More from COSELLOUTS: On Barry Bonds
This is great stuff (I’m borrowing liberally, but strongly encouraging you to read the entire piece):
3) Bonds vs. His Peers in 2007:
Where Have You Gone, Juan Gonzalez? In 2003 Major League Baseball implemented its steroid testing policy and either as a result, coincidence, or injury, many of Barry Bonds’ YOUNGER all-star peers free-falled into decline in the ensuing years. Some got caught using PEDs (Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro); some were soon gone from the league (Juan Gonzalez, Jeff Bagwell, and Roberto Alomar); and others saw significant decreases in production and/or weight loss (Sammy Sosa, Todd Helton, Ivan Rodriquez, Mike Piazza, and Nomar Garciaparra). This list is not provided for needless witch-hunting, just for necessary referencing.
The Natural: At age 43, two years after missing close to a year because of knee surgeries, Bonds is currently hitting home runs at an astonishing rate of 1 per every 11 at bats and maintains an on-base percentage of close to .500. Both of these figures currently lead the National League and STILL eclipse his rates from his 2nd growth phase. Unlike many of his younger all-star contemporaries, he has: failed no drug tests, not retired, not lost significant weight, or has not had major decreases in production (not including injury) since testing was implemented four years ago. Had any of these scenarios occurred, media members would surely have presented it as yet another exhibit against Bonds. His 2007 production only validates that his “third growth phase” was no illusion. His detractors are almost forced to accept that, maybe, just maybe, Barry Bonds is just THAT GOOD unless they believe that Bonds is CURRENTLY using PEDs. The latter is an extremely difficult scenario to imagine given his surrounding circumstances.
4) The 650 Home Run Myth (if presumed guilty):
For argument’s sake, let’s assume Bonds is guilty so we can address the popular “how many would he hit clean” question. Bonds career growth challenges the almost universally held assumption that if he did take PEDs it would have some kind of drastic effect on his current home run totals. Sports Illustrated’s columnist Rick Reilly urged fans to celebrate Barry’s 756th home run by “holding up a big sign that says 650, which is about how many home runs Bonds would have if you replaced the homer totals from his alleged juicing years with his previous pace of 32 per season.” This 32 figure, borrowed from the Game of Shadows flawed data, presumes a 20% DECREASE in production from his previous six years. However, if an assumed “clean” Bonds” merely improved at the very same post-35 rate as Hank Aaron, he would have hit 733 home runs . When considering other BENEFICIAL factors of NOT being on PED’s, this home run total could easily be 756 right now.
Conclusion: Does Bonds power progression prove that he never used performance enhancing drugs? No, of course not. Does it prove that the Game of Shadows authors and their promoters are unwilling or unable to tell the full Bonds story? Yes, of course it does. It should also demonstrate that Bonds’ late-career power was not only “possible”, but with statistical hindsight, was even predictable. And if number-crunching wasn’t your cup of tea, you could have just asked his former Pirate teammate:
”I think one day he [Bonds] will put up numbers no one can believe.” — R. J. Reynolds in 1990
In summary, Bonds career home run trajectory, his career-long work ethic, and his 2007 statistics should leave readers with two options to consider: either Bonds did not use PEDs and steadily and naturally improved throughout his career, or he did use them but it really didn’t help him quite as much as so many seem to believe. While debates about guilt, innocence, and morality will surely continue for years to come, it is time that both career-minded authors and fair-minded journalists stop using Barry Bonds’ unmatched excellence as damning evidence. Just because “the evolution has not been televised” doesn’t mean it never happened.
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- October 15, 2007 / 1:02 pm