Wednesday, December 08, 2004

George Will: A Stain On the Game

I assume that George Will has commented before on the steroid scandal in Major League Baseball, but my self imposed news blackout most likely kept me from hearing what he said. This morning however, he has a column on the issue in the Washington Post. He states:

To understand the damage that the steroids scandal is doing to baseball, consider this: Probably sometime late in the 2005 season or early in the next one, Barry Bonds, who already has 703 career home runs, will begin a game with 754, one short of Henry Aaron's record. Would you cross the street to see Bonds hit number 755?

Bonds, 40, is intelligent and severely aware of his body. When, a year ago, Bonds's lawyer said his client might have "unknowingly" used steroids, Bonds and the gaudy numbers his dramatically transformed body has generated since he turned 35 became, strictly speaking, incredible.


Baseball is something I know a thing or two about. I was fortunate enough to play the game for a great deal of my life, to a very high level. I am a fan of the game, but I am as much a fan of the history of the game as I am a fan of current teams or players. With baseball it is possible to make almost direct comparisons between players from the past and current players with the lifeblood of the sport, statistics. The rich fabric of stats that make up the sport have been part of the game from the beginning. It is true that now, in tha age of tv channels dedicated only to sports, every concieveable stat for every sport has been created and is used to fill the countless broadcast hors. However, baseball statistics have been the constant that has held the game together through the centuries. Today's players have destroyed that continuity, and Barry Bonds in particular is guilty of a crime far greater than using illegal steroids, he has caused great damage to the game, but more importantly to it's statistical history. It is for that reason that he and any other player who admits or is found guilty of using steroids should recieve a lifetime ban from the game, and all records of that player, from the time it is determined that he began using steroids, should be purged from the record books.

Harsh? No, necessary for the game to retain it's integrity. In Bond's case, George Will indicates in his column that his physical change began occuring five years ago. If this is true all records from that point until now should be removed from the sports archive's and Barry Bonds should never play again. Why is it fair to compare the record of Barry Bonds, who achieved some of his greatest accomplishments in the sport in the past five years with the help of illegal steroids, with the record of Hank Aaron, who's achievements were the result of talent and discipline alone? How does the statistical lineage remain valid when a group of players achieve great feats by cheating? Barry Bonds and the rest have cheated. They have cheated their fellow players, they have cheated the fans and they have cheated the history of the game itself.

Baseball has handed out harsh punishments before, when the integrity of the game was more important than a TV contract with a network. Is it likely that MLB will do what ios necessary to protect the game? No. Unfortuneatly Barry Bonds will likely take the field next year and the years after after paying a fine, and his records will stand as though they are as legitimate as the Babe's or Aaron's or any other player who came by his records honestly. Baseball is stained, the record books are stained and the leadership and the union are more interested in thier pocketbooks than the game.


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