Hypocrisy in the hate speech
Go ahead and blast Barry Bonds for his central role in the steroids era, but please keep some perspective on the matter
If it wasn't for hypocrisy, I would be unemployed. There would be no need for opinion merchants to spew if the people who said one thing while doing another were no longer on the face of the earth. But they are and that's why fools like me feel compelled to chime in even though I know I am not going to change any of them.
I feel nothing at all about Barry Bonds as a human being, while acknowledging that he is the greatest hitter I have ever seen in the almost 50 years I have been watching baseball. And while I may be suffering from a number of mental maladies, cognitive dissonance is not one of them, so it's entirely possible to believe both things at the same time without the right side and left side of my brain engaged in a neurological civil war. Bonds reemerged this past week in a major league uniform for the first time in seven years when he showed up at the San Francisco Giants spring training camp for a one-week stint as a special instructor and, judging from the outrage in some quarters, he is still every bit the polarising character today that he was when he left the game.
Throughout his playing career Bonds was one of the most sullen and self-centred characters the game has ever seen. He never tried to mask his hostility towards the media and so many other people around the game. He was an equal opportunity and unrepentant jerk who was miserable to all and who was full value for the animosity directed toward him.
As Bonds entered the twilight of a spectacular career, he transformed. His body got noticeably bulkier while his head seemed to grow a size or two, both hallmarks of performance enhancing drugs that were wildly popular in baseball. At an age where player's skills are traditionally deteriorating, Bonds became the most destructive offensive force in the history of baseball. In San Francisco, where he spent the majority of his career rewriting the record books in a Giants uniform, he was mildly revered and mostly tolerated. But even as a life-long Giants fan, I would have to have been a complete fool to not know something was up.
Meanwhile in the rest of the US, Bonds was flat out reviled and that's understandable. But the inherent hypocrisy of the hate is not.
All the Yankee fans I know who claim Bonds "cheated the game" and want his home-run record to have an asterisk beside it believe that their team's 2009 World Series championship is totally legitimate despite the fact that it was a direct result of Alex Rodriguez's dominant post-season performance. A-Rod hit a blistering .365 with six home runs and 18 runs batted in during the 2009 post-season. And yes that is the same A-Rod who is about to serve a 162-game ban for a long-standing abuse of performance enhancing drugs and a systematic, borderline criminal attempt to cover it up.
And those pious Red Sox fans celebrating their first World Series win in over 80 years in 2004 still know that one of the main cogs of that team, Manny Ramirez, has tested positive for drugs more times than Cheech and Chong. Even last season's feel good World Series team was led by a guy who reportedly also tested positive for performance enhancers, David "Big Papi" Ortiz.
I could go on and on, but the main difference between Bonds and all those other legions of dopers, including hundreds of pitchers, is pretty simple: he was better.
A pitcher once commented during baseball's steroid era that drugs made a good player great, a great player legendary and a legendary player transformative. That was Bonds in a nutshell, the supposedly greatest doper in a top-to-bottom doped-up era.
For the likes of Keith Olbermann, that is too much. The self-inflated media commentator went on a borderline psychotic rant about Bonds being allowed to spend a week in spring training and among the more benign things he said was that Bonds' baseball numbers "are as dishonest as the North Korean presidential election results."
Olbermann went on to say Bonds is not welcome in baseball and that he should get lost, presumably because Keith wants him to. The hate, and it was not even thinly veiled, from Olbermann and others is a bit troubling. Personally, I'll save my hate for the architects of genocide, not a baseball player. I do care about baseball but I don't care about A-Rod or Ramirez or Ortiz. And I don't care about Bonds either, other than the fact that he is the greatest hitter I have ever seen.