Thursday, March 9

Barry Bonds: Magnet

What if it came out that Tony Gwynn did steroids? That would blow a lot of people's minds. Here's this media darling, one of the most liked players to be around, by all accouncts great to around - and a juiceer. Mild shock and disapproval would probably be an understatement. It'd be like someone ran over your dog.

So then, if it comes out that Barry Bonbds is juicing, why is the general response, "I hope that prick burns"? Is it because for a long period of time (i.e., most of his career), he's been perceived as a jackass? Granted, it's not like he's helped his case witht he constant denials in the face of mounting evidence that's said yes, he has been juicing (and for a while now). When your HR/AB ratio doubles (or is halved, whatever - from16.1 to 8.5), that's going to raise some questions. He's pretty much screwed either way.

Seriously, if you're him, what would you do? Opening your mouth and saying that yes, these allegations are right kills any legacy you might have. Your critics get to jump on a soapbox and say that they knew all along. Shame abounds. Of course, you could deny the rumors and allegations again. Then your critics get to say you're denying and hiding the truth, and a few more of your supporters might start to wonder a little bit, too. Your critics not only call you a cheating jackass, but a lying, cheating jackass. That's a winning situation, too.

There's a third option, though. You can just outright refuse to comment and not allow your critics any more ammo. It sounds like the safest of the plans at first. Buy then your critics will say you're hiding from the issue because you know the truth - you juiced. Not only that, you liked those nasty things. Meanwhile, your supporters start to wonder if the critics are right - you are hiding something. Basically, it doesn't matter what you do; it's open season.

Here's the major issue with Bonds. He's such a polarizing figure that it's hard not to care one way or another. In other words, there pretty much are only two camps to pick from - and the critic camp is growing larger and more vocal. If he was some random decent to good player, nobody would care this strongly. However, it's precisely because he's so good that everyone cares so much. As his legend grows larger, so does the desire of those that want to see him either succeed or fail. It's how the game works. You don't play as long as he has without being aware of that on a daily basis.

So then the question becomes what happens if he's found guilty of this. If we're just going by the court of public opinion, then he's been found guilty (although some would argue the jury's still hung). The punishment for his crimes? The lightest is a commuted sentence (he did it along with everyone else). The harshest is an expunging from the record books entirely. Somewhere in the middle falls the dreaded asterisk crowd. It's tough not to fall into one of those 3 camps.

Here's the thing, though - regardless of where anyone stands on the issue, they'll follow him. They'll follow for one of two reasons - they want to see him fail, thus validating their beliefs, or they want success, as an elegant "screw you" to his critics. After all, it's hard not to get caught up in this Bondsian wake. It does cover everything related to baseball - drugs, hero worship, performance on and off the field, character, you name it. Not only is everyone attracted to the idea of Bonds, they're also on one side of the fence. Bonds is baseball's magnet.