill James, was asked if players using performance-enhancing drugs should be treated differently by history. He replied:

I look at it this way. There's a rule in basketball against traveling but the NBA has pretty much stopped enforcing it. Well, they still call traveling but they will allow you to take about five steps without dribbling as you are running toward the basket. There was no "decision" not to enforce this rule; they just kind of lost track of it. They started not calling one step and progressed to not calling two steps, not calling three steps, and eventually they just kind of lost track of the rule. Should the players who took advantage of this failure to enforce the rule be banned from the NBA Hall of Fame? After all, aren't they cheating? They're not obeying the rules. Julius Erving, out. The Hall of Fame doesn't need cheaters like you. Kobe, Michael, get out. If you don't play by the rules the way Elgin Baylor did, you're not deserving.

Or it is, rather, the responsibility of the LEAGUE to enforce the rule? It seems to me that it might be the responsibility of the league to enforce the rule rather than the responsibility of the media to punish those who didn't obey the rule that wasn't being enforced. I won't name any players, but there are a whole bunch of superstars who are now or are going to be involved in the PED accusations. We CAN'T start picking and choosing who we honor on that basis. It's hypocritical, and it's impractical. And it diminishes the game.

I think James’ analogy breaks down at some point. After all, lax traveling calls in the NBA are presumably applied equally to players of each era, whereas steroid-users gain an advantage over not just players from other eras, but against players in their own era, i.e., the ones not using PED’s. What’s more, in basketball, traveling is out in the open, so to speak. We can watch TV, judge who travels, who doesn’t, and make our historical adjustments accordingly. That’s not the case for baseball players who are hiding their drug use.

Nonetheless, I think James’ general point holds: that is, that Bonds is a product of a systemic set of values, a culture. It’s the same point Jesse Jackson made recently, when he told the Chicago Sun-Times, "My question is, if 400 guys tested positive, do you put asterisks by all their names? Do you put asterisks by [spitballer] Gaylord Perry's name? Do you put asterisks by guys who had the ultimate enhancement [by] denying others a chance to compete?" (Hat tip: Studes, for the link)

I forwarded these comments to a friend last week, and he emailed me back: “if pre-1947 ball was not ‘all it could be’ because of the color line (a theory I think everyone with a brain would agree with), and post-1980s ball is ‘tainted’ because some used steroids, does that mean we've only had 40-45 years of undisputed competition?” I wrote back that, in fact, every era has been tainted in some way, with statistics constantly subject to some distortion or other. One era might not allow people of color, another might be tainted by steroids or amphetamines, another by the height of the mound, another by the system of selecting and promoting players from foreign countries, another by primitive approaches to heath and recovery, another by using too much plate armor, another by weird strategies and shibboleths, like the one that says it’s unmanly to swing from the heels or take a walk now and again. Some of these are probably a stretch, but I really think people are naïve if they don’t think that every record carries with it some kind of implied asterisk.

At first blush this sounds like the biggest bummer of all time. Does this mean that we can’t trust any of our numbers? Does it mean that the subject of Bonds vs. Aaron will never be settled? This goes against the very grain of sports, the thing that most distinguishes it from our everyday lives – i.e., the fact that sports has clear-cut winners and losers. The closest analogy I can think of for Bonds’ home run chase is the 2003-2004 college football season, when USC and LSU split the national championship. Actually, a better analogy might be the 2000 presidential race, when I thought Bush won, you thought it was Gore, and all of us were both right and wrong. In this way 756 is a sign of our times, in which there are no longer any truths, only perspectives, opinions, fragments, and the kind of anti-foundational stuff that gave night tremors to Nietzsche, Foucault, et al.

And yet… and yet… Isn’t that, at least in part, what makes baseball so entertaining? Yes, baseball’s numbers are tainted – but imagine if the opposite were true. Imagine if every number were set in stone, static and inarguable. What a drag that would be! How much more fun to share a beer with a buddy and argue, say, how many home runs Ted Williams would’ve hit had he not been drafted. Or what would have happened to Jose Cruz if he hadn’t played in the Astrodome. Or if Johnny Beazley had been born after the advent of Tommy John surgery. Yes, we want baseball to be obvious and dependable, but it seems we are at least equally charmed by the game’s elusiveness. I find that rather encouraging.

(3) Bonds’ home run crown isn’t as bad for Hank Aaron as you might think.

I’m sure by now you’ve all seen footage of Bud Selig reacting to Bonds’ record-tying 755th career home run. He basically made an ass of himself, I thought – standing up only after he was prodded, putting his hands in his pockets, showing all the enthusiasm of an 8-year-old boy forced to sit through Sunday service. As Joe Sheehan pointed out, Selig’s enmity for Bonds stems from his reverence for the man he’s replacing atop the leaderboard, Hank Aaron. (Sheehan doesn’t offer any evidence for this connection, but it certainly rings true.)

Selig isn’t alone in sizing up Bonds vs. Aaron. To root for one, it seems, is to root against the other, just as folks back in 1974 tended to take sides for either Ruth or Aaron, but not both. If this is the case today, then surely Aaron is winning. In fact, the last few weeks have seen an outpouring of love letters to The Hammer, most notably a Sports Illustrated magazine cover, with the inside story declaring him “The People’s King.” (Incidentally, that’s as many SI covers as Bonds landed for the entire four-year period 2000-2003. I know Bonds notoriously froze out the magazine after they published a 1993 story about him entitled, “I’m Barry Bonds, and You’re Not,” but geez… Bonds was in the midst of the greatest hitting binge in major-league history and that’s all he got? One cover?)

Anyway, the point is that Aaron has been enjoying a renaissance lately, one that wouldn’t be possible without his purported nemesis, Mr. Bonds. The irony is that Hank Aaron was not especially beloved in his day, and I’m not just talking about the racist yokels who mailed him death threats in 1974 (the ones who caused Aaron’s mother to mistake the celebratory fireworks after her son’s 715th home run for sniper shots, of all things). I’m talking about good, respectable baseball folks who had nothing in particular against the Hammer, but never embraced him the way they embraced, say, Roy Campanella, or Willie Mays. Next to them Aaron seemed charmless and remote. And it was all too easy for people to mistake Aaron’s quiet reserve for something more sinister: laziness – surely a byproduct of the casual racial stereotypes of that time. (His first manager, Charlie Grimm, once asked about Aaron, “why doesn’t he sleep on his own time like everybody else?”)

But the years have been good to Aaron. Unlike DiMaggio, a beloved star who became a depressing figure in his final days (when we heard stories about his friendlessness, or the way he disowned his only son, leaving him to live in a junkyard trailer in northern California), and unlike Mark McGwire, who until recently was treated like a national savior, Aaron has only grown more likable with time. (Ironically enough, if Aaron played today, he’d probably be dogged by steroid rumors – look what a twig he was when he first came into the bigs, then look at the beefy guy who experienced a career high in home runs at age 37.)

The great sportswriter Jim Murray once wrote about Aaron, “He underplays like a British actor. Willie [Mays] attacks the game. Aaron just gets it to cooperate with him.” This whole flap about Bonds and steroids might be yet another way in which Hank just got the game to come to him.

(4) Bonds’ record will be broken anyway.

I read somewhere recently that DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is so improbable, so statistically preposterous, that you’d have to replay the entire history of baseball something like eight times before it’s likely to happen again. Like Cy Young's 511 wins or Nap Lajoie's .426 single-season average, we probably won’t live long enough to see anyone match it.

Barry Bonds’ mark for career homers is not one of those records. Nate Silver wrote an article recently in which he gave Alex Rodriguez a 28% chance of hitting 800 jacks, and a 10% chance of hitting 900. Of course, that still means A-Rod will most likely fall short of the record. But he’s just one guy. What if you matched Bonds against the field?

Suddenly the record looks much iffier. If you use Bill James’ Favorite Toy (which, admittedly, is much less sophisticated than the PECOTA system Silver used), you’d find that Bonds is projected to hit 787 lifetimes bombs when all is said and done. Sounds reasonable. Here are his closest competitors, the active players with a non-zero chance of hitting 788:

A-Rod           32.3%
Pujols          21.3
Andruw Jones    14.7
Adam Dunn        8.5
Ryan Howard      1.4

Combine their chances and you get a 41% chance that none of them will hit 788, ergo, a 59% chance that at least one of them will.

And that’s just the names above. For as long as baseball is still around, players will have a crack at the record. Maybe one of those guys above will break it. Or maybe it’s some newbie, like Justin Upton. Or Justin Upton's child. Or grandchild. After all, Bonds was only nine years old when Aaron surpassed Ruth.

The bottom line: until someone enters Sadaharu Oh territory – 868 lifetime home runs – then I think the home run mark will remain very breakable.

(5) Admit it – you love that Bonds broke the record.

Sally Jenkins, who writes for the Washington Post, suggested recently that, when the moment came for Bonds to break the record, he should have laid down his bat and walked away from baseball, preserving the game’s dignity and turning himself into the greatest folk hero of all time.

Whatever. As I said earlier, I hate Bonds, but I like hating Bonds. He’s the perfect villain – our Voldemort, our Dr. Evil, our Galactus, Devourer of Worlds. I think it’s perfectly appropriate that he’s on top.

One thing that’s always irked me (and I’ve harped on this before, both here and here) is the idea that baseball should be a beacon of moral values, or that ballplayers should be “role models.” Honestly, what kind of idiot looks to a guy who wears cleats and hits baseballs as an exemplar of virtue? I like ballplayers because they’re entertaining. The game offers a rich panoply of characters, both good (Jim Eisenreich, Larry Walker) and bad (A.J. Pierzynski, Carl Everett), and we’d all be a little poorer without them. The truth is, Bonds’ home run chase is one of baseball’s all-time great stories, breathtaking and absurd at the same time.

Because I’ve talked a lot about steroids, I’ll close with my favorite quote on the subject, from one of baseball’s most breathtaking and absurd characters, Rickey Henderson. A reporter once asked him if Ken Caminiti’s estimate that 50% of big-league players were taking steroids was accurate. His response? “Well, Rickey’s not one of them, so that’s 49% right there.”

So let’s tip our caps to Barry Bonds, the best of that 49% – and really, let’s be honest, the best of the other 51% too.

Brian Gunn is a screenwriter living in Los Angeles who formerly headed up the baseball website Redbird Nation.



What a great take, Brian.


This is one of the greatest pieces of baseball writing that I've seen in months, if not a couple years. Thank you very much.

I believe it was Humphrey Bogart who, when asked to defend his standoffish attitude toward the public, said, "All I owe them is a good performance." Bogart was right, and that applies to Bonds, and every other athlete and artist. I've listened to or attended or watched nearly every Giants game since 1993, when Bonds arrived, and his presence and his deeds have enriched my life as much as any athlete's performances could possibly do. It's been a great story to witness. I also lay part of the blame for his lousy public image on the Eastern media, which get so much else wrong as well.

Thank you so much for the Rickey quote. I don't know if anyone outside of the Bay Area knows that no one, not even Barry, changed the game as much as Rickey, and I'm talking about the game on the field. Rickey's mere presence freaked out opponents. You never knew what he'd do.

Barry's gone one step further- not only does he freak 'em out on the field, but he's got whole teams, whole cities all aflutter before he shows up.

I'd take Rickey over Barry any day- it's my East Bay bias.

I believe firmly that Barry's biggest problem is that he doesn't play in New York, Boston, or Chicago. How can someone who doesn't play nor want to play in New York be worthy of a real record? They're still smarting because Ruth's record got toppled. But now, thanks to the Internet, the big markets control the baseball media (and all other media), and the best the West Coast can hope for is that we get left alone, because otherwise, it's all attempts to demonize what's good out here.

Fortunately, I know it's just jealousy.

Anyhow, this is an awesome piece and echoes my sentiments about Bonds on so many levels. I was there to see his first game in an SF uniform- it was a special day at Candlestick, complete with the Grateful Dead, Tony Bennett, an MVP trophy, and Bonds' first SF homer. We all knew that it was the beginning of a trip to history- Barry was already the best player around, having taken Rickey's crown- but little did we know that it's an ugly, ugly road to immortality, and at the end of the trip, you'd have been better off staying home.

I think Barry's still trying to impress his dad. The saddest part of the story is the Bobby died before Barry could make his point- and it still wouldn't have been good enough, for Barry, Bobby, any of the fans, or anyone watching. Humans have trouble conceding excellence.

Hey Christian, wake up and smell it. It stinks like Bonds. Look at the numbers from 98 on. Is it a coincidence that his numbers skyrocket at an age when EVERYONE else's has declined as they get older? No. You and all the Bonds apologists go to sleep with that stupid smile on your face that you got to watch something you never thought you'd see, therefore its special. Its a fallacy and you know it. Just read the book. "Oh, he never tested positive so he could not have done it." Yeah, well 99.9% of people don't cheat on their taxes either. "Oh, well everyone else took it." You and the Rick Sutcliffe apologists make me sick. The fact there are people taking it DOES NOT MEAN ITS RIGHT! Its against the law, for one. He'll pay the price in years to come as his Liver and Kidneys start to malfunction. "All I owe them is a good performance?" Tell that to Chris Benoit's family.

Seeing as Benoit's steroid use had nothing to do with their deaths, I don't know why Brian should have to go to all the trouble of holding a seance to tell them that.

Your calculation that there's a 59 percent chance that one of those players will break Bonds' record is faulty. You can't simply add up the individual percentages to get a cumulative percentage.

If 99 guys each had a 1 percent chance of breaking the record, that doesn't mean there's a 99 percent chance that one of them would break it.

I didn't just add up the percentages -- if I did I'd've ended up with 78.2%. I figured out the chances that each of those guys would NOT hit 788 homers (i.e., 100% minus their odds are above), muliplied each of those chances together, and subtracted that number from 100. I believe that is correct.

And thanks, everyone, for the kind feedback.

Great article. Best sports piece I've read in quite sometime...maybe even better than Sully's recent trade deadline snarkfest.

And that's high praise, my friend.

Brilliant stuff. And any sports article that can get these two names(Nietzsche, Foucault) in it is a definite winner.

The thing about Bonds (& McGwire & Sosa) is that my belief (and I read Game of Shadows) that all used PEDs had simply made me not care about the record any more. I still revel in the games, the pennant races, the World Series and the game of baseball itself. But I don't give a rat's ass about the home run records--single season or lifetime. And that's just sad.

Great stuff Bri-Bri. And as for who's going to break Barry's record, I'm putting my money on Rick Ankiel.

I'm with Bill Rogers on this, but with less sorrow. I've stopped thinking about things in terms of the record. Instead, for me the record book is a list of notable achievements. Anyone who dominates a generation of baseball is certainly notable, and as each has his own story of how he got there each is interesting.

There's no prize for the home run record. There's no trophy. Aaron didn't erase the legend of Ruth and Bonds doesn't erase the legend of Aaron. He gets his own legend. And yeah, it's a very different legend, but that's what makes it all worth knowing about.

Yeah Jim, good call there. Who improves after their age 33 season? Going from a HR every 19.3 plate appearances to 17.2 PA per home run? Definitely something fishy there...

...wait a second, that's what Aaron did, got him confused with Bonds.

Jim Murray said in best in his October 3, 1963, column: "Nowadays, around baseball, when you say “Henry,” that's enough. There's only one of him in this game. And that's enough, too, for my dough. I mean, why be greedy? Beethovens don't come by the dozen."

Brian, as always, your take makes better sense than 99% of the sportswriters out there. Great read.

Great article, although I do not loathe Bonds. The steroids usage will clearly follow Bonds and the game until the end of time. The latest Canseco rumors appear to implicate Alex Rodriguez as well. How do the steroids account, though, for the incredible amount of walks and the command of the strike zone? The body armor seems to be the more relevant argument here than steroids.

Steroids cannot account for the incredible amount of intentional walks, walks, in addition to the 8 Gold Gloves. The photographic contrast of Bonds as a Pirate and now certainly are Michael Jackson-esque though and are very compelling.

If all of the players (or 49%) are using, including the pitchers, then the statistics are undeniable that in the age of racial equality in baseball, several new pitches that were not used during Aaron's era, the specialty relievers that have evolved since the 70's...Bonds is the greatest offensive threat in the history of the game.

Please take the job of T.J. Simers at the Los Angeles Times! Words alone are not enough to convey the animosity that most have for him. From Jim Murray to TJ Simers must be the single largest drop in sports writing in American history. Thanks again for the great article. (really! take Simers' position)

I disagree with James that the lapse in NBA travelling calls was just a gradual unconscious process. Maybe I'm a conspiracy theorist, but I think David Stern thought dunks would sell the game better than good team defense and long jump shots. Clearly players who can travel and palm the ball have a much easier time getting to the basket.

I miss Redbird Nation...

Slacker writes, "How do the steroids account, though, for the incredible amount of walks and the command of the strike zone?"

Steroids allow you to increase your bat speed and shorten your swing without sacrificing power. This gives you more time to sit on a pitch before committing to a swing and gives you greater flexibility to put the bat on the ball, particularly to hit balls on outside fo the plate the opposite way.

Think of it this way. What does a player do when there are two strikes on him? He shortens up his swing. The shorter stroke gives him better reaction time and a higher chance of making solid contact with the ball. Why doesn't he always swing like that? Because he hits the ball with less power when he hits it this way. So if he can artificially increase his power so that even with a short swing he can still hit with the power of a normal player's regular swing then the steroids have granted him better plate control.

As always, an original and thought-provoking read, Brian. Thanks. And more more more!!!

Steroids allow you to increase your bat speed and shorten your swing without sacrificing power.

Ahh, Neifi Perez must have gotten a bad batch of steroids (three different times, I might add).

Hey Brian, delightfully insightful. I miss Redbird Nation but I'm pleased to see your words again. Thanks, as always, as usual.

As you've done so many times in the past with other topics, you've managed to clarify the issue remarkable. This is now where I'll point people who ask me what I think about Bonds. I thought some of it already (though not so clearly), some of it I'd never thought of, but as a package, it covers all the bases.

Keep up the good work. Here's to seeing your byline more often.


Nice article Brian. Glad to see something more than the same old East Coast bias!! All the rest of you can read Game of Shadows, watch Dark Shadows or listen to The Shadow, I could care less. Baseball for the past 20 years is what is is and Barry Bonds id the greatest player of this era.

Nice article Brian. Glad to see something more than the same old East Coast bias!! All the rest of you can read Game of Shadows, watch Dark Shadows or listen to The Shadow, I could care less. Baseball for the past 20 years is what it is and Barry Bonds is the greatest player of this era.

Intentional walks come partially from the fear of pitching to a hitter. So is there a coincidence that his IBB totals skyrocketed beginning in 02?'

I think that, when people bring up segregation or the change in mound height and other such things, it's a stupid argument.

Individual players couldn't chose to segregate baseball. Or pitch from a higher mound than everyone else, or chose which pitches opposing pitchers knew.

Bonds COULD chose to do what he did.

I think that, when people bring up segregation or the change in mound height and other such things, it's a stupid argument.

Individual players couldn't chose to segregate baseball. Or pitch from a higher mound than everyone else, or chose which pitches opposing pitchers knew.

Bonds COULD chose to do what he did.

So that makes it morally wrong, maybe. But that still doesn't mean steroid-users in this era get advantages while those from previous eras had none.

The discussion of race at the beginning of this article was really bizarre. It's clear this Brian has a problem with minorities carping about racism. What exactly qualifies as the "race card?" Isn't accusing people of playing the "race card" always just a way for white people to not have to listen to complaints about racism?

Admit it, Brian. You like white baseball players better than minority ones. You see Tim Hudson's clean-cut good looks and you pop a boner.

Also, you write like a fifteen year old girl with a crush.

To the commenter directly above, I highly doubt that you know Brian. I know Brian, both as a writer and as a friend. Let me be perfectly clear about something: Brian is not racist and does not prefer white players over minority players.

As for writing "like a fifteen year old girl with a crush," I think your second paragraph eliminates all credibility you might otherwise have had on this subject.

Brian's article was well-written, interesting, thought-provoking, and balanced. In fact, I would argue that it was as good as or better than any other article on Bonds and the HR record. I was honored that he chose to run it at Baseball Analysts and am proud to have hosted his terrific guest column.

Nate, it means steroid users had advantages over players in the league at the same time as them. The same time part is the key. Bob Gibson couldn't stack a few extra feet of dirt up there while everyone else couldn't.

How does someone grow a size 9 3/8 head in his 30s like Bonds does without major 'roids? So why are dwarfs Neifi Perez and Donnie Sadler suspended for juicing while Bonds keeps playing?

Look at Bonds as a young major leaguer - very lean, almost underweight. Ted Williams, Musial, Kaline, Aaron, Ernie Banks and Billy Williams also fit that profile.

All of those Hall of Famers got stronger and gradually gained muscle and weight as they grew older. Bonds should have done the same, with an additional boost for more advanced nutrition and exercise programs. Instead, he looks like one of the freaks from the bodybuiding circuit.

I don't buy your lies, Barry. Hank Aaron remains the real home run champion.

nice article. when are you going to write an article eating crow for being so wrong about rick ankiel? didn't think so.

Oops. Forgot the link:


So what happens next for Rick Ankiel? He says he’s going to try his hand as a full-time hitter, and there are some wishful thinkers who’d have you believe that Ankiel is a legitimate “blue chip prospect” with the bat. These people will tell you that Ankiel has a lifetime minor-league slugging percentage of .575, that he yanked 10 homers as a part-time DH in the Appalachian League, and that he just may be the second coming of another Cards pitcher-turned-outfielder named Stan Musial.

But it’s silly for anyone – and this includes the St. Louis Cardinals – to indulge this fantasy. By the time he was Ankiel’s age, Musial had already won two MVP awards. Ankiel, on the other hand, has struck out in exactly one-third of his at-bats in the major leagues. His on-base percentage above A ball is a miniscule .252. He is not a real hitter by any conceivable stretch of the imagination. It’s unfortunate, then, that Ankiel is flirting with the outfield, because it won’t allow him or the Cardinals to truly turn the page. He’ll be just another spring training curiosity, grist for sportswriters on a slow day in March – like Garth Brooks in a Padres uniform, only more depressing.

Are you kidding, Roger? I'm happy as hell I was wrong about Ankiel! He's probably my favorite player of all time, and last night was truly unbelievable. If I had anything original to say about him I'd surely write about him, and of course I'd admit I severely miscalculated his odds of being a ML hitter. As for eating crow, I guess if you get off on watching people do that, more power to you.

As for Daryl the Bostonian, I probably shouldn't respond b/c it seems he doesn't even take himself seriously. But I think he misunderstood the tone of those first couple paragraphs, although that may have been my mistake. I was talking from the point of view of a hypothetical PR director, who would generally prefer players to remain "race-neutral." I have no problem at all with players, including Bonds, bringing up race. And although I think the issue of race is overstated when it comes to hatred of Bonds (for example, the public seems to have no problem embracing minorities like Ken Griffey Jr. and David Ortiz), I'm also fairly certain that Bonds would have an easier time of things if he were white, which is a shame.

I think I should respond, although Brian is right in saying that I wasn't even taking myself that seriously. And Rich Lederer is right, I certainly don't know Brian and can only go on what's in print.

The line that threw me into something of a huff was the "I basically AGREE with those sportswriters (who hate Bonds.)"

While I agree that a great deal of the public doesn't hate Bonds because he's African-American. They hate him for the reasons you outlined and for cheating the game. Sportswriters, however, are a different breed and it doesn't take too much time reading the daily sports columns to see where the majority of sports writers are coming from. As you said in your comment, they would certainly give Bonds an easier time if he were white.

I think the difference is that some people think that's a "shame," while others feel utter outrage and anger towards the sports media. Again, when you said that you agreed with the sports writers, was it so unreasonable to believe that you also espoused some of their hidden prejudices?

As much as this following admission will invalidate my credibility, I play in a dynasty fantasy league with a bunch of friends from college. Every year, me and the other couple minority owners in the league marvel at just how much race factors into something as tendentious and silly as a draft. Homer Bailey is picked before Gallardo because he possesses "intangibles" and is "blue collar." (what do those things mean? Bailey has admitted to not even liking baseball-- does a begrudging relationship with your profession make you "blue-collar?") I can't help but think that sportswriters are the ones to blame for these sorts of misconceptions. Look closely into 80% of the sports columns today and you'll see it everywhere. Why did Rick Reilly pick on Sosa and not McGwire when McGwire was the one with Andro in his locker? Why does everyone dismiss Gary Sheffield's claims and call him an idiot for speaking his mind on racial issues?

That's the culture of sportswriters right now (with notable exceptions, of course) and that ugliness increases a hundred fold for Bonds. When you wrote that you basically AGREED with the sportswriters, it's hard to excise race out that question, especially after the first paragraph, which certainly could have been read in a couple different ways.

Funny thing is, I agree with almost everything else you wrote.

Thanks, Daryl. I think you're dead right about the hidden (and not so hidden) racial and ethnic stereotypes that underlie press coverage in sports. Rick Reilly is a terrible culprit, and although Sheffield tends to contradict himself constantly, I think his thoughts about race were dismissed far too easily. There are, of course, a jillion more examples. (One of my favorites is how football players are considered so much dumber than baseball players. But if you ever listen to pro football players discuss their craft, they are, as a group, ridiculously smarter than baseball players. I'm sure some of that prejudice comes from the fact that they play a full-contact sports, which is generally considered more brutish, but I also wonder if the racial composition of the league plays a part.)

Anyway, I tried to distance myself from mainstream sportswriters by saying "their methods are cheap, their thinking knee-jerk," but, as I said earlier, I may have set myself up for confusion by the way I worded the first couple paragraphs.

Wow this site has some amazing info and research and write-ups on baseball. And why players have success over past years. I just got done reading and watching video of a blog breaking down A-Rod's swing last year and this year and was blown away.

The thing I hate is when I first watched baseball in the late 80's and early 90's growing familiar with that frame of mine. It was a pretty big deal to hit 20 HR's now it's like anyone and every can do that. Now you're nothing unless you can belt out 35 HR's plus. Take Joe Carter for example. This guy hit 30 HR's every year 100 RBI's every year and at one point was the highest payed player in the league. In 1995. It seems anyone and everyone can post stats like that now.

Especially where OPS and OBP are concerned. Players like Carter had years of 290 OBP. Clearly in a Yankee lineup that would not do it. You have 2nd basemans now mashing out 28 HR's and 117 RBI. The players now are far more power superior to when i first watched. Do to steroids and just how much the game has changed.

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