Tuesday, March 22, 2011

In Praise of Barry Bonds

Noman writes on this subject as a fan, not as a moralist.  Respecting the latter, the chances of Barry's not knowing he was using steroids is likely nil.  By all accounts, he can be a wretched human being.  (By some, he can be a prince among men, when he wants to be.)  On the other hand, the prosecution is creepy, obsessed, jails uncooperative witnesses in a matter as trivial in the grand scheme of things as professional sports, and uses Bonds' scorned mistress to make him look bad.  It abuses the law by trampling it underfoot in attempts to prosecute Bonds no less than he did by prevaricating to a grant jury about a substance not banned at the time by baseball.  By the way, as all of the players who testified in confidence discovered to their chagrin, their "confidential" testimonies were less secure than a PC without virus protection.  That was the real scandal, not that Barry Bonds foolishly dodged questions to protect his targeted legacy.  Moreover, Barry Bonds is a baseball player, not the President of the United States.  The public didn't count on his character and veracity other than to know that he wasn't throwing games, and always gave it his best effort.  No one can question that Barry Bonds did everything he could to be the greatest player he could be--just what every fan wants.  And, boy, was he great!

As the point of this travesty of justice is to discredit Bonds' playing career and records, Noman wishes to say that Barry Bonds was the greatest player he ever saw.  (And, Noman grew up idolizing Willie Mays, a demigod of the sport when baseball was king.)  It wasn't just the home run records, or even predominantly them.  From the beginning of his career, Bonds' sense of timing and flair for the dramatic was uncanny--the playoffs excepted, until 2002.  From the time he came to the San Francisco Giants in 1993, he never ceased to amaze with his batting eye, his base running, his gold-glove defense and, of course, his big bat.  Noman has never seen an athlete rise to the occasion more predictably than he, with the exception of Joe Montana.  By 1998, when Barry allegedly began taking steroids to recover from an injury, he was already a hall of fame player.  In an era when many of (if not all) the big stars were on steroids, including the pitchers he faced, he stood head and shoulders above the rest.  The respect opposing managers showed him was nonpareil.  He was walked hundreds of times per year, saw three pitches to hit per game and still managed to crush them.  He was walked in the playoffs with men on first and second--an unprecedented concession to a batter's preeminence.  After breaking the single-season home run record in 2001, he changed his game to hit for average, winning batting titles in 2002 and 2004.  Noman won't rehearse Bonds' incredible list of accomplishments and honors.  He just wishes to reiterate that Barry Bonds was the greatest ballplayer he ever saw, and was perhaps the greatest to ever play the game.  It was a thrill to root for him.  And, it is appalling to watch Inspector Javert run him down.

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