Baseball’s shame

My three sons very seldom agree on anything. In fact a get-together often resembles gorillas squabbling over who is the real Alpha Male with each using his own athletic prowess as proof and then asking their sister to referee.

But the two things on which they completely agree are that Barry Bonds is the product of “better things for better living through chemistry,” with a respectful nod to the longtime DuPont slogan, and that because of it, Major League Baseball is a fraud and the pandering sportswriters and broadcasters who wear shades to protect them from the glaring truth are every bit as guilty in bilking the public. They have covered Bonds’ quest for the record as though it were the second coming.

My sons’ educated assessments stem from years of high school and college football programs where success is frequently measured by size and strength, often artificially induced in those who come into the process lacking its natural requirements. Spotting the difference between what God has endowed and what laboratories have created is essentially second nature to these three big men whose gene pool provided for them without the need of an injection.

“If the hat size gets bigger along with the biceps, you can bet the farm it’s not because of the weight room,” the youngest said to me recently, noting the increase in the headgear Bonds requires since his normal albeit well developed physique suddenly developed at age 34 into world class musculature and is still a hitting machine at the advanced age of 43.

While that’s not the most scientific analysis of Bonds’ extraordinary abilities at such a late stage in his career, there certainly is enough other indication, including the continuing investigation into the San Francisco Bay area steroid scandal and the confession by other onetime MLB stars that they have been involved in chemical enhancement. There are those who would make the allegations into a racial attack. But those arguments are just silly given the fact that Henry Aaron, the man Bonds and his prodigious bat replaces in the record books, is also African American and a certified sports hero everywhere the game is played.

The anomaly here is that MLB and its owner/commissioner Bud Selig would not react to the throngs of dissenting fans who boo Bonds everywhere he plays outside his own stadium. Instead the dithering moguls who run the game, protected by an outrageous antitrust exemption dating to the 1920s, merely cluck their tongues and come up with lame anti-drug programs as appeasement while assiduously guarding the big time gates they believe are derived from all that home run hitting in smaller parks with juiced up balls as well as players.

If those who still run the game and promote the myth of “America’s pastime” had any integrity, they would set aside any Bonds record until the air is cleared. Perhaps Bonds to prove his own claimed innocence with record in hand should announce he is suspending playing until his name and reputation are restored. Neither of these will occur, of course. Bonds, who still faces possible perjury charges stemming from a grand jury investigation, will be dutifully installed in the holy book of records to which every player aspires — asterisk-free probably.

One can only wonder how all this would have been handled had the commissioner not been one of the owners or had Bart Giamatti, the former Yale University president who went after Pete Rose and vowed to clean up the game, not died early in his tenure as commissioner. Judging from Giamatti’s reactions, he would have had a different view toward those who gain their fame and fortune from the use of illegal substances. But then since 1919 gambling has been the only indiscretion with which baseball has been concerned and Rose still is paying for it, excluded from Valhalla at Cooperstown, N. Y.

Only MLB has dodged serious attention to what other professional sports from bicycle racing to football have taken as a threat to the integrity of their franchises. Instead greedy owners have helped create the robots they now install alongside Aaron, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and others who made the game glorious. Next step for Bonds? Obviously the Hall of Fame or should that be “Shame.”

(Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.)