Barry Bonds and the Asterisk of Doom
It was a big weekend for baseball, and bloggers have plenty to say about Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and the future of America's national pastime.
Barry Bonds and the asterisk of doom: Still dogged by allegations of steroid use, San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds hit his 755th home run Saturday, tying Hank Aaron's all-time record. Earlier the same day, New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez hit his 500th homer—at 32, he is the youngest player to reach the milestone.
Hate him or love him, few bloggers are without an opinion on Bonds. For those who can't stand the thought of Barry in the record book, Smitty at Sons of Sam Malone offers "A 10-step System on Dealing With 755" (in reverse order, a la David Letterman), with tongue-in-cheek strategies that include voodoo, death threats, and suicide, culminating with: "1. Realize that A-Rod is going to pass Baroid in a matter of time, and you need to be alive to kill yourself when that happens." At HitBarry.com, they're even collecting donations to motivate pitchers to bean Bond. The $6 collected so far probably won't inspire any serious assaults, but still. Ouch.
Tom Goodman at Swing and a Miss sums up the majority response nicely: "Bonds isn't likely to replace Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth in the hearts and minds of baseball fans, even in San Francisco when the dust settles, but he is going to wear the crown and no asterisk or other qualifier will rest beneath it unless something dramatic and unforeseen happens on the steroids front. The royal we don't congratulate him."
Fan disillusionment over steroid use (and MLB's response to it) is palpable, and it's not limited to one player. "Asterisk or not, Bonds will hit more home runs than Aaron or anyone else. ... Years ago, baseball decided that 'sacred' numbers weren't sacred enough to demand the appearance of a level-playing field. No asterisk can change that," says Nate M. at Tales of the 23rd Grade Nothing.
Don, a sports-mad Australian living in Japan, points out on his blogWith Malice…that a Japanese player passed the 756 mark long ago, rendering the U.S. "record" a moot point: "Barry Bonds, meet Sadaharu Oh. Mr Oh holds the professional baseball home run record. How many? That would be 868. … Barry - you have 113 to go. I don't think you're gonna get there. But A-Rod might."
Bonds has a defender of sorts in Cheryl Thompson, writing on Casually Obsessed at AOL's Black Voices Blogs: "Barry Bonds record-tying home run came off of Clay Hensley, an acknowledged 'roider. Yes, my friends that is irony at its best. Just goes to show that if you think Bonds cheated his way to the top ... well, he smacked his hits against pitchers who were juiced up too."
Could a wave of "Stop the Bonds-Bashing" sentiment peak in time for No. 756? Thompson (along with Brendan B at News From the Nosebleeds, JamesSlusher.com, and many others) points out that Chris Rock may have the most thought-provoking take on the matter: If Bonds' entry in the record books is tagged with an asterisk for steroid use, shouldn't Babe Ruth's record of 714—which stood until Hank Aaron hit 755—get a similar disclaimer for playing in a segregated league?
Say, do we detect a theme here? The new home-run king hasn't even been crowned yet (that could come as early as Monday night), but bloggers have clearly anointed Rodriguez as his heir apparent.Jeremy Klumpp at Ground Rule Double marshals stats to predict A-Rods's ascension: "He is well ahead of the pace set by both Aaron and Bonds, and at only 32 should have about 5 good years left before starting to fade. If Bonds ends up with 780 home runs we could be seeing Rodriguez nearing that mark before he reaches 40." Windy City Sports Blog agrees with that timeline and shows a little compassion, both for Bonds and the sport: "I'm not a huge fan of Alex Rodriguez, but in 8 years or so when he breaks the all-time home run record, it will be just the event that re-establishes the meaning of Aaron's accomplishment and fades Bonds away."
Susan Daniels is a former Slate staffer. She lives in Amsterdam.