May 29, 2002
Barry v. Babe

Eric Alterman, another Professional Journalist Type with sucky permalinkage, asks the following:

Why donít people like [Barry Bonds]? Is it race? Is it the fault of some liberal media conspiracy I havenít even heard of? I donít get it. Bonds is about to become the only player ever to hit 500 homers and steal 500 bases. Guess who the only guy ever to reach 400 of each is? Whoa, trick question. Itís Bonds. Heís nearly 40 percent better by this crucial measurement than his closest competitors.

Just what is the problem, people? Whereís the excitement?

ĎSplain, please.

There is a Media Conspiracy, Eric, but it's not a liberal one. It's a sportswriter one, led by the likes of Rick Reilly at Sports Illustrated. Bonds is not the most sociable player in the league. One could reasonably describe him as surly, or a jerk if one was not feeling charitable. This has led to sportswriters denigrating Bonds' acheivements, overplaying his mediocre postseason stats, calling him "selfish", and otherwise slurring one of the game's alltime greats.

It's odd, because sportswriters generally love to equate on-field accomplishments with character, which is why so-so players with reputations for being good in the clubhouse are frequently lauded even when they're a clearcut waste of a roster slot. Barry Bonds may well be a jerk - I have no way of knowing for sure - but it takes a lot more than that to diminish what he has done in his career.

An interesting question to ask would be how many scribes who denigrate Bonds for being churlish also champion the causes of Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson, two players who admitted to committing grievous crimes against the game? It's hard to keep up with all the double standards sometimes.

Anyway, there is no good explanation beyond this. Hopefully, some day when Bonds is in the inner circle at Cooperstown, all this pettyness will be long forgotten. In the meantime, tune it out and enjoy watching him play. You won't see the likes of him again any time soon.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 29, 2002 to Baseball