I would like to offer my congratulations to Barry Bonds on becoming baseball’s career home run leader. It is a great accomplishment which required skill, longevity and determination.
Throughout the past century, the home run has held a special place in baseball, and I have been privileged to hold this record for 33 of those years. I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historic achievement.
My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dreams.
That was Hank Aaron’s classy response to Bonds’ breaking of his record, and I hope everyone with an opinion on the matter (as I’m sure Hank has) can show such class in the coming days, weeks, months, and years.
I was asleep when Bonds broke the record with his blast off Mike Bacsik, and I don’t really regret it. I suppose I could have stayed up for every Giants game for a few weeks, but to me it just wasn’t worth it. I’m not a Bonds fan, but mostly because of his off-putting personality and not because of the steroid allegations. He hasn’t failed any tests or been convicted of a crime, so I’m not willing to crucify him for that.
Regardless of my lukewarm opinion of him and the internal desire I have to celebrate such a huge baseball milestone, I can’t work up that much enthusiasm over it. JC is celebrating, but I just can’t. This cloud of suspicion, or whatever you want to call it, may not be Barry’s fault, but it keeps me from really enjoying this moment and seeing it as a great athletic accomplishment.
Given the inflated home run totals in recent years, which may be the result of expansion, a juiced ball, steroids, or other factors (and yes, I would probably rank steroids third in that list, given what we know), I don’t see massive home run totals in the light that baseball fans a generation before me did. This is now the career home run leaderboard recently: 1) Bonds, 2) Aaron, 3) Ruth, 4) Mays, 5) Sosa, 6) Griffey, 7) Robinson, 8) McGwire, 9) Killebrew, 10) Palmeiro. It’s already starting to look very different from the list I had memorized just a few years ago, and it’s not just Barry Bonds.
There’s no doubt that the home run is still one of the most exciting plays in sports, but there’s also no doubt that its frequency has changed dramatically over time. Players at all positions are known for their home run power now, which is a change from the time Aaron played. Then again, Ruth hit more homers in several of his big seasons than did many entire teams. Times change, and perhaps the home run record has been diminished somewhat by the recent style of play in baseball. I love the game the way it is now, though, for the most part, and I’m not sure I’d change that.
Our perceptions of players will continually evolve as we learn more about the steroid era in baseball. We may learn that Barry Bonds has been using illegal drugs for years and that he knew it all along. I think it’s important that we not let that affect our enjoyment of the game as fans any more than it already has. While I might not get worked up about this particular player or record, I still love the game of baseball and MLB in particular, and I know I’m not alone. Attendance numbers (and player salaries) are through the roof, and I wouldn’t expect that to change anytime soon. The product that MLB offers right now is a good one.