Tiny Iota: Media should overlook controversy and let Bonds be

As baseball begins the second half of its season, all eyes are on San Francisco where Giants slugger Barry Bonds stands just five homers away from breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record.

Much of the drama surrounding the event is muted by the cloud of suspicion over his involvement with BALCO and the entire steroids saga, and has instead been replaced by a media frenzy over every word Bonds has said and whether commissioner Bud Selig will even show up to Bonds’ record-breaking game. It has become baseball’s Iraq, an issue that has seemingly lingered on forever and causes anguish for all parties involved.

It has bred a whole new sense of morality by a tremendous number of baseball writers. Columnists around the nation are rethinking their Hall of Fame votes because of allegations of steroid use surrounding Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi and other members of the lineup that were forced to testify to Congress in March 2005.

One can argue that the Baseball Writers Association of America has never been that good at picking Hall of Famers to begin with, but adding on the decision of moral arbiter has made some of their decisions completely illogical. There have been countless columns about how we should just discount everyone’s stats from the entire era because we simply can’t tell who was on what.

In fact, some of these columns just go with outright speculation. Former major leaguer Brady Anderson hit 50 homers in 1996, and that was just under a quarter of his 15-year total. If you believe some baseball writers, he did steroids that year.

Well writers, Gaylord Perry has been in the Hall since 1991, and has admitted to doctoring the baseball in his autobiography. Where’s the moral outrage for this? Unlike Bonds, countless steroid users have actually been caught, yet you’ll never find any anti-Alex Sanchez or Guillermo Mota rhetoric in any of these columns.

Did Barry Bonds use steroids? Probably. The circumstantial evidence against him is extremely strong. Do sportswriters have an irrational hatred of Barry Bonds? He’s been surly to many of them throughout his career, and it shouldn’t be a surprise if some of them took it personally.

But any way you look at it, baseball is an evolving game. Baseball writers cling to their cherished memories, such as Hank Aaron’s 715th homer to pass Babe Ruth on the all-time list, Pete Rose breaking Ty Cobb’s hits record and, for the generation before, Ruth’s assault on the record books.

Times change, ballparks get smaller, expansion dilutes pitching talent, worse pitchers pitch more innings and the lack of Astroturf decreases emphasis on speed and increases emphasis on players who hit for power. All of these are as much a reason as steroids that players in today’s era club more homers than they did in any other time in baseball history.

Bonds breaking Aaron’s record won’t mean he’s a better power hitter; it means he’s hit more home runs. Chief Wilson hit 36 triples in 1912; that doesn’t mean he’s faster than Jose Reyes. It means he played in an era that favored triples.

The home run record is just a number. Perhaps if baseball writers focused more on the game instead of trying to play CSI with pictures of the mean old player who ruined their precious memories, they’d understand this.

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