Innocent until proven guilty. Unless you are not proven guilty, then it’s guilty by suspicion until some way is found to prove that guilt, including Congressional hearings, an investigation headed by former Senator George Mitchell, and plenty of innuendo.
Of course, I’m talking about the ongoing and idiotic steroids scandal that has had Major League Baseball in a tizzy for a few years.
Standing at the center of it all are two men who are as different as can be.
Barry Bonds, in spite of all the vitriolic criticism, ignores the firestorm and, at 42, is ripping the cover off the ball like back in the day. At this writing, Bonds leads the National League with 11 home runs, only four behind Alex Rodriguez for the overall lead. He’s leading baseball with 33 walks, including a league leading 11 intentional passes, evidence that his aged bat is still the most feared in the game.
He’s done all this after an injury plagued two year stretch that some would have us believe was because his body was finally breaking down after years of chemically enhanced abuse. Instead of using the injuries as a convenient excuse to hang up his cleats, Bonds has instead returned with a vengeance.
The other figure, Commissioner Bud Selig, is a weasely simp who hides from public view working overtime to make sure the scarlet letter of steroid abuse is tacked to Bonds’ expansive chest. Selig, who seems genetically incapable of giving a direct answer to a question, is not without sin in this latest chapter in the continuing saga of America’s Pastime.
Owner of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team, Selig became acting commissioner of baseball in 1992 after a group of owners, led by Selig, forced the resignation of then commissioner Fay Vincent. Selig was made the league’s permanent commissioner in 1998, at which time he transferred ownership of the Brewers to his daughter, Wendy, in order to avoid conflict of interest questions. As commissioner, after all, one is supposed to make decisions in the best interest of baseball, and not take sides with owners or players.
Now, Bonds is closing in on Henry Aaron’s record of 755 career home runs. That fact causes many to squirm. With the allegations of steroid abuse, some feel that Bonds has no right to claim the All-Time Home Run King title. Commissioner Bud Selig isn’t even sure he’s going to be at the stadium when Bonds eclipses the milestone. That alone offers telling evidence of Selig’s lack of guts on the Bonds issue. If, in the eyes of Bud Selig and Major League Baseball, Bonds is guilty, the Commissioner needs to say so and take the appropriate action. If not, then Selig needs to honor the game he represents and be on hand to see a new milestone reached. He’s a coward for failing to do either.
I like Barry Bonds. I don’t know him personally, so his gruff demeanor and apparent jack-assedness is of little consequence to me. I doubt very much he’ll be a guest in my home, or that I’ll ask him to watch my daughter some day while I’m out running errands. Barry’s a ballplayer and has been an excellent one over his long career. He brings excitement to the game. When I’m able to see the Giants on television, I pay attention to Bonds and his effect on the opposing team’s strategy. I want to see him launch a baseball into the stratosphere. (It also doesn’t hurt that he’s on the roster of my 2007 fantasy baseball team and a big part of the reason I’m in first place.)
I don’t look to Barry Bonds to give me wisdom on how to resolve the situation in Iraq, what to do about the economy, or how to save Social Security. I look to Congress for such things, but to its own shame Congress at times seems more interested in the Bonds/steroid issue than in addressing real problems.
I watch Barry because I like the game of baseball. I feel a little sorry that he’s been made the center of attention in what Major League Baseball says is a scandal involving steroid use. Selig was unconcerned about suspected steroid use when Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals set the single season home run record, but when the whispers became shouts and the rumors too numerous to ignore, Selig decided it was time to take action if not to stop the practice, to at least make sure the blame didn’t land at his feet. Surly Bonds was made to be the villain.
Problem is, Bonds has never tested positive for steroid use and, in spite of the wealth of circumstantial evidence, there’s no smoking gun or dripping needle. For more than three years now, Bonds has played his game with a dark cloud, and I enjoy the fact that, in 2007, his performance on the field has shouted a loud “up yours” to Bud Selig and the rest of his critics.
Last year baseball instituted a new policy to prevent (or at least discourage) the use of performance enhancing substances among players. At that time, Bud Selig and the league should have said, “Okay, we acknowledge there was a problem in Major League Baseball, and the League bears a great deal of the blame in not waking up to the issue sooner, but as of today we’re putting the players on notice: steroids and other performance enhancing substances will not be tolerated.”
Instead of instituting the change and looking forward, Selig remains fixated on the past and has become like Bedivere in the witch trial scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. How do we know Barry’s a witch? He looks like one; burn him anyway!
Assuming he remains healthy, Barry Bonds is going to hit home run number 756, probably in June. Bud Selig needs to be there when it happens. If he’s not in the park when Bonds eclipses Aaron, he should resign.
Come to think of it, Selig should resign anyway.