Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Reaction of Houston Crowd Says Worlds About Perceptions of Bonds

I've never been a fan of pitchers' beaning or plunking hitters. (Have there ever been verbs less descriptive of what is, after all, a violently painful act than beaning or plunking?)

No matter if the pitcher's motive is to send a message or get back at the other team or whatever, intentionally hitting an opposing batter with a 90-mile per hour fastball has always struck me as a ridiculous and dangerous thing to do.

So, I think Houston Astros pitcher Russ Springer's obvious throw at San Francisco hitter Barry Bonds last night was a classless, indefensible act.

So, too, was the standing ovation given to Springer by the Houston crowd for his chumpery

Nonetheless, the crowd's response says a lot about how baseball fans everywhere view Barry Bonds. It's impossible to imagine, for example, in spite of all the racist kooks who sent threatening messages to the great Hank Aaron as he moved toward supplanting Babe Ruth on the all-time homerun list, that a baseball crowd in any major league city would have given a standing-O to a pitcher who attacked him the way Springer went after Bonds last night.

I'm a baseball fan. Most baseball fans I know aren't wishing that Barry Bonds doesn't beat Hank Aaron. Instead, they don't care about Bonds' alleged race with history. They wish he would just retire.

That's because most people don't believe that his homerun totals are legitimate. There's an enormous amount of anecdotal evidence out there that Bonds' round trippers for the past five-plus years have been steroid-powered. If this is found to be true--and Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has no more important or urgent task than learning the truth about Bonds and steroids, Bonds' name should never be spoken of in connecttion with that of Aaron's. If Bonds passes Aaron, his record won't even warrant an asterisk, as was once placed next to Roger Maris' name when he broke Ruth's single-season homerun total in 1961.

If Bonds took steroids, every homer he's hit since first using them should be forever expunged from the record books.

If Barry Bonds is clean, then baseball needs to clear his name. And that Houston crowd will owe him two apologies: one for celebrating an act of irrelevant violence against him, the other for assuming that all the reports are true.

Bonds will probably pass Ruth soon and may even break Aaron's record. But until we have a definitive answer on his alleged steroid use, few will celebrate the way 99% of all baseball fans did the night Aaron went past the Bambino. They'll sit on their hands until they know for sure that the new Homerun King isn't a cheat.

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