time to get this shit started

August 28, 2007 at 10:47 pm | Posted in baseball, brian, lee | Leave a comment

this is an email baseball conversation between lee and myself about bonds breaking the homerun record.

Bonds is at 753, two away from tying Henry Aaron’s record. All along, I haven’t lost too much sleep over the whole steriod era. I hated the cheating part of it, but I figured the steroid users would get theirs in the end (look what is happening to WW(F)E wrestlers. It can’t be just a coincidence that all these wrestlers that have a history of steroid use are dying at young ages). I also noticed that teams built on power hitters never win championships (pardon my parenthesis. The Yankees had a dynasty going until they started getting power hitters over contact hitters. The Mariners of the late 90s had Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, and Jay Buhner, and could barely make the playoffs). But now that steriods is effecting the history of the game by breaking one of the most important records in sports, I have a problem with the steriod era.

here’s my thing: i think that in sports, we’re nostalgic for the past, for the golden eras of the sports we love. i don’t know when that golden era was for baseball, but i know base ball is radically different today than it was when i was a kid. anyway we idealize the past talking about when the game was better, when it was purer, when players played because they loved it rather than for money and fame or whatever. but really, there was no golden era. baseball, and every other major sport, has had a troubled past. betting on world series, not allowing african-americans to compete until the fifties, all the shit they used to use to doctor the balls, everyone using speed in the sixties, everyone using cocaine in the eighties, corked bats, pine tar, and so on and so on. so i think all the records could have asterisks by them. my problem is that the game of shadows book is bullshit. it’s all the stuff they couldn’t get into the paper because their sourcing was so poor. it couldn’t get nominated for a pulitzer or national book award or something because the judges couldn’t classify it as non-fiction because of the lack of sourcing. in other words, there is no definitive proof that bonds used steriods. there’s a lot of circumstantial evidence, but nothing that i think justifies suspending him or taking away his homeruns or whatever. i think baseball should actually get serious about testing, because i think what they’ve got going on now is a joke. but i don think it would be wrong to take away bond’s hr record without serious proof.

i agree that power-hitters don’t win championships. however, it’s the move to power that’s brought baseball’s attendance back. or so it seems. you have lowered mounts, smaller strike zones and so many batter-friendly parks. i like small ball and great defense, but that’s not the way baseball is anymore.

Sports fans do get too caught up in thinking that what they are currently seeing is inferior to what they used to see. It’s the same thing with with books, movies, and music. Everything older is better. Maybe it is that we finally realize, “Hey, that was a great movie/book/album/ballplayer,” and then the greatness of that particular thing grows as people talk about how great it was. I think they call it “legend”. Critics aren’t quite as critical about old stuff. It is kind of like ‘the grass is greener on the other side’, but more specifically, it is ‘my old lawn was a lot greener that this crap’.

I’m fine with the steriod era. It happened and baseball had to have known it was happening. I don’t hate Bonds. I like him more than I like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. I’m convinced that Bonds gets a bad rap because he can be a dick. Lance Armstrong has had what seem to me to be more valid allegations made about him, but because he is friendly, everyone believes him. But, I have a problem with Bonds breaking a record.

Even though I don’t think past eras are necessarily better, I like the history of baseball (and other sports). Statistics and records are part of the history. Hank Aaron’s 755 was probably the biggest of these records. Aaron was against any kind of cheating – including baseball’s somewhat accepted cheatings – and endured a lot when he broke the record because of his race. So, 755 was big to more than baseball. It was big for equality.

Then here’s Bonds. Sure, he hasn’t been proven guilty of steriods, but I’m more sure of his guilt than his innocence, and that taints the record for me. I’m sure I’ll get over it, but I’d rather have someone like Hank Aaron hold the record than someone with so much suspicion.

i think the uncritical and idealized looks at baseball’s past is a lot of the problem. it’s not “my old lawn was greener than this crap” but “the way i choose to remember my old lawn–which only bears the most superficial resemblance to the way my lawn actually looked–is way greener than this crap.” the other thing is it seems like everyone links bonds’ numbers to only steroids when there are a million things that go into it like the emphasis in strength training in contemporary baseball, the expansion of the league and with that a slight decrease in the overall pitching talent, the smaller strike zones, different ways baseballs are manufactured, and so on. so bonds holds the homerun record, but records are not ahistorical. there is always a context to these records and these stats. it makes comparisons, especially comparisons across different eras in baseball, more difficult, but also makes them more interesting.

i guess my problem with the entire thing is the way bonds’ record-chase has been covered. i’m amazed at how much hate many sportswriters and talking heads have for bonds.

i think it’s ricky henderson

Here’s my problem with how the homerun chase was covered by the media. For the last two years, everyone has hated him. Then, the last two weeks before he broke the record, everyone started loving him. Either they were trying to be different (which backfired, because almost everyone else did the same thing) or they companies they work for forced them to change their view because of the lack of interest in the chase, and they wanted more money.

and that’s why i think the hatred for bonds is largely a media creation.

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