Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sympathy for Two Devils
I did something unpleasant last night: put on an Atlanta Braves game on TBS. Aside from the Dallas Cowboys ("or, NAMBLA"), there's no franchise in pro sports I hate like the Braves. From the all-American adulterer Larry Jones, Jr. to John "I hates the gays and loves the Baby Jesus" Smoltz and Bobby "wife-beating drunk" Cox, and especially the tortured-Muppet announcer Skip Carey--who mercifully wasn't on the broadcast last night--I just detest the Braves. And while I didn't stay up late enough to get this particular dash of salt in the wound, they doubly screwed me last night as two fantasy pitchers of mine, Tim Hudson and Bob Wickman, squandered a 4-0 lead, and a win and a save, in the 9th inning last night. Had the Braves ultimately lost the game, the benefit to the Phillies would have rendered this acceptable--but they won in 13. No soup for me.

But this isn't really about the Braves per se. As they were playing in San Francisco (one more side note: evidently my political leanings are strong enough that whenever a sports team representing a clearly liberal city plays one representing a right-wingish area, unless there are very strong offsetting circumstances, I'll want the Blue team to win; this is pretty much the strongest rooting interest I have in for the NHL and NBA at this point...) whoever was announcing the game started talking about Barry Bonds' pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record and the decision of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to try to be in attendance when Bonds hits #756. Per the Braves announcers, when Selig was asked whether he thought Bonds would be legitimate as the record-holder despite all the performance-enhancement allegations that have dogged him for some years now, Selig answered to the effect that everyone is entitled to their opinion. Good enough, but then he added, "For me, it's difficult to put aside my personal feelings."

Selig reveres Hank Aaron, so I guess that's understandable, but it seems to me that after 15 (mostly painful) years in the job, he should know when to keep his frickin' mouth shut. Even considering that Bonds is a jerk, and that he almost certainly did take PEDs, to put that on him now is, I think, really piling on. Given the current level of scrutiny, if he took drugs last season, or is doing so this year, he shouldn't be playing baseball; he should be running the CIA. Yet at age 42/43 this year, he's got 19 home runs and an OPS well over 1.000; last year he hit 26 bombs in 367 at-bats with an OPS of .999. That's probably the best offensive performance at that age in baseball history, and it's almost certain that he did it clean.

So much for Bonds. For Selig's part, I can see not wanting to absolutely commit to being in attendance. It's not like when Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played record: you could look at the schedule and see the date when it would happen. With Bonds, who knows? He generally sits out two days a week, but is likely to pinch-hit in those games. He's been in a terrible slump lately; maybe he comes out of it and ties the record in a flurry with a two-homer outburst, like he had last week in Chicago. Selig, ineffectual jerk that he is, is also going to turn 73 years old next week, and he has a day job. Having him go Deadhead following Bonds around for two weeks or three weeks or a month is neither feasible nor, in a sense, fair to Selig.

Now I gotta go bathe.


the Navigator said...

I'm less certain Bonds is clean - I generally assume that testing runs behind the ability of cheaters to mask their drugs, and of course there's no test for, e.g., HGH - but I agree with Joe Sheehan and you that when you've set up a rigorous testing program, and a top player has tested clean, you have to stand by your testing system, and your player, and your sport. And anyway, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle took greenies, and McGwire openly took andro because they hadn't banned it yet. Leaked grand jury testimony about what Bonds inadvertently took a number of years ago can't put him out of the company of the other greats.

David said...

I was making the greenies point the other day to some work colleagues (about Aaron, I mean--not suggesting a means toward improved office productivity). Though I guess one distinction could be that evidently speed was almost universal in those days.

Bonds' biggest problem is that he's been an asshole to the media for years upon years. Treating the press well goes a long way toward covering over misdeeds--ask Chipper Jones, or McGwire, or the late Kirby Puckett, or even lower-profile guys like Bret Saberhagen.