Barry Bonds: Indicted on the Way to the Hall of Fame

Baseball has always been the national pastime. For more than a century, the boys of summer have geared up each April to play a regular season that has more games than any other sport. They stay at it well into October. During the century that baseball has reigned supreme some of the most dramatic moments in American history have been defined by key moments in baseball. Lou Gehrig’s July 4th “Luckiest Man” speech, the 1969 Miracle Mets, Cal Ripken’s consecutive game streak, Hank Aaron’s 755 homerun and scores of other memorable events have made baseball a mainstay of our culture. However, during the last few years, the game has become tarnished and at the center of the stain on baseball is Barry Bonds. Now it appears there is a high likelihood that in addition to the steroid scandal Bonds has manifested he will also be indicted for perjury, or lying under oath, and tax evasion.

When Barry Bonds debuted in 1986, he was an average 22 year old ball player. He had grown up around the game as the son of Bobby Bonds, the great San Francisco Giant. When most children were lucky enough to go to a few baseball games a year, Barry Bonds was watching games from the Giant’s dugout and was on a first name basis with some of the game’s greats such as Willie McCovey and Willie Mays. Bonds elected to forego the amateur draft out of high school and went to college. Sometimes college players have a difficult time making the jump to the pros and for the first few years, it looked as if Bonds might be just another side note as the average son of a former major leaguer. Bond’s father, Bobby, played a total of 14 years and posted respectable power numbers – he hit more than 300 homeruns – and was a career .268 hitter. Though not destined for the Hall of Fame, Bobby Bonds was definitely an above average player. However in younger Bonds’ first four years, he hit only 84 home runs where as his father hit 100 during the same time. Bonds’ batting average was also a dismal .255. It certainly didn’t appear that young Barry was destined to be even the player his father had been.

However things started to change. During Bond’s next four years, he hit more than 100 home runs and raised his lifetime batting average nearly 30 points. Bonds continued this level of performance for almost a decade and in doing so established him as one of the best players in the game. After Bond’s 14th season, the same number of seasons his father played, Bonds was one of the best players in the game. He was an all around solid player having stolen 450 bases, hit 445 home runs. He even had a lifetime batting average of .288. If he had retired after the 1999 season, he would have likely had a place reserved for him at

Cooperstown
. To retire would have been a reasonable decision given that Bonds was about to enter the twilight of his career, a time where most players start to slip in their numbers as their bodies begin to show the wear and tear of 14 grueling seasons. However, this didn’t happen to Bonds.

During the years from 2000 – 2004, his numbers have been near unbelievable. The lifetime .288 hitter averaged .339 for this time span. He also hit 258 homeruns, more than half the total of his entire career through 1999. Most surprisingly was Bonds’ power production. Of his total hits during the 5 year span from 2000 – 2004, 720, 258 were homeruns or 36% of his total hits. Had Bonds displayed this type of power over his entire in his career, as of 1999, he would have had a total of 722 homeruns. So everyone began to wonder in hushed tones at first, then out in the open for all to hear -“Where did this power come from?” Turns out the answer is simple. Bonds is a cheater.

Baseball has always had a dark side. Tarred bats, spit balls, corks in bats, sign stealing, all of these things happened. Even in the infancy of organized baseball, the great Honus Wagner noted that everyone was looking for an edge. However what Bonds has done is more that simply getting an edge.

In the 2006 book, Game of Shadows, the subject of Barry Bonds’ and steroid abuse was addressed. The book, based on grand jury testimony and in depth research leaves little doubt that Bonds performance for the 5 years following 2000 was a result of his being a steroid junkie. He has admitted using a convicted steroid dealer as a trainer, taking “supplements” provided to him by the trainer and others have named Bonds as having done steroids. Bonds apparently too much the prisoner to his ego has not denied taking steroids or associating with the known steroid dealer, but has simply said that he didn’t know what he was taking. Anyone who looks at the lean lithe athlete that was Barry Bonds in 1986 and the puffed up, freakish ballplayer of today, complete with a gigantic head, will have little problem understand that caused the unnatural changes in his physique. Apparently Bonds has been hoping that he could break Hank Aaron’s home record, retire and await the call from

Cooperstown
. However, it appears Bonds is simply once again being fooled by his ego.

A federal grand jury has been investigating the allegations of steroid use and the dealings of a

San Francisco

Bay

area company known as BALCO, or Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. As part of the investigation into BALCO, Barry Bonds appeared before the federal grand jury and according to Game of Shadows. Bonds’ ego showed up for his testimony. Despite numerous documents linking Bonds to BALCO, he stuck to his story concerning this lack of knowledge as to what his trainer was providing him in the way of supplements. He also provided questionable answers as to other questions concerning his income and his taxes. Apparently Bonds, in an effort to keep a mistress, made a great deal of cash through autographs and appearances. Apparently none of the cash was reported and no taxes were paid. As a result of all of this, it is likely that Bonds could soon be indicted for perjury and income tax evasion. Neither of which are crimes that the government looks upon with favor. Jail time is a distinct possibility.

Through this all, Bonds has remained his less than personable self, seeming more annoyed that anyone would question his explanation of the alleged use of performance enhancing drugs. He has also blamed the media and unsympathetic fans for his poor performance and ability to concentrate. In short, Bonds is not the cause of any of his problems, everything that has happened to him is the fault of some other person.

Baseball is a game and there are approximately 750 people in the entire world that have the privilege of being able to do it for a living. Each day in the summer, tens of thousands of people come out to pay to watch these players play. Sure, homeruns are exciting. Sure homeruns make the person that hit them shine; however, everyone knows that athletes fade away. Bonds seems to feel that it is his right to cheat at the game, to cheat the fans, to cheat the other teams, to cheat the record books and to tarnish the game for his own enjoyment. I believe that most would agree with me when I say that should Bonds retire from the game. If he is indicted, then he can deal with this, but he should leave baseball out of that fight. (Many would say that he should have already retired.)

This year, Bonds is finally once again playing like a player his age. He has 12 homeruns and is batting a pitiful .246. He needs 36 homeruns to pass Hank Aaron and I believe that his ego is calling the shots and that he will not retire. However, in posting the statistics that he has during the last 7 years, he has certainly excelled personally, but at the expense of harming the game by cheating to manufacture his performance.

Baseball will be around long after Barry Bonds. Baseball will survive the indictment of Barry Bonds and the steroid scandal Bonds brought to baseball; however, it is time Barry Bonds left the game and let baseball start down the road to recovery. He and his ego have harmed the game enough.

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