The baseball moralists greedily pounced on Wednesday:
"This pathetic Bonds chase was the most preposterous pursuit of a major sports record in American history, but perfectly befitting our gonzo culture. This crass affair had everything except Lindsay Lohan, berserk pro wrestlers, Paris Hilton, and Michael Vick's pit bulls."
- Bernie Miklasz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"The merry visual being transmitted was of unadulterated celebration. It looked and sounded like that. What a lie. What a colossal fraud: the sound of cheering, and the man they cheered."
- Greg Cote, Miami Herald
And my favorite:
"A little piece of humankind died Tuesday night. What can we believe in, honestly, when the grandest record in sports is reduced to a lie?"
"Bonds is the disgraced home run king now, reaching 756 before the feds and Bud Selig's men could stop him, and when he ripped a fifth-inning solo laser to right-center field, his teenaged son rushed out to hug him as thousands of BALCO-blind sheep sent a Richter-scale tremor through the waterfront ballpark."
"Which made me cringe. Kids and steroids do not intermingle. Cheers and steroids are not bedfellows. Only a fool believes that Bonds wasn't a part of chemical culture that has smeared baseball for much too long, and only a mamby pamby thinks this isn't the bloodiest of all sporting killjoys, a punch in the American gut that bastardizes baseball history and knocks the honorable Aaron from his perch."
- Jay Mariotti, Chicago Sun-Times
A little piece of humankind died? A punch in the American gut? Who in their right mind can take any of this crap seriously?
Thank goodness that someone like Martin McNeal (registration required) can lend a little sanity to the discussion.
"...When Bonds was asked during his postgame news conference whether his mark was tainted, he quickly said the record was "not tainted."
Buddy boy, who is he kidding? Surely, he meant it in another way, but of course, it's tainted. Baseball has been tainted since a day to which none of us -- repeat, no one -- actually can pinpoint.
The cloud that is an invisible baggie of performance-enhancing drugs has hung over baseball since at least the mid-1990s and possibly longer. There's not a soul who can say when players actually began using these drugs. Just as no one can say when amphetamine use began in baseball. Or which players have used what or still are using what.
Bonds and others are accused of using human growth hormones, for which Major League Baseball still is not testing. There is a wealth of circumstantial evidence that points to the use of these hormones but nothing more.
Sure, critics of Bonds will say he never would have reached this mark without using performance-enhancing drugs. And they might be correct. And when they show me definitive proof that is so, I'll be on board with them.
So, when I hear questions about whether Bonds is the greatest home run hitter, it's pretty comical and evident of our society's mentality today...The answer: Take it any way you want, but he sure does have more than anyone else, doesn't he?
Ultimately, it's hard for me to escape the conclusion that writers like Mariotti, Cote, and Miklasz are driven by their hatred of Bonds much more than they are by any real concern for the issue of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport. If it had been McGwire or Sosa chasing the record, would there have been such vitriol? Such lack of perspective? I doubt it.