‘You knew but what’d ya’ll do?’
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!” Marmion, by Sir Walter Scott (1808)
Webmaster Barry Bonds rejoined his “fraternity” last month to serve as hitting coach for the Miami Marlins as baseball‘s spring training got underway in the Cactus (AZ) and Grapefruit (FL) Leagues. As expected the official home run king was queried by reporters on the Cooperstown topic and his failure to win election. Bonds’ response: “God knows I’m a Hall of Famer.”
Nearly everyone, excepting, if I recall right, Tom Boswell at Washington Post who speculated on steroid use in the late 80s, looked away, cheered wildly while Bonds and his brothers in bash appeared to be juicing with reckless abandon, some afraid of player backlash, some in hero-worship and others defending memorabilia cachets.
That fact poses a cultural conundrum: What do you, the BBWAA, do with a Cooperstown candidate whom you, and the majority, believe tainted himself, his marks and MLB by engaging in a PED-plan during his career while you sat on your pens? Leave Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and their ilk, some proven, some admitted, others strongly suspected PED‘ers, off of your ballots, even as you gave tacit approval, seems the answer.
Barry is the official, if not, publicly sanctioned holder of the two most cherished marks in the annals of baseball: Single-season (73) and career home run totals (762), yet, he pays a price for what appears to’ve been a career fueled by performance enhancers. His arrogant persona doesn’t help his case, though, younger voters seem to find it fascinating.
And what price do we the fans pay for letting the players, their union, formerly an agent for equity, embed steroids, HGH and the other cheat-drugs into our sports, at all levels, causing a cancer we have still not engaged with aggressive treatment (In pro ball “115 failed drug tests…since January 2015 (“Jenrry Mejia’s Free-fall” / 2.12 / SI / Verducci)”)?
As Big Mac and Sammy were barreling over Maris’ mark (61) in ‘98, some of us were neither fooled nor pleased. One apologist at the time engaged me on the topic and made this sorry claim in their defense: ‘Even if they are using, steriods don’t improve performance.’ Yeah, that’s why they juiced, ‘cause they didn’t help. Like sticky-gloves (NFL), they wear ‘em ‘cause they look good, right? Oy vey.
Besides providing an unfair, unnatural aid in play, i.e., cheating, and, if used outside the supervision of a medical pro who administers in open practice, causing a slew of serious, long-term side effects, PEDs do add muscle mass which increases swing velocity and power. It‘s pretty simple.
That public complacency, along with the window of opportunity remaining open for PED cheats by an absence of mandated in-season blood draws for every MLB rosteree, are the 10,000 lbs elephants in the room everyone ignores.
And it is that complacency which is Barry’s best argument to persuade voters to back his enshrinement. Even in a mental state of deceit, how can one be said to be cheating if near everyone, though suspecting skullduggery, does not make serious statement to prevent the behavior until years later? Arguably, it‘s not.
“To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of men (Ella Wheeler Wilcox (JFK (‘91))).” If a tree falls in the forest to send campers dodging for cover who claim they did not see it crash, did it actually topple, did it make a sound and can we still use it for firewood? Hmmm.
Additionally, while steroids were banned by baseball in 1991, testing didn’t begin until 2003, then a ramped-up Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program in 2006, one year before Bonds’ final year and spring blood draws finally instituted in 2014. That fact that it’s taken so long to even get to this point in the fight (and window ajar) must go to the issue of wrongfulness on Bonds’ part.
Barry & Co. would add that he never tested positive for steroids. But that’s not the hand he really wants to play. When you and your union (MLBPA) stave off for decades the best method to detect illicit drug use, i.e., timely blood draws, a player crowing that he never tested positive is a poor defense, indeed.
But employing the complacency defense would of course require Barry come clean, admit to a knowing, intentional use of PEDs. Words toxic to his psyche.
Everyone already believes he juiced. The grotesque ballooning of his head alone is pretty persuasive sign. Now, he’s just seen by most as a stubborn, somewhat frightened man. Life can be scary, oh, boy, can it, but choosing the truth can help.
“One brave thing.”
That’s what Joseph Cotton (“Holly”) opted for as events came to a head in the great film, The Third Man (’49) set in post-war Vienna.
It might invite the federals back into his life stemming from BALCO matter (2003-15) if DJ does not preclude. His lawyers would give him the skinny on how the feds might proceed.
I’m not one but I can’t imagine such a show of courage would be met with anything less than a forward-thinking response by prosecutors (those that bungled the case), something to maintain perjury precedent and negotiate agreements on fines and maybe even a brief jail stay. Barry could do that standing on his head, even today’s smaller version.
Consider billionairess Martha Stewart. Today the Super Chef is groovin.’ She’s in a better place now than before she landed in the federal pen.
Coming clean would sway the court of public opinion, cloak Barry in garb of leadership and grant him bully-pulpit to argue for more stringent PED-prevention. Big dog Bonds could become a bridge between former users and guardians of the game in discussing a solution to how exactly baseball’s Elias record book might be revised.
What I fear is that younger voters who will soon be majority block of BBWAA, an age that watched in awe as Barry piled-up the MVPs and they filled-up boxes of memorabilia, elect him before a progressive catharsis could ever take place.
In 2016 Bonds received roughly 44% of votes (75%), up considerably from the 35% he’d been receiving his first 3-years of eligibility. Barry and Roger Clemens both (45%) are now well positioned for future gains though they could just as easily get mired in the 40s.
Winning election to the Hall of Fame, however, will change little for Barry.
Without a doubt, taking up residence in Cooperstown validates the electee’s career and all appurtenant to it, i.e., titles, awards and records, like a wave from the magic wand of wonderful. Ting! Barry, however, he’s a special case.
The distrust that his name inspires among most fans, sustained by his aloofness which includes his failure to admit an apparent PED protocol, will keep that dark cloud stationary over head and probably Cooperstown as well if elected. And though he has his supporters, their children aren’t likely to carry Dad’s passion forward: Do the different is how it usually works in generational ways.
Coming clean presents a great opportunity for Bonds.
Yes, it’s an outrageous act that comes with risks, some dread. Great acts don’t come easy nor their results cheap. But when you admit to something most already believe to be true the effect can be cleansing, open up avenues to progress & pride that living the lie will never do, even with a bronze plaque.
Public ridicule, even hatred would intensify for a time, giving fodder to trogs who think through their digestive tracts. You prepare for that. In time, truth and the courage it took to express it become a bastion for baseball fans and the brave.
“A rose is rose is a rose”
And Barry best beware of those who’d dissuade by comparison to Rose’s mea culpas that won him no new fans nor a lift of his lifetime ban.
Firstly, most of us aren’t really sure Pete’s come completely clean anyway, and then don’t really care to know anymore.
Second, while druggies cheat the game like gamblers and both make themselves subject to blackmail by associates, the motives can be quite different. Roid-heads at least seek to enhance their play, win the game. Gamblers on the other hand, they use the game, sometimes in loss, to fuel their real motive, the chance habit.
Besides that, Rose violated a code well known since Black Sox (1920), entered a contract (‘89), waited too long to make public admission and even then left doubt as to veracity when he finally did, i.e., maybe playing to lose.
A concern for Barry comes from the same supporters who may soon elect him to the Hall. They might advise against any revelation of wrong-doing. Barry’s likely lie is their lie, too. Overnight they’d turn his harshest critics. Officially establish PED use through admission and Bonds’ collectible stock drops like a rock.
Giambi and McGwire came clean though Mark passed on his initial opportunity, coining one of the queerest quips ever uttered in testimony before Congress: “I’m not here to talk about the past (‘05).” ¡Ay, caramba! But in 2010, likely at the urging of Cardinals’ brass, Big Mac confessed to using steriods in his MLB career though he took shelter in the now all too common recovery-from-injury excuse rather than performance boost.
Then there’s Canseco, Mark’s brother-in-bash during their salad days as A’s.
Jose’s opted for cartoon figure, afraid to embrace his iconic status as a game-changing whistleblower. Some in his profession call him a rat. Like Count Dracula, cheats hate the light of day. The revelations (claims) made in his book “Juiced (‘05)” slapped us wise on the rampant use of PEDs in MLB and gave impetus to the on-going reclamation project with no end in sight.
But Barry’s the big dog. He holds, by hook, crook or natural talent, records and MVPs. His admission, full and heart-felt, would carry weight in the war on drugs.
That shouldn’t, however, punch his ticket to immortality (HoF).
MLB banned steroids in 1991. The honor-system (test-free), but a rule is a rule and PEDs do enhance production, substantially. That makes his marks unlikely the stuff of Ruth, Mays, Mathewson and Roberto.
A solution might be a separate wing for PED’ers, proven and suspected. A stigma would attach, a neo-segregation, of sorts, this one integrity-based. But it would offer a much needed compromise to a festering problem we all helped forge that works a black mark on our era that we must accept, must embrace: Recognize achievements but chances forgone and a cowardly greed that tarnished our time.
Bonds & Clemens side would say they never failed / tested positive for PEDs nor can be tied to reliable evidence of having engaged in doping behavior. And that statement could be compromised with credible information.
While both did as federal defendants essentially prevail in their trials, evidence did come to light that could lead a neutral-minded person to form the reasonable belief that both men did engage in the use of PEDs during their careers.
Brian McNamee had been a personal trainer to Roger and did give what could be deemed compelling testimony and provided physical exhibits (syringe) he claimed to’ve used on Clemens, while federal prosecutors obtained BALCO files that included a set of linking documents on Bonds from November 2000. On one, Bonds’ name with a number that corresponded to the other containing the name “Barry B.” and positive test results for two anabolic steriods.
Bonds claims to have not knowingly taken PEDs.
You can choose to believe Barry but it’s not unreasonable to disbelieve, given his corresponding super surge in power numbers with the time feds claimed he was using enhancements, together with his BALCO association, known to’ve provided and administered the regimen. If it walks, quacks like a duck.
Even if you think neither baseball star can be tied to unethical supplementation when contemplating your imaginary ballot, strong suspicion can be sufficient to form a reasonable belief that both Bonds and Clemens cheated the game with PEDs based on their physical appearance and on-field performance patterns.
Your own standard of review need not conform to those required in a court venue where civil (C&C / PoE) or criminal (BRD) matters are adjudicated. Always Shepardize, so to speak, but no one’s liberty nor property are at issue when voting on a Cooperstown plaque.
What is the best voting standard?
Informed, free of bias and prejudice, of course, and if a claim of wrong-doing may attach to a candidate, a standard analogous to that by which a magistrate would base issuance of a search warrant seems apropos: Reasonable suspicion.
As noted, MLBPA forestalled blood draws for years, the preferred method, only agreeing to a spring test in 2014. To argue on one hand ‘I never tested positive’ while on the other having collectively prevented yourself from being tested or only in the most cursory fashion (urine) during your career is a faulty premise.
Had a player been outspoken about instituting high-level or any testing in early days of PED signing (90s), that man should receive a consideration. But I don’t recall any such man having taken that stand (some White Sox in spring 2005 took a position, briefly (union)), certainly not Misters Bonds nor Clemens.
As it stands, Bonds the batter and Clemens the pitcher are symbols, PED sign-posts to two destinations: 1) Big boost in production, longevity & moolah ($), and 2) the state of disgrace if pulled over for violation or waving red flags.
A likely third destination for riders on the PED junket: Related health concerns in the immediate or future states such as a compromised immunity, candida and as serious as heart disease and stroke. The younger one begins, the greater the risk.
Enshrine Barry and Roger and the symbolism is destroyed.
Message to kids or anyone balancing risk vs gain on the PED call would tilt gain, given the financial rewards, MLB’s on-going promotion of power (HRD), pretty fair chance you won’t get busted with the window that remains open and that the ultimate accolade in Cooperstown can stay on the table.
Why then should Bonds come clean? Because it’s the right thing to do.
That reads kinda’ corny today. Bravery as cultural norm stopped being cool long ago. The lie is almost hip today. Fibs & fraud are hardly new, it’s been going on since we were fishes? How does a fish lie? Flat in the pan but that’s not the issue (♫ da-boom chh! ♫). Difference today is lies are done with impunity, obviousness, almost a taunt.
In coming clean Barry would find tremendous satisfaction he’d never regret. It could also aid his health, everyone’s, as truth-telling is a stress reducing and a major contributor to maladies of the heart (See; “The Sinatra Solution: Metabolic Cardiology,” Basic Health Pub., 2007). Over time his favorability rating would rise.
Remember what Gandhi said: “Even if minority of one, the truth is the truth.” Substance does not need quantity. “The truth cannot be destroyed (O’Dea, Johnny Belinda (‘48)).” It can be hidden, Barryied from public eyes but it will always exist in some state, known by someone, somewhere.
Barry would keep his money and seasonal accolades (MVP) but forgo the Hall of Good ‘n Plenty and concede to a record book re-do. Sacred stuff, and numbers were never so big if somewhat suffocating (See; sabrmetrics (WAR, etc.)).
I don’t see either star finding the luminosity to shine bright. Self-denial is seen as ‘Un-American Activity’ in Consumer 2016. These guys grab with both hands.
“Greed is good.” America’s motto today. Trump is its face. Don has what McCain, even as hero, could never carry off: Maverickness. That can turn loose cannon. Clinton is sharp as a tack, doesn’t ruffle easy and will take at least 2 debates by her experience. She, however, is the face of appeasement. Strength’s a question. Both flag negatives like snow-belt springs pot-holes in March. We’re not doing too well with Chiefs in DC these past 40 years.
Roger and Barry will win election in the not too distant future. They’ll jump for joy and their rookie cards will rise in value. But over time they’ll fare worse in the court of public opinion, if that’s possible, drawing more resentment for arguably ‘getting away with it’ and helping tarnish the game’s sacrosanct Elias record book.
They’ve a great opportunity, a responsibility, in fact, as did Rose, being key cog in the Big Red Machine, arguably the best club all-time. It’s in their hands.
Oh, where o’ where are the “Captain’s Courageous?”
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: B.Bonds, 7.21.07, guano, wc.cca; Bonds, wc.cca, J.Accordino, 1993; M.McGwire, wc.cca, 6.29.11, K.Allison; Cooperston.Signs, wc.cca, 7.26.08, O.Yamamoto; M.Stewart, wc.cca, D.Shankbone, 9.21.9; Bonds, wc.cca, 8.25.06, K.Rushforth; P.Rose, wc, 1.11.08, K.Junstorm, LV; J.Canseco, wc, 5.14.11, B.Horowitz, Worcester; R.Clemens, wc.cca, 6.27.07, K.Allison; blood-test, wc.cca, 9.11.14, Vegasjon; M.Gandhi, wc.cca, pre1942; canned-corn.
Posted: 3.4.16 @ 6:58pm EST; Copyright © 2016
Filed under: MLB
Tagged with: 73, 762, a rose is a rose is a rose, ahead of the curve, BALCO, Barry Bonds, baseball Hall of Fame, BBWAA, blood test, Brian McNamee, can o' corn, Captain’s Courageous, Chin Music, coming clean, Cooperstown, Donald Trump, Election 2016, Elias record book, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Gertrude Stein, Hall of Good ‘n Plenty, health, Hillary Clinton, history, home run records, if a tree falls, JFK movie, Jose Canseco, Juiced book, literature, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark McGwire, Marmion, Martha Stewart, MLB 2016, MLBPA, movies, one brave thing, PEDS, Pete Rose, Roger Clemens, sabrmetrics, salad days, Sammy Sosa, Sir Walter Scott, steroids, symbolism, tangled webs, The Third Man, Tom Boswell