Dear Mr. Bonds,
I suppose congratulations are in order. You've accomplished an amazing feat.
You've made baseball a household topic. You've become the object of endless national debate. And I suppose you broke the home run record, as well. Welcome to infamy, Mr. Bonds. Your world will never look the same way again.
I can't pretend I'm not a little disenchanted and disappointed.
Perhaps it's because I feel like the most important player on the field is the pitcher, followed closely by the catcher. Even an exceptional slugging left fielder is really only bound to succeed 1 out of every 3 at-bats, whereas the pitcher has to worry about succeeding through 27 outs, or (arbitrarily) roughly 100 pitches, whichever comes first. Home runs are bombastic and flashy, but they rarely win games. Good pitching wins games. Good hitting comes down to a boatload of luck.
Perhaps it's the steroids scandal. While the anecdotal evidence is staggering, nobody's been able to positively prove that you've done steroids (though nobody's been able to prove that you haven't either). And I suppose we do live in a society where you are innocent until proven guilty, though that clearly doesn't hold in the court of public opinion.
No, I think it's really you. The way you've handled yourself. You're a smart man. You're articulate. You didn't even go the "Accounting" route in college; you ironically have an undergraduate degree in criminology. And yet the degree really should have been in acting, because that's what you do. You act as though you have it so goddamn rough.
Your total salary for your entire career thus far, playing a game for a living, has totaled 172 million dollars. That doesn't count in any endorsement deals you may have or had. It doesn't count any book deals or however much ESPN paid you for Bonds on Bonds. And yet you still act persecuted. Poor, poor Barry Bonds. The world is against him. He has nothing in life. Oh, except anything he could ever possibly want... excluding a World Series ring.
Finally, you've had the balls to say that this ongoing persecution is due to racism. It's funny, you know. The only other person I really hear complain about racism in the major leagues is Gary Sheffield, and you know what you two have in common? No, I mean aside from the steroid scandal. It's that you each have the reputation of having violent tempers and being, in short, total jerks.
Racism? Might I remind you that Hank Aaron, the man whose record you broke, was black? That while he was chasing the home run record, in the Deep South, in 1974, just a few short years after the civil rights movement -- 6 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., he was receiving daily death threats? Interestingly, in the midst of all that, Hank Aaron displayed what you, sir, lack: dignity and sportsmanship.
Respect is something you must earn, and it's not about personal achievements. Breaking both the single-season and career home run records are fantastic accomplishments but they are not how you earn respect. It's about acting like a decent human being. It's about class, not counterattacks. It's about humility and modesty, not pride and preening.
Mr. Bonds, right now only you know whether or not there's any reason to place that asterisk after your name in the record books, but frankly, it doesn't matter. To anyone who has any sort of familiarity with the past 10 years of your career, it's there. And it doesn't mean "steroids," it means "asshat." Nobody will ever talk about your record without talking about why you may or may not deserve it, and it's nobody's fault but your own.
Myself, I'm glad it's over. I'm glad that the Red Sox games I watch won't be interrupted every 3 innings to say that you've walked, or struck out, or hit a single, or have done something other than hit a home run. It's tired. From now on, each home run you hit will be just another hit in a game that your team may or may not win. We can finally get you and your giant head out of the damn spotlight.
Thanks for allowing us to finally move on.
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
8.15.07 @ 1:01a
Nothing like a little perspective. Nicely done, Erik.
8.15.07 @ 8:45p
very nicely put. I don't pay any attention to sports, but even *I* knew his name and what a jerk he's been. I sincerely hope someone who is vaguely familiar with him sends him this link or a printed copy or SOMETHING. I can't imagine it would help, of course, but maybe it'll create a nagging buzz he'll never really get rid of.
8.16.07 @ 1:55a
Good pitching wins games.
AMEN to that, Erik!!!!! Baseball isn't about power or brute force. It's about pitching, catching, strategy, and the ability of the team as a whole to give a pitcher run support. A pitcher with a consistent win record, a low lifetime ERA and the ability to make crucial pitches at the most critical times is a lot more impressive than a fielder with a hot bat. I'm much more impressed by the Nolan Ryans, the Roger Clemenses, the Greg Madduxes and John Smoltzes of the baseball world than the Barry Bonds'.
But I'm still annoyed that Clemens went back to the Yankees.
8.16.07 @ 9:21a
Personally, I think the hardest thing he overcame to be a top athlete was being given the name "Barry."
8.16.07 @ 9:27a
Sports are loaded with assholes. I don't disagree that he's a huge prick, he always has been (wristbands bearing his own likeness?), but I might argue that in many cases it's that very assholeness that drives ultra-competitive people to succeed.
I am pretty confident that most of my favorite athletes would be intolerable in person because they are so competetive. Now that's not to say that Bonds is an asshole because he's so competitive, because his assholery stretched far beyond that, he's a straight jerk, but I think competition in many cases breeds assholitude.
8.16.07 @ 10:17a
I don't believe Mike used "assholeness" "assholery" and "assholitude" all in one post. Bravo!
I think Barry Bonds should retire now. For him, it can really only go downhill from here.
8.16.07 @ 4:47p