We walked along the pavilion overlooking McCovey Cove as the roar of crowd grew, the blustery chill of the San Francisco evening limiting the number of awaiting kayakers and boaters, hoping for another mark in baseball history to call their own.
When we looked up, the ball seemed to hang in the stiff, swirling wind for what seemed a a very long moment, eventually darting down, bouncing off a railing and splashing into the adjacent drink. It was No. 761.
Barry Bonds, the greatest home run hitter the game ever saw, would go on to hit only one more homer in his career, at Colorado the following month. But it was during an August sojourn to whatever they call that park these days that I witnessed the final one that would be celebrated by a yahoo fan base, one that ignored his past and celebrated a tainted and farcical mark with which baseball is now forever stained.
Three months later, Bonds is celebrated no more in the Bay Area, the last base he could call a safe haven. Even they have now turned on him, charges of perjury and obstruction of justice now far more his legacy that 762 ever will be.
Who thought that this winter’s Mitchell Report (which, let’s face it, is getting to be like Canseco’s book or the new Indiana Jones, a decade in the making with nary a hint of fulfillment) would have provided us with a sequel instead of the main event? This should be fun.
While the Bonds news wasn’t exactly fall on the floor surprising (two-hour SportsCenter today at Noon!), it’s obviously one of those stories that will be discussed in every single workplace in America today, with 99.9 percent of the population pleased this moment came to pass, save for any lingering fans in the shadow of the Golden Gate.
“He brought me a lot of fun times over there,” fan Kim Deasy told the San Francisco Chronicle.”So I say let it drop. Let him live his life in peace.”
I wonder if the Feds will buy that defense. The “fun” argument. Maybe O.J. ought to work with that one with the “Naked Gun” films as his evidence.
“No player can be presumed to be clean on his say-so or the lack of a positive test administered by those crack scientists working for MLB,” writes the San Francisco Chronicle’s Ray Ratto. “The presumption of innocence works in a courtroom but nowhere else in our judgmental society. We conclusion-jump because we have too much time on our hands and too much media to allow for the dead air required to reconfirm baseball’s chemical virtue.
“In other words, think 30 years, give or take a pennant race.”
It wasn’t cheating that ultimately undid Bonds, as the Miami Herald’s Lind Robertson makes the case, it was lying. So, there is a good message in all this, I suppose. Don’t get caught. Of course, we all thought Bonds got caught, what, some four years ago. In the time between his allegedly lying before a grand jury and the indictments coming down yesterday, the Red Sox and Patriots each won a pair of titles. And we all had to suffer through Bonds’s pursuit of Hank Aaron even though the evidence was clear. So, while we applaud the feds, we also have to ask, uh, four years? Really?
Writes the Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon: “One of the most common questions being asked yesterday immediately after the announcement was, ‘Why did it take so long?’
“The answer is simple: They wanted to be certain they had the goods. They wanted to be certain they could go into a courtroom with Bonds and prove at trial he knowingly took steroids.
“If the Feds are successful, Bonds’s records — all of them — will carry some kind of notation that expresses the most extreme skepticism, the kind that Hall of Famers Aaron and Frank Robinson expressed privately for years. Bonds isn’t the only one, but he’s No. 1 and unquestionably will be the face of baseball’s scandalous steroid era, a period of about 15 years that will stand as perhaps the sport’s greatest embarrassment since Pete Rose and his sleazy gambling.”
The New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro adds, “The government may be many things – maddening slow, overwhelmingly deliberate. But they do not type out federal indictments on whims. They do not bet on long shots. They are all about sure things.”
If there were a sure thing in baseball, it’d be that Barry Bonds cheated his way to the top. Now, his career is over, unless that Frontier League offer is still on the table. If he’s not in jail, of course.
Look at the record however you see fit. Barry Bonds is the home run champion of baseball and he cheated. If this is all just sinking in right now, you might want to stay in touch a little more often.
“A tremendous player and Hall of Fame candidate before remaking his career in the chemical lab, Bonds and steroids will be forever linked in baseball lore, and I now tend to believe that some type of boldface footnote, notation or asterisk should be placed on his accomplishments, the entire era denoted by italics, so that future generations will become familiar with the skepticism and deception surrounding it,” writes the LA Times’ Bill Plaschke.
This all, of course, will raise the question of Bonds’ Hall of Fame status among the baseball writers, many of whom still contend that we have to look at the resume before he started dipping into the clear. Look, I couldn’t care less whether he makes the Hall of Fame under whatever inane high and mighty circumstances the writers decide upon. But please vote him in after Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose. Then we’re fine with it.
This is all the beginning, of course. It may be the end for one Barry Bonds, but the rest of baseball is now on call with the imminent release of the Mitchell Report.
“What happens if big names show up here?” wonders the Newark Star-Ledger’s Steve Politi. “Just imagine, hypothetically, a report that implicates Alex Rodriguez or Carlos Beltran, Albert Pujols or Josh Beckett. Baseball will have to face issues far more complicated than what to do about washed-up Barry. Will suspensions follow? Will the executives who signed them be held as culpable as the players?
“And will Congress be satisfied enough that it won’t follow up with another investigation of its own?”
Maybe, but who knows. We all might be dead by the time the thing comes out.
For now, we can feel safe in the fact that Bonds is going to have to face the music. No more home runs of his are splashing into the bay. The final one that did make it there lingered in the night air for what seemed forever, before taking a drastic turn downward and sinking into the bay.
It was the perfect home run to sum up the last seven years of Barry Bonds’s tainted career.