May 11th, 2006

Not Today

I just "watched" Barry fly out to center on ESPN Game Cast in his last at-bat of the game. Last night I watched his last two at-bats with benlinus. He seems to be pressing a bit, swinging at pitches he would normally take. And his swing looks awkward. He can't seem to get the right torque on his swing unless the ball is in favorable locations. Of course, that was true when he was a skinny Pittsburgh Pirate too, though for different reasons. We've been spoiled over the past six years in thinking he can hit anything he wants. It's amusing how many fans around the country still want him to be that Bonds, even as they boo him mercilessly. For my part, I remain as loyal as ever. Last night I tried out my newest argument about the steroid problem: "Sandy Koufax could only pitch during his last few seasons because of regular cortisone shots. Should we strike his records from the books because they were only possible because of artificial enhancements?"

To be sure, there's no stigma attached to Koufax's treatment as there was to whatever Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Sheffield, Giambi and others are alleged to have done. Nor am I suggesting that there should be. But if we're so concerned with fairness, we need to take medical interventions of that sort into account. Because, whatever else you want to say about Barry Bonds, you can't claim that he only became a fearsome home-run hitter by bulking up. With the exception of the anomalous 2001 season, his home-run stats of the early-to-mid 1990s don't rank far below those of the 2000s, particularly when you correct for historical averages, since fewer home-runs were being hit across the board back when he was a Pirate. That means that the only argument against him as a "cheater" that holds water is the one that claims he wouldn't have been able to sustain his brilliance of the past half-decade without steroids to aid his recovery from everyday wear-and-tear. Yet if you make that argument, you then have to consider the case of Koufax, not to mention all the other pitchers who have received medical treatment in order to stay in the rotation.
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