August 08, 2007

756

It's finally, mercifully, over. Barry Bonds went yard for the 756th time Tuesday night, surpassing the great Hank Aaron and ending an awkward chase to one of pro sports' greatest records.

I want to pinch myself. I can't believe it's over. I'm so sick of seeing Bonds' bulbous head on my television screen. There's only so much Barry Bonds I can take, and I'm probably the happiest dude out there now that he's broken the record.

Seven hundred and fifty six home runs. When you write it out like that, it's even more impressive. That's a lot of home runs. I'll give credit where it's due, because I know that Bonds hit the majority of his home runs before he started juicing. He was a legitimate hall of famer before the steroids. At the end of the day, he got to 756 home runs in approximately 3000 fewer at bats than Hank Aaron. That simply blows my mind.

Three thousand at bats! At the same time, Bonds has walked more than any other baseball player as well. Everyone tries to pitch around him, but he still hits home runs. He's a marvel. A freak of nature. What he's been able to accomplish at his age is stunning, and goes against all conventional wisdom. You don't get better with age. Not in any sport. Especially baseball. The body breaks down and the timing is the first to go. Hitting a 90 mile-per-hour fastball is one of the most difficult things to do, but Bonds does it with ease as a 43 year old. He is special. But there's no doubt in my mind he took steroids, and knew that he was taking steroids.

The home run. It's the ultimate play in baseball, and maybe even in all of pro sports. The home run revived baseball in America, after the lockout in 1994 cost MLB its World Series, and put the game on life support.

I was a huge baseball fan in the early 90's, but baseball lost its appeal during the strike of 94. I fell for the game of hockey, and it remains my true passion today. Baseball still holds a dear place in my heart, and I'll never forget the summer of 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa rewrote the history books. That's when I went back to baseball. McGwire's 70 home runs were pure drama. I watched his every at bat when he was chasing Roger Maris' record of 61. I watched him hit number 62, and 65, and ultimately, number 70. It was magical. It was only revealed after the fact that McGwire too, was on the juice.

Bonds' chase for 756 was different. To see him get booed in every stadium but San Francisco is amazing. Only in one city is he embraced. The steroid cloud follows Bonds where ever he goes, and while baseball celebrated the exploits of McGwire and Sosa, no one except for the fans of San Francisco knew how to react to Bonds' pursuit of the all-time home run record.

I watched Bonds smack number 756 into the bleachers live. It was history in the making, yet I sat there emotionless. It didn't effect me. I don't like Barry Bonds. I never really have. Maybe it's because he's been in the National League his whole career and I've never really gotten to see him play. Or maybe it's because he's known to be one of the rudest and most ungrateful athletes on the planet.

In my heart, I know Bonds cheated. I know McGwire did too, but for some reason I see Bonds in a different light, and I'm not sure why. I'm still trying to figure it out.

I've heard the argument on behalf of Barry Bonds - that the majority of ball players take steroids and cheat. I fear we'll never know the truth about how many players really were, and still are, on the juice. Many players have been suspended thanks to baseball's new drug-testing policy. What I do know is that some guys have to take steroids in order to stay in the big leagues. To get that extra two miles on their fastball, or to let that shoulder heal just a little bit quicker, in order to keep their job.

Barry Bonds didn't need to take steroids to keep his job, or to earn his paycheck. He was already one of the greatest ball players of our generation. A five-tool player who could do it all. A man who could hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases. But 40 home runs in a season wasn't enough for Bonds. He wanted more. He took the juice for all the wrong reasons, and that's why I can't forgive him.

Asterisk or no asterisk, Barry Bonds has hit number 756. There will be no celebration on this end. Just an acknowledgement. I'm just glad it's over...

2 comments:

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