Tuesday, May 16, 2006

So far no one has asked what I think about Barry Bonds.

When I am ignored, do you know who pays the price? You do. In lieu of some witty anecdote about my exciting weekend, all you're getting is a boring ass post about Barry Bonds. It's a shame, a shame for us all.


For those of you who live under a gigantic rock, Barry Bonds was the best player in baseball BY A WIDE MARGIN from the years 2000 to 2004. He set a number of records, some of which had stood since the 1920s. For a while he made everone else on the baseball field look like little leaguers.

However, his accomplishments have come under a cloud in recent years as speculation has grown that Barry used steroids. Although steroids were not always explicitly disallowed by Major League Baseball, they were illegal and generally considered to be cheating. Barry is still playing, but he missed almost all of 2005 recovering from an injury and still doesn't look 100% this year.

Now, before I answer your questions, let me make a few disclaimers. First, I'm a fan of the San Francisco Giants, the team for which Barry has played for the last 12+ years. Second, I've never met Barry Bonds nor have I ever met anyone who really knows anything about Barry, or steroids. I have, however, read a bit on the topic and that seemingly makes me qualified to give a fair and balanced assessment.

I think there are several questions that can be asked about Barry Bonds

1) Has he been using steroids?

The conventional wisdom is that he has. Barry got much more muscular around 2000 and out of nowhere suddenly set the season record for home runs.

That's a pretty superficial way of looking at things though. Overall, homeruns were up in baseball during Barry's amazing seasons. Also, it's not unusual for players to get bigger in their later years. How many of us have lost weight since our 20s?

So, do I think he was on steroids? Oh, god, yes. The man must have been juiced to the gills.

Baseball player performance has been studied extensively and statisticians are damn good at predicting player performance based on age and past performance. Hitters typically peak in their late 20's and generally have a slow, sometimes faster, decline throughout their 30's.

Barry, like 99% of all other hitters in history followed this curve exactly. His stats hit a peak in 1993, at age 29, and then slowly began to fall a bit. Then, dramatically in 2000, at age 36, he improved significantly. In 2001, his stats flew off the charts, having the greatest offensive season in the history of baseball. He hit double the number of home runs he normally used to hit in a season. It was unreal.

He continued performing at an absurdly high level for the next several years, setting more offensive records even at age 40 in 2004.

Suddenly, when steroid testing in baseball got more serious, and more attention was being paid, Barry was unable to recover from injuries and only played a few games in 2005. So far in 2006, he looks mortal.

This pattern of performance, combined with the mountain of circumstantial evidence laid out in the book Game of Shadows (which I have not read!), makes a pretty damn compelling case. He must have been on steroids. I'd bet my ass on it.

2) Were steroids responsible for his amazing performance over the last several years?

Yeah. His numbers were just ridiculous. Some people think his best season was at age 40. That's unthinkable in baseball. I know I've generally improved with age, but I'd bet that even my anemic baseball skills have declined since my 20s.

Someone might hit more than 73 home runs one year. Albert Pujols has 19 so far this year in 38 games. So, he's on pace for 81. Now, something will happen and he'll slow down. It almost always happens that way, but if he does break the record, it won't be at age 40. Pujols (pronounced, amusingly, as poo-holes) is 26.

3) Is he done?

He's been looking old and gimpy this year, but he's not done. Barry was a great player even before he started "allegedly" taking steroids. He's a big strong guy with a good eye and quick hands. He's smart and knows the game well. He should continue to be a productive player for another year or two if his knees don't implode.

He'll never hit more than 40 home runs in a season again, but he can still hit.

4) Should his records count?

Yes! Baseball records are what they sound like. They are a record of what happened in baseball. He was never caught breaking the rules. His hits stand.

No one took away Babe Ruth's records even though he never had to play against African Americans?

No one took away records from players who were hopped up on amphetamines in the 1970s?

No is taking away any hitting records even though stadiums are smaller and the pitching talent is diluted by expansion teams.

Barry hit those home runs by whatever means he did and they count in the record books. There are no asterisks. No one has to vote the guy into the Hall of Fame, but his records stand.

5) Is Barry a big jerk?

He seems like one, but we all have our days.

I'll keep my weekend stories to myself.


carey said...

Wait, is this a sly way to get people to ask you to share your weekend stories? Did I just fall for your evil plan?

As for Mother's day: no gift necessary, just get the hell out of the house and take the kid(s) with you. ;)

Janelle Renee said...

So, what do you think about George Michael? Hm?

The Tart said...

"Faith" by GM is great! Beep. *wink*

The Tart
; )

Mike said...

Carey, thanks for asking, but the most exciting part of my weekend was going to a party at a church. And I HATE going to church.

jr, I think George Michael is a big drunk, but if I were gay, I'd do him big time.

Jocelyn, "Freedom" is also a good sing-along song.

Will said...

We considered going to a local Barry Bonds Grand Slam sports park, but it was overpriced. I wonder if they lose business over hits to his reputation.

Mike said...

"hits to his reputation"! Good one, Will

Neel Mehta said...

I believe the record books, while not quite scripture, can still do without asterisks. Numbers are numbers. Context comes later.

This current chase of Ruth's old HR record is pointless. Aaron holds the record now, so I'm glad the MLB isn't giving it much attention. I mean, no one cared when Bonds passed Maris or Sosa in his 73 HR season. Beating McGwire was what mattered.

All that said, it's ridiculous that Albert Pujols had to wait until last season to be named MVP of the National League.

Mike said...

Neel, I was right there with you until that final sentence.

I believe either by a pure statistical approach, or by a subjective interpretation of the word "value", Bonds was more Valuable than anyone else from 2001 (and arguably 2000) through 2004.

Neel Mehta said...

I guess I just don't believe any player in any sport can sustain greatness to merit four consecutive MVP awards, unless the player tops himself or herself every year.

I understand that Bonds had a statistically impressive block of years then, but in a time where Ichiro Suzuki can be named MVP as a rookie, I find it impossible to believe that Barry Bonds was more worthy than Albert Pujols in ALL of the latter's first three seasons. Those MVP voters were just being lazy.

Mike said...

The numbers don't lie. Bonds produced at a ridiculously high level for years. He absolutely achieved a sustained level of greatness. One can certainly argue that he cheated to do it, but if you just look at the numbers, he was worthy of his MVP awards.

Trust me, the press HATES Bonds. They would not have voted for him if there was any plausible way to ignore his value.