Unfortunately, I must report that Barry Bonds has hit his 756th home run, moving past Hank Aaron for first place on the all-time home run list. He now is in sole possession of the record.
If you don’t know why I would view this even with such distaste, or why I put that asterisk in the title – let it be known that Barry Bonds is a known cheater. He’s admitted to taking steroids (though he said he didn’t know about them – as if I believe that). Yet he goes on unpunished, allowed to break baseball’s most hallowed record. And now the all-time triple crown – batting average, hits, and home runs – is held by a racist (Ty Cobb), a gambler (Pete Rose), and a cheat. That doesn’t reflect well on the sport.
But in San Francisco, everybody loves Barry Bonds.
I don’t understand this, really. He’s on their team, and so they can ignore the fact that he’s a foul cancer in the sport? I suppose allegiance to team takes precedence over all else.
And this isn’t specific to the Giants. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, for example, is thought to have used steroids (though it’s nowhere near as certain as the fact that Bonds did), but we in Texas still love him. (I still cheer for him when he comes to the ballpark as an opposing player… after all, it was Tom Hicks who drove him away, not him who voluntarily left.) Why does this seem acceptable to us, and essentially everybody around baseball (Pudge isn’t universally reviled, far from it), while Barry Bonds is seen as the devil incarnate?
I think part of the reason has to do with him being such an unlikeable person. He intentionally gets people to hate him. With a personality like that, it’s no surprise he has few supporters outside of San Francisco – where they support him not because they like him, particularly, but because he’s theirs – they’re the ones benefiting from his cheating.
Anyway, it seems like the moral judgements we pass on people depend a lot, probably way too much, on how much we respect the person and on whether we have any personal interest in the person doing well. Pudge is loved because he’s a likable guy, and even more so in the cities where he’s played and brought success, even though he probably used steroids. While Barry Bonds is universally detested, except in his city of San Francisco, because he’s such a dislikable guy and no one wants him to do well except Giants fans – his using steroids is the purported cause for the hatred, but it probably goes beyond that..
Does this mean I should actually forgive Bonds and not grudge him his 756 home runs? I don’t think so. And does it mean that next time Pudge comes through Texas I should boo him instead of cheer him? Not really. Even if it did, those things wouldn’t happen. But I think it does mean I should have a bit more sympathy for Bonds than I do – I hate Bonds as a person, but I need to separate that from hatred of his breaking the record using steroids. And I love Pudge as a player and as a person, but I need to acknowledge the fact that he probably did cheat, and not love that part of him.
ALL-TIME HOME RUNS
Barry Bonds – 756*
Hank Aaron – 755
Babe Ruth – 714
Willie Mays – 660
Sammy Sosa – 604*
*: These players are known to have used steroids to gain an unfair advantage in achieving their records.