Peanuts, Cracker Jack, 'Roids
As expected, Barry Bonds captured his Major League record seventh National League MVP trophy this season, his fourth in a row. Barry Bonds was unquestionably the most valuable player in the league, finishing with arguably his greatest season of his career. Barry Bonds was walked 232 times, more than 100 more than any other player in the league. He registered 120 intentional walks, almost double the number that any other team received. Despite having more than 200 fewer official at bats than the other MVP candidates such as runner-up Adrian Beltre and third-place finisher Albert Pujols, Bonds had almost identical offensive statistics. Finally, Bonds had an on-base percentage of .609, an absolutely incredible statistic and the best in history. It is easy for any casual baseball fan to see that Bonds was categorically better than any other player in the league by a wide margin.
Unfortunately the current state of sports in America forces me to ask the question -- how did he do it? I do not ask this question as an admiring and awestruck child would ask about his favorite sports hero. I ask the question with regards to the ever-present suspicion that surrounds Barry Bonds and his alleged steroid use. It seems that the steroid issue flares up whenever Barry Bonds is about to eclipse another milestone, such as his 700th home run or his fourth consecutive MVP award. No one even dared to mutter a word about steroids during the ALCS or the World Series, when our beloved Red Sox were busy defeating their own demons. However, the steroid issue has been brought back to the forefront as attention is once again directed towards Bonds and his remarkable accomplishments.
I for one think that it is quite depressing that Bonds' recent career has been so tarnished by the steroid issue. I could never imagine Wayne Gretzky getting booed at opposing stadiums as he chased Gordie Howe's career point record because of accusations about steroid use. I could never imagine Michael Jordan getting heckled when he scored 50 points because fans thought he was cheating. But this is the unfortunate environment that Barry Bonds must face every time he steps to the plate with a record on the line. We may never know for sure if Barry Bonds abused steroids and essentially cheated his way to the position as greatest ball player to ever live. In my opinion, even if there were conclusive positive test results, the MLB would never release the information to the public because of the damage it would do to the league's reputation. I am also positive that Bonds himself would never admit to using performance enhancing drugs after years and years of denial. Thus we are forced to resort to rampant speculation, and this is the worst scenario of all.
It is an absolute shame that the steroid scandal has been able to grow to be such a parasite for baseball. The death of former MVP winner Ken Caminiti as a result in part because of steroid abuse serves as a perfect indication of the dire consequences that drug use in the baseball will have in the future. The fact that Jose Canseco, a powerful hitter for over a decade, claims that steroid use is out of control among the ranks of MLB players is further evidence of this major problem. I would argue that steroid use is only a small step above what any athlete does through rigorous and specially researched dieting and training. However, rules are rules and if Bonds did indeed use illegal drugs, he should be forced to forfeit all of his career records. I guess the only way that we will ever know for sure whether certain players used steroids will be to wait for years and years until the gruesome and potentially fatal side effects develop. Then, regardless of what action the league takes concerning their statistics, these foolish players will pay a physical toll for their cheating ways.
No column would be complete without a political reference, so here it is: It is President Bush's responsibility to introduce legislation that will make harmful steroids illegal on a federal level, not simply at the league's discretion. This will create stiffer penalties beyond the league for athletes who use performance enhancing steroids. Only then will athletes realize the consequences of their actions and decide to play fair.