Baseball's Stock Down with Steroids, but Bonds Inching Up
04.28.2006 07:48 | DISPATCHES
As if a steady diet of harassment and condemnation weren't enough, now Barry Bonds faces indictment for perjury and possible suspension from baseball. He's been singled out as the nation's whipping boy for steroids because, thanks to his second-generation baseball talent and skills, he was cursed with the ability to best capitalize on it.
One also can't help wondering if, like Hank Aaron, he's the victim of resentment over a black surpassing Babe Ruth. But, in Ruth's day, excluding African-Americans from playing constituted and thus lowering the degree of difficulty for white ballplayers constituted a performance-enhancing device in its own right. In fact, if McGwire and Bonds's records are to be asterisked for steroid use, every pre-Jackie Robinson record deserves not a double asterisk, but a dagger -- for perfidy to the black man.
Meanwhile seeds of sympathy may be sprouting for bonds. In his April 17 "Monday Morning Quarterback" column on SI.com, Peter King writes:
"The woman behind us at the Giants-Dodgers game on Saturday night expressed shock at the booing Barry Bonds received throughout the night. "I wish these people would leave him alone," she said at one point. "What's done is between him and his maker. . . . I feel so sorry for him!''
Also, in his New York magazine article, "Let Juice Loose," John Heilemann recalls how:
". . . in San Francisco, watching Bonds hit many of his 73 home runs in 2001, I was surrounded by savvy [fans who knew that] he was juiced to the gills. Did it diminish their enjoyment of his feats? Not that I could tell."
Maybe that's because formerly the average baseball player had a body not much different from the average fan. The fan who once puzzled how a guy who looked like him could hit curve balls and field sharply hit balls can now console himself with the thought that if he, too, used performance-enhancing drugs, he could play at that level.
Besides, with cellular reengineering on the horizon and a misguided mastermind like Victor Conte devoting his life to keeping two steps ahead of the drug tests, performance-enhancement techniques can't be stopped. Speaking of which, Bonds has never tested positive, has he?
If Major League Baseball were smart, it would stop trying to play to the fan's misty-eyed nostalgia for a time when white guys without muscle definition ruled and start funding research into safer performance-enhancing drugs.