Wednesday, August 08, 2007

And the crap begins: Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury

And the crap begins, here's Ann Killion's take. She calls the Giants and the record tainted. What's tainted is her writing.

Rose-Colored Glasses

As she shows in this piece, she still clings to her image of her beloved Willie Mays as a beacon of pureness compared to the evil stain that is Barry Bonds. So either she is in denial or she is not that big a baseball fan because it has been pretty much exposed that Willie Mays not only was a user of a liquid red amphetamine, but he was giving it to other players for a "pick-me-up", essentially a non-profit pusher, a sharer of illegal drugs. How many of his homeruns are "tainted" by the use of amphetamines?

Not that I have anything against Willie, he's one of my favorite Giants players and will always have a place in my heart, but it just shows how unrepentant these Barry haters are, juxtaposing the two baseball greats and treating the situation as black and white when it is all grey.

He's Not a Travelling Man, Is that OK With You?

As I suspected, she again ignores the fact that Hank Aaron is a 70+ year old man who doesn't want to go travelling around the country on the Barry Bonds HR tour - as I noted, he would have begun this trip at least 3 weeks ago and disrupted his whole life and routine - and who can fault that? Well, reporters do, even after Hank taped one of the most sincere, heartfelt, touching, history-spanning speeches ever, she and others disrupt that by mentioning that he wasn't there.

Hello?!? Would you make someone who you are good acquaintances with but not good friends with travel around the country while you try to catch up and beat that acquaintance? Just to feed your ego? People have lives, as momentous as the moment was, not everyone feels the need to be there.

Aaron, as was noted, is a private man, I would even say a humble man, so why can't reporters just respect his wish to be in the background, to not acknowledge his greatness? Perhaps he feels that this is Bonds's moment and does not want to intrude on it. And yet reporters insist on reading into his actions or non-actions and inserting their bias and feelings into their reporting.

Aaron's Choice

The fact is despite all the crap reporters has written about how Aaron is unhappy about it, Aaron had the opportunity to respectfully decline to a videotape. Then he had the opportunity to add whatever qualifiers he wished to his videotaped message, I doubt that the Giants thought that they could control everything he says, and you can also be congratulatory but clearly withhold support, much like Selig has. Or he could have waited until now, once Bonds reached his milestone, and give Barry both barrels publicly for all to see. Instead he chose to show his support of Barry in a very public way.

No, the fact is Aaron gave his support fully and without reservation in his video speech, he was very genuine in his congratulatory statement. Please listen to it, I wholeheartedly recommend it. If you are from that era, you will feel goosebumps, it was quite moving. If Aaron, who would have the most reasons to resent the moment, could be so positive about the situation, why can't writers be the same.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Yet Killion persists, noting "Yes, important witnesses were missing." Well, I watched Hank Aaron hit #715 on TV and I don't recall seeing Babe Ruth's daughther there nor the representative of the Babe Ruth museum, whose most recent successor took to the airwaves with a denunciation of Bonds when Bonds was misquoted/misinterpreted as dissing Babe Ruth. They, by Killion's logic, were important witnesses and they were missing and therefore they were unhappy and resentful of Aaron passing up the Babe.

But everybody is different. If my friends are getting married, or getting some big award, I would be there in a heartbeat, but if some acquaintance who I know who works in my field and who might be beating me out for something, I don't know that I would care to be there. That's his or her moment, I am part of the past. Others might feel the need to be there and support your colleague in their moment of triumph.

But if I were someone's godfather or father figure, I would do my best to be there, though if I'm in my 70's there is going to be some physical limitations, particularly in regards to travel today, with all the security measures making trips longer and harder to handle. So why make such a big deal over Willie Mays showing up and Hank Aaron not? Barry hasn't talked with Aaron in a couple of years now; they are just acquaintences.

If Ann Killion won some writing award, would she expect all the past winners to come by and show her some love? If she got recognized by the White House for exemplary work as a sports news columnist, would she expect the past winners to show up too, just to show how important you are? No, but you would hope that your friends and family can be there to share in the moment with you.


What I find insulting is that these reporters seem to know exactly what Aaron is feeling and doing and they've probably never even met the man in his life or had more than a passing conversation or interview. Yet they deem themselves capable of interpreting his actions to mean one thing or another. Aaron's actions spoke loud and clear but the reporters are not hearing it, they are stuck with their blinders on, because they are right and you are wrong.

Except, whoops, they are just as culpable about the situation, they had a chance to hoist Canseco and McGwire up by their necks in the 90's, particularly McGwire when he was caught with the Andro and then with his tepid response to that until he realized that he was in deep doo-doo. Where where the Gary Hart exposers when that happened?

It couldn't have been that hard to catch them then, they were really into using it back then, a little diligence would probably have given you the story of a generation, of a lifetime. Perhaps they should be like the priest Dinsmore in "The Scarlet Letter" except that they should scourge themselves in public for allowing that to happen. They left the barn door was left wide open and now they are mad at the horses and cows that left the barn, when they should be mad at themselves.

Reporters Only Deluding Themselves

She feels sorry for people who are longtime Giants fans. The facts of the case is that we don't know how involved or complicit Barry Bonds was and probably never will. In this world of Unabombers, Osama Bin Laden, 9/11, BTK killer, is it really that outrageous to suppose that Greg Anderson did all this on his own without Bonds knowledge?

Perhaps he refuses to testify and "rot" in jail as she puts it because he feels guilty for dragging his childhood friend into this mess and testifying would do nothing for Bonds's reputation? Maybe he feels he is doing it as penance for doing this to Bonds. In any case, if he says Bonds is clean, no one will believe him so why speak up, and if he says that Bonds was unknowingly using, then he would have buried his friend when Bonds didn't do anything to bring this on himself other than to help out an old friend.

We still don't know if he was just boasting to boost his business or because it was true. Both he and Conte has publicly stated that Bonds is clean but then threw all these other athletes under the bus. Why would Conte lie for Bonds? He would get more fame and notoriety for bringing down the career homerun king than he would for gold medal winners where cheating is pretty much dime a dozen and not some outrageous thing to consider. Baseball is still swirling in scandal and that would be good for getting him more publicity, more notice. That's why he gave that exclusive interview to 20/20 (I remember that as the TV show), because he loves the limelite and likes being viewed as the big-shot ring-leader.

And Greg Anderson is a nobody without his connection to Bonds. Of course he has to take some credit for Bonds's improvement, how else is he going to get his drug buyers to buy from him. "Oh, he's a natural freak; but buy my stuff, I'm connected to him!" We don't know if that was bravado and a lie or the truth. It would not be the first time a salesperson lied about his product if he did all this on his own. And of course there's folder with "BLB" on it, he has to show his marks, er, buyers, that he's authentic, that Bonds is really using.

Real or Not Real

And it could be that it is true that Bonds was really taking. But that's my whole point, there are a lot of ways to look at the situation and we don't really know what's real and what's not. Jayson Blair claimed to be writing the truth. Another had Howard Hughes diary, another had Hitler's. Lots of other writers have twisted the truth, the facts, to fit what they wanted to say.

For while most of us are pretty sure Bonds was using, with intent being the dividing line, the main thing is that we don't know for certain yet. Given that the prosecutors want to nail Bonds, and that Pearlman gave very specific information about the alleged meeting that Bonds reportedly claimed to start using the hard-stuff, one would think that after 18 months since this revelation came out with Pearlman's excerpts, the government would have tracked down these people and gotten them to testify against Bonds for perjury.

How Hard to Figure Out?

It should not be too hard, you just subpoena Ken Griffey Jr and get the names of these people; though if it's true, he could claim memory problems, in which case you go through his taxes and see which athletic clothing companies paid him money over the years, and start asking there. How many major athletic clothing companies are there in the world, and how many of them had contact with Ken Griffey Jr. It should not take 18 months to dig that up if they are reduced to coerce a nobody like Jason Grimsley to casually walk up to Bonds, who he was only acquainted with, and start talking about steroids.

Same with the tax evasion that Bonds's ex-mistress has accused of. It has been over a couple of years now that she leveled that at him. Seems pretty cut and dried, she should know the approximate date and location this happened, you check in local newspapers for the announcement in the local library, you locate the business that did the card show, you check their tax records for paying Bonds for baseball card signing income against Bonds's reported income for that year. If the IRS got Pete Rose and Willie McCovey pretty quickly on this in he 1990's, then they should be able to get Bonds pretty easily too, IF HE DID IT.

After all this time, one would think the government would have had more than enough time to bring Bonds up on either or both charge. And yet no word yet on either one. How hard could it be?

Sigh: Resignation

I am resigned to the fact that there might never be any resolution of this. I'm open to either way, whether he cheated or didn't. Obviously, if he didn't use then that is great and I hope the reporters would eat their words and apologize publicly instead of burying their "oops, I did it again" inside the front page where no one will see their errors that they made. But how do you prove a negative? That's like trying to answer the question, "do you still beat your wife," there's no way to really answer that in a satisfactory way.

If all this was true, then I will not demonize Bonds if he really did decide that he couldn't stand being passed up by other players who are using. The press and the league put him in that position, if either were doing their jobs, then he might not have thought he need such an edge, and while he made the wrong choice, I would be able to sympathize with his helplessness over the situation.

Cheating is in Human's and Therefore MLB's DNA

And the story of lesser players using any means to get an edge has been going on longer than when the story of Faust being tempted by the devil was written. Humans will always be tempted to cheat in some way, whether speeding while driving, keeping extra change given you by the cashier, or selling their brother with the multi-color robe into slavery.

And cheating has been happening since the beginning of baseball, from John McGraw's brand of dirty play (he was known to block or trip baserunners while the umpire, only one then, followed the flight of the ball), to Ty Cobb's sharpened spikes (he would willingly maim and stab anyone who dared to tag him out), to the spitball, to throwing games, to the lively ball (there were people who loved the dead-ball era and viewed the live-ball era to be a cheat), to the hidden-ball trick and stealing signs, to amphetamines, to scuffing/altering the ball (Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton were known for that), to modern science allowing players to play more years than previously, to corked bats, and finally to steroids and other PEDs.

Where is the line? What's more unnatural than taking someone's ligament out of their leg and transplanting it into their arms and allowing them to pitch like they used to? It allows a player to do more than what their natural body could do without medical help. Of course, everyone can do that, but some recover and some are even better, but there are a good number of whom who are not the same again.

Of course, it's not illegal in society so there's that, but I find maiming people generally to be illegal and spitballs are definitely illegal in baseball. So why hasn't Gaylord Perrry (who I also loved as a ballplayer, I've regretted that trade for a long time) been drummed out of baseball by writers: he has admitted to cheating, not everybody utilized this cheat, he got a lot of fame out of his cheating, doing things pitchers don't normally do, plus it got him into the Hall of Fame. If the press is worried about legitimizing cheats, why hasn't there been a backlash against him, particularly after he wrote a book about all his cheating.

What I'm Doing

I am enjoying this moment because cheating or no cheating, he was going to be among the greats in terms of the number of homeruns he was going to have. Not to besmirch Aaron, but we don't know if he ever used amphetamines either. Ours is the steroid era but his is the amphetamine era. That's the times we live in today, we can't trust athletes, we can't trust celebrities, we can't trust journalists, we can't trust business leaders, we can't trust politicians, we can't trust our president. Father doesn't know best anymore, and the Beav is no longer doing harmless hi-jinks, he's out racing his new sports car his daddy gave him, running over and killing an elderly couple out for a stroll, before killing himself and his best buddy by wrapping the car around a tree.

But as a baseball fan, legal or illegal, tainted or not tainted, earned or unearned, it is still a moment that only comes around about once every lifetime in baseball, and I've been lucky enough to live to see it twice, and, god willing, I'll be around to see the next one, whether it's A-Rod or Albert or some 9 year old tugging at his daddy's arm and asking him to play baseball with him.

As some historians say, most times we are usually too much in the middle of our times to provide proper perspective on our era, our times, and besides which, there are still a lot of unknowns today that might be revealed in the future and change our view of our past. In addition, feelings that run strong now for some people might fade over time as they finally see things for what they really were.

Did William Shakespeare write all his great works or did he get credit for someone else's work? Either way, it is still a great body of work. However Bonds got to be as good as he is, his swing is still a thing of beauty, as are his homeruns, as steroids certainly didn't help Neifi Perez hit at all and he's been caught three times already whereas Bonds is only accused of using.

For me, I would feel worse accusing someone of something they didn't do, than I would believing that someone was innocent and proven wrong. I already feel some of that guilt because I had defended Bonds for years but it was impossible after Balco, so I retreated to the position of him using Human Growth Hormone (HGH) to be good still afterward. Now that it has been shown that HGH does nothing to help an athlete become better, then what's the answer for why Bonds continue to do well? Particularly since I assume he's followed closely by government agents and his associates would be investigated as well once suspicious activity occurs.

So I will enjoy Bonds's performances as history sorts itself out. Maybe he will be cleared, maybe he'll be proven to be a cheat; most probably we will never get any resolution, only suspicions and accusations. But it will always be a heck of a homer: "It's Outta Here! #756!"

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