Barry BondsL 761* Homeruns

Perhaps the only person happy to see Barry Bonds shove aside Hank Aaron in the history books is that soon-to-be millionaire Mets fan who happened to be sitting in the right centerfield bleachers in San Francisco on August 7th. For the rest of us, the only good that came from that home run was a break from ESPN’s insufferable coverage of every minute detail that surrounded Bonds’s chase of history. The worst has happened; the inconceivable has become a reality. The most hallowed record in sports is now held by a cheater; a man who violated the sanctity of America’s pastime and whose arrogance alienated the very fans who were willing to forgive his misdeeds in order to see history.

It is almost too easy to attack Barry Bonds because it is abundantly obvious that he used illegal performance enhancing drugs. Perhaps it will never be officially proven, but that is irrelevant because the circumstantial evidence is so overwhelming that to deny it would be simply ignorant.

Put aside the steroid use for now though.

Barry Bonds is an egomaniacal jerk. He is insolent to the media, fans, and players. Bonds has never participated in a Home Run Derby, an event designed solely for the fan’s entertainment. Even this year, when the event was in his hometown of San Francisco, Bonds refused to participate, which would have boosted support for both himself and the city. It doesn’t help Barry’s cause that he has passed some of the most revered legends in baseball, such as Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, on his march towards history. Sure, Aaron did appear on the AT&T Park jumbotron after Bonds shattered his record. However, I believe if you turned the camera a bit to the left at the Aaron residence, you would have seen commisioner Bud Selig holding a gun and a script, threatening Hank to read the bland, monotonous words that Bonds attempted to take to heart.

Every insult and criticism pointed in Barry’s direction has been heard multiple times. Bonds has heard every attack and dealt with every slur. Steroids must have thickened his skin, as any other man would not be able to persevere through this storm of outrage as Bonds did. Defending Barry is almost impossible due to the reasons listed above. However, there are several reasons to admire Bonds’s tainted accomplishment, even if he is a bad person.

756 homeruns is 756 homeruns. I don’t care if Bonds took drugs to give him the strength of an elephant; the fact that he took steroids does not change the fact that Bonds blasted 756 balls over the fences of baseball stadiums across the country. Many say hitting a fastball is the hardest thing to do in professional sports. Bonds established himself as one of the greatest hitters in the game, even before he grew astronomically in size. Many experts say he would have been a Hall of Famer even if he didn’t take steroids. This is somewhat irrelevant to the argument. However, the fact remains that steroids cannot improve your hand-eye coordination. It is a natural skill that Bonds possesses unlike almost anyone in baseball history. Simply put, hitting 756 homeruns is astounding, no matter how many needles Bonds stuck in his body.

Not only does hitting 756 homeruns take an astounding amount of natural talent, it also takes perseverance and durability. What I found most shocking about Bonds’ accomplishment is the fact that he has remained healthy enough to put forth a substantial amount of homeruns on a consistent basis throughout his career. One of the most common side-effects of taking steroids is the high risk of severe injury. Whether Bonds has just gotten lucky to avoid these injuries, or simply persevered through them (I tend to favor the latter theory), the fact that he has had the endurance to play so much is remarkable.

Overall, when I look at Barry Bonds, I see a somewhat tragic story. He has so much will, perseverance, and determination to succeed, but he has very few people to encourage him along the way. It angers me that Bonds’ breaking of Aaron’s record was a cause for regret and outrage, and it is heartbreaking that a man who put so much work into his trade has been ripped to shreds by the media and fans. Ask yourselves this: if Bonds was a genuinely nice person who admitted and apologized profusely for taking steroids, how would you feel about him breaking the record? Jason Giambi has practically been forgiven for taken steroids simply because he is a good guy and admitted his mistake. But for now, we are left with the present Barry Bonds, a man as stubborn and insolent as he is hardworking and talented. We can only hope that his numbers don’t pile up too high so A-Rod can reach the pinnacle of baseball immortality within the next decade.