Thursday, March 09, 2006

More Random Sports Musings

Ok, so for the past two days on both of my drive time sports shows M&M and the Sports Reporters, all the talk has been about Barry Bonds and his problems on the steriod front, sparked by this article in Sports Illustrated. I have been told repeatedly that it is news. I have been told repeatedly that this is one of the biggest things in baseball, sports, other stuff. I have been told repeatedly that Bonds catching up to and passing Babe Ruth's and Hank Aaron's home run marks is going to cause much consternation this year. I have been told repeatedly that people will "Just Not Be Happy" if he does pass Aaron this year. I have been told repeatedly about the motivations of Major League Baseball in not wanting to investigate Bonds or talk about these problems. I have been told that all people who defend Bonds are "Just Crazy". I have been told repeatedly that this all matters.

Sorry folks, I'm just not buying it.

Let me start by saying that if there is someone who dislikes Barry Bonds, it is me. He left the Pirates in '91 when we still had a chance to be good. He took the money and ran to SF. That's his right, but it's also my right to dislike him for it. People called the baseball fans of Pittsburgh racist for booing Bonds when he came back for the All Star Game in Pittsburgh in '94. Bull. (Ok, there are plenty of racist people in Pittsburgh.) However, people were defending their city from a guy who had left and said bad things about it. Oh, and by the way, he sucked in the playoffs. I supported the booing fully. I have never sinced rooted for the Giants in any way, shape, or form. I didn't root for him in his pursuit of the single season home run record.

But, when it comes to him using or not using steroids I could care less, and frankly in my book, it's still not proven whether he did or not. (FYI- I still say the Juice is innocent.) Yeah, there is enough circumstantial evidence that says he probably did. But, there is no medical test that says he did, and whatever he did a few years ago was perfectly legal under baseball anyway. So, get over it.

Really, it doesn't matter much to me whether he did or not, anyway. Barry Bonds is the best baseball player, ever. No question. I consider myself lucky to have seen him play way back when. He was probably the greatest then (except in the damn playoffs) before he had even considered getting near steroids. I used to have my opinion of him covered by my dislike of him. I thought he couldn't be that good, because I hate him so. But I was wrong. I admit it. He is that good.

What does steroids get you in baseball? In my book, not a whole lot. Yeah, you might get strong enough to turn a few long fly outs into HR's, but there's still a whole lot of baseball to be played. In his record breaking season, Bonds came to the plate 476 times and got 156 hits. 73 of them were HR's. (He walked 177 times and was hit 9 times). These numbers, other than the home runs (and associated RBI's) actually aren't all that out of place with the rest of his carreer. Yeah, he hit for power, but that was only 1 out of every 9 times he came to the plate (a little less than once every other game).

The rest of the time he was crippling his team by being on base and not being able to run like he used to -- In 2002 he scored 129 runs, but 73 of them were the result of his own homers. So, when he didn't home run, he rarely scored. In 1993 he also scored 129 runs, but he had only hit 46 home runs, meaning he was turning his teammates hits into runs, which is far more important if you're interested in winning games.

On defense, his fielding percentage that year was .977, and right in line with the rest of his career.

To me, the whole steroid thing is just a wash. It didn't help his other stats, and it didn't help his team win a championship (The Giants lost in the WS in 2002, but Bond's HR numbers were much lower).

I say give it a rest. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't, but we'll never know for certain. The whole topic only comes up because of some over glorification of sports and sports records. Who really cares in the long term how many HR's Bonds had or not. I think also, this is an example of "news people" covering the easy story. Bonds' problems are something that can be talked about by a bunch of people with no knowledge of the situation. Everyone has an opinion on the issue, and every opinion is equally valid. You can argue till you're blue in the face. It's great for TV and talk radio ratings, because some people will get upset over the whole deal, and everyone loves gossip. However, while we spend time on this, we miss other seemingly more important, deeper stories like the new labour agreement in football, or the Stadium deal in DC. These stories have layers that expose who we are and what we really think about ourselves within our society. Is $615 million really a reasonable amount of money to be spent on a stadium? What happens when the people of a city aren't so in favor of a stadium deal, but the suburbanites really want it? Are our sports allegiances more important than our personal beliefs on labour practices? What are our beliefs on labour practices? Is the NFL deserving of a monopoly? How much money is enough money to spend on sports? Why does MLB have rules on the direction of a stadium, such that the one in DC won't be able to look out on the Capital? (Ok, that one isn't that important.)

Hopefully, you get my point. Bonds = easy story. Other less talked about things = maybe more important, and certainly more interesting, but harder to explain to the talk radio audience.

I guess in the end, you have to wonder if we are consumers or citizens, and who is going to decide that for us?

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