So Barry Bonds hit number 714 last night. As an A's fan, I was watching live as "history was made". Not that I was exactly moved to stand up and applaud!
The steroids issue hangs over the milestone, and that's the sad thing about it. I guess I'm not the only British fan who was taken by surprise by the lack of a drug testing policy when they started following the game in the recent past. We all recognise the idea of "innocent until proven guilty", but that legal position doesn't really hold sway with popular opinion any more. The whole point of a comprehensive drug policy is not merely to catch the cheats, but to prove the innocence of everyone else. The lack of a drugs testing policy until recently means that no one can say with complete certainty that Bonds was or was not a steroid user. If he didn't cheat, he can never clear his name. If he did, he cannot be held to account for his actions.
And even worse than this, we now live in an age when some athletes use performance enhancing drugs which cannot be detected. What sort of person could come out of a drugs test with a grin on their face knowing they are cheating, but having a test result to "prove" they are clean? I guess that's the price of throwing fame, adulation and staggering amounts of money at our sports heroes.
As for Bonds, he clearly has a large amount of talent. No one can claim his success is purely down to steroids. But by the same token, there's no doubt that steroids can help those with talent become great rather than just very good. It's reasonable to ask the question to anyone who has excelled in such a fashion as Bonds has done. Yet he has more of a case to answer than anyone else. His strong links to the BALCO scandal are simple fact. His former personal trainer, Greg Anderson, was even jailed for steroid distribution (and money laundering). As such, the onus is on Bonds to show his achievements are solely down to his natural talent and hard work. And he doesn't look keen to do this, does he?!
No doubt the Mitchell Commission report will provide few answers when it is published in the future. MLB had to be seen to do something, but that's as far as they want to go. The sad truth is that many people simply don't want definitive answers. Fans who go to the ballgames hoping to catch a "historic" ball (and then make loads of money). Teams who want fans to pack out the stadiums (to bring in loads of money). Media corporations (who pay MLB loads of money) want exciting moments to grip viewers (making them loads of money). So long as baseball is popular, who cares? "Everyone's a winner"!
Hmmm, make up your own minds on that!
Anyway, Bonds has hit 714, and we can all have a rest from the hoopla that surrounds it (until he hits number 715 of course!) Brad Halsey has the dubious honour of entering the record books as the pitcher who gave it up. At least he can say that the next time he faced Bonds, he struck the bastard out!