Barry Bonds = scapegoat

Some day soon, San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds will hit career home run No. 756, passing Hank Aaron to become Major League Baseball’s all-time home-run leader and putting the crowning touch on an incredible career that includes seven MVP awards, 13 All-Star team selections, the single-season home-run record, and much more. It will be one of the supreme athletic achievements any of us ever will witness—and, when he does it, chances are he’ll be booed mercilessly.

Unless Bonds happens to break the record during a Giants’ home game in San Francisco, abuse will rain down as he rounds the bases for No. 756. Regardless of where he does it, the baseball establishment and the media will do their best to downplay the achievement. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig will avoid the scene, and baseball writers from coast to coast will bash Barry, devalue his achievements and repeat rumors that he used performance-enhancing drugs, including anabolic steroids.

When it happens, remember: There is still no proof that Bonds used anything but his god-given ability to do what he’s done, and until someone comes forward with something more than hearsay, he deserves to be acclaimed as one of the greatest baseball players of all time and one of the best athletes this country has ever produced.

So why won’t baseball give it up for Barry? Why won’t they honor him when he passes Aaron the way they honored Cal Ripken when he passed Lou Gehrig for most consecutive games?

In a nutshell, it’s the media. Bonds has never concealed his dislike of sportswriters, and they have never passed up a chance to try to take him down a peg. That’s unprofessional, and it denies the public a true sense of perspective on Bonds’ career, which dwarfs the achievements of many of baseball’s most hallowed figures. Other than Bonds, no player in history has had both 400 career home runs and 400 stolen bases. Bonds has more than 700 home runs and more than 500 stolen bases, and he’s also won eight Gold Gloves for fielding excellence. There’s no denying that he has been the dominant player of his era.

Unfortunately, Bonds’ era has also been the “Steroid Era,” a time when many players used steroids to enhance strength and to speed recovery from injuries. From the ’80s until 2003, when baseball finally banned steroids, steroid use among players was common knowledge, yet both baseball and the media ignored the issue. Now, the same writers who cheered a bulked-up Mark McGwire as he set the single-season home-run record in 1998 with a bottle of Androstenedione clearly visible in his locker are hounding Bonds about steroids. Essentially, Bonds has become the scapegoat. By focusing on him, baseball and the media are diverting attention from the guilt they share with regard to steroids.

We’re not having it. When Bonds rounds the bases for No. 756, we’ll be cheering him on. Let’s recognize this astounding athlete, celebrate his achievement and leave the booing to the haters.