This column by Ralph Wiley is so acidic I don’t know where to start. His implication that people who question the legitimacy of Bonds’ accomplishments as artifically enhanced are just simplistic and jealous player-haters ignores some very large (though admittedly circumstantial) facts: Bonds has grown very large, his trainer has been indicted for supplying steroids to athletes illegally, claims have emerged that Bonds was given steroids (though no proof exists that he took them), Bonds’ power numbers exploded over the time he was seeing such trainer, etc. etc. Wiley asks us not to question his accomplishments, and tries to place himself above criticism by graciously revealing that, well, he doesn’t question Babe Ruth so we ought not question Barry. That’s absurd on it’s face.

As someone who in the past was skeptical about the accusations about Bonds’ steroid use (until four years ago it wouldn’t even have been a topic) I am frankly insulted by Wiley’s column. Let’s set it straight: Bonds was/is one of the great all-time players. He was a hall-of-famer before he bulked up. He was a hall-of-famer before he ever started chasing Ruth. It appears, to this blogger’s naked eyes, that Bonds got a hell of a lot bulkier long after he was a hall-of-famer. So as far as I can tell, I think that Bonds was a great player early in his career, in the middle of his career, and even pretty damn late in his career. And now, because he is pretty damn justifiably in the middle of this maelstrom we’re picking on him? We’re not cutting him the same slack that Wiley cuts Ruth? We are jealous of his achievements?

Meanwhile, Wiley not-so-subtly drops Mark McGwire in the mix, as well as Brady Anderson, Jose Canseco, and Ken Caminiti, asking where they are in this whole discussion. Well, McGwire retired a broken-down player, he admitted using androstenidione as an enhancement (that admission led to a notable though minor change in league policy), Anderson was a bit player in baseball (who lots of people suspected used steroids), and Canseco retired and ran afoul of the law, is an embarrassment to the game, and a stooge that noone with half a brain trusts at this point. Ken Caminiti is someone who admitted using ‘roids and ended up arrested in a crack-sting in a motel. So what’s his point here? Is he trying to imply different standards for hispanic and/or white ballplayers? He asks “where are” these guys? Here’s the simple answer: retired and tainted, retired and in suspicion, retired and an embarrassment, retired and disgraced. What planet is Wiley living on, where the four aforementioned players are the paradigms of achievement and where their accomplishments haven’t been either entirely discredited or at the very least tainted?

If Bonds is a victim, then he’s mostly a victim of his own associations – working with a trainer long after suspicions of that trainer supplying steroids to athletes, of hanging around bad guys. That doesn’t make Bonds a bad guy himself (or a steroid user, either), but it sure doesn’t make him unworthy of suspicion. It certainly doesn’t have anything to do with all the other players Wiley tries to use to make his case that we all hate Barry because he’s threatening Ruth. As a Red Sox fan and someone who lives in the present, who wants to see records made with my own eyes, I couldn’t care less about Ruth’s record falling. And I don’t care who breaks it.

I do, however, want to know that ALL the players are clean, not just Barry.

1 comment… add one
  • I’m in total agreement. That piece is preposterous, and I’m not sure why ESPN allows that kind of shallow analysis and–let’s be frank–hackneyed writing on its site.
    I would only add that Wiley’s point of departure is entirely solipsistic: Bond’s numbers must be legitimate because achieving those numbers is such a monumental achievement that anyone who could do it would not need the help. Huh?

    YF March 4, 2004, 11:49 pm

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