So we were standing in line in the Calgary airport a couple of years ago, right before spring training, and Joe turned to me and said, out of the blue and apropos of nothing, “Barry Bonds is terrible.”
“Bonds is terrible,” he repeated. “He shouldn’t play anymore. He’s really terrible.”
I decided to challenge his logic with clever, Socratic queries. “What do you mean, you crazy little dude?” I said. “Didn’t Bonds hit, like forty-five homers last year? Didn’t he break Aaron’s career record?”
“He hit twenty-eight! You think that’s good?”
I know better than to dispute his numbers. If Joe said that Barry Bonds hit twenty-eight for the Giants last year, then he hit twenty-eight. When he wasn’t snowboarding in Canada, he was poring over 2007 statistics in The Sporting News, and his grasp of numbers is astounding. He will often interrupt a meal by asking me if I know how many career doubles Stan Musial had, or what Ted Williams hit in 1946. I never do know, but he does.
“Bonds took steroids! He cheated!”
And there is that word again, steroids, that pops up nearly every time we talk baseball these days, but never popped up when I talked baseball with my dad, or he with his. Joe has obviously been worrying about this; he’d like to know why Bonds was allowed to break Aaron’s hallowed record while on the juice, and I can’t answer him.
Personally, I would love to find out one day that Barry Bonds gained all of that muscle and bat speed through an uncannily successful regimen of weight-lifting and protein shakes. I’d also love to find out one day that there really is an Easter Bunny, and he has evidence to prove that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Bonds’ drug use was so obvious that my seven-year old knew it. Joe, in fact, still believes in the Easter Bunny, but he doesn’t believe Barry Bonds.
“People think that Bonds took steroids,” I offered. “He himself has said that he never did. It hasn’t yet been proven that he took steroids. Until it has been proven, we consider Barry Bonds to be innocent.” In defending Barry Bonds, who has been the poster boy for steroid use in the major leagues for the last seven years and is perhaps the least likeable baseball superstar in the history of the game (Ty Cobb, rolling over in his grave, sighs with relief), I feel like a public defender who has been assigned the case of the guy who stabbed his mother-in-law thirty-two times at the wedding, with the knife from the cake in broad daylight in the middle of the reception, and I’m supposed to vigorously defend his innocence.
But who am I kidding? Bonds was named in the Mitchell Report, and there have been whole books written about the Bay Area laboratory that supplied him with his PEDs. Even my son knows and acknowledges this.
Joe gave me a piteous look, as if I was the biggest dope in both Canada and the U.S. “Everybody knows that he took them,” he said scornfully. “How could he say he never took them?”
I meekly offered that maybe Bonds didn’t know what he was taking. Maybe he thought it was something else they were giving him. Or maybe he just believed that it was okay to take them then.
Joe didn’t buy it. “Well, he shouldn’t play anymore,” he said, adding with a 7-year old’s absolute sense of right and wrong, “He’s a cheater. As far as I’m concerned, the home-run record still belongs to Hank Aaron.”
Tell it to Bud Selig.