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Lorton: Bonds started era of scandal (March 6)

Isaac Lorton | Wednesday, March 6, 2013

 

Editor’s note: This is the ninth in a 12-part series discussing the defining sportsman (or woman) of this century. In this installment, Isaac Lorton argues for Barry Bonds. Join the discussion on Twitter by using #DefiningSportsman.

He was never his father, nor his godfather the “Say Hey Kid” and he was never Ken Griffey Jr. Barry Bonds was more than all of them, and he was less. 

If we take steroids out of the picture, Bonds is the greatest baseball player of all-time. If we leave steroids in the picture, well who knows if he is or not?

Bonds won a record seven MVP awards, including four consecutive MVP awards from 2001-2004. To put it in perspective, the next-most MVP awards won by an individual over a career is three. Bonds was a 14-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove recipient. Bonds holds the record for 762 career home runs, 73 home runs in one season, 2,558 career walks, 688 intentional walks and most consecutive seasons with 30-plus home runs in a season (13 from 1992-2004). Teams were so afraid to face Bonds they would rather walk him – even when the bases were loaded. It was a sad moment in Diamondbacks history on May 28, 1998, when Bonds came up to the plate and became the fifth player ever in MLB history to be intentional walked with the bases loaded.   

Bonds is one of four members in the 300 (HRs)/300(Steals) club. The other three are Willie Mays, Bobby Bonds and Andre Dawson. This club is one of the greatest measurements of an all-around offensive player and baseball athlete. It is the unique combination of power and speed and being able to get on base.

Barry Bonds is in the 400/400 club and Barry Bonds is in the 500/500 club. He was the first player (and probably the last) to enter the 400/400 club and he will definitely be the only player ever to reach 500/500. He has touched heights that one can only dream of. Bonds was at the top of his sport and at the top of the sporting world to begin the 21st century.

Yet the media never liked Bonds. Fans never liked Bonds. He was an incredibly talented, hubristic, arrogant and polarizing player. Bonds was never loved as Willie Mays, his godfather, was loved.   People did not take to him as they took to Ken Griffey Jr. And when the steroid scandals officially came to light via the BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative) case in 2003, people sought to bring this demi-god, this monster, this giant, down. And down he fell.

It just goes to show that athletes on the side of the media and the fans will be protected (look at Ryan Braun). His achievements are tainted with asterisks and, as the vote on Jan. 9, 2013, showed, he will not be remembered as a Hall of Fame player.  

It was reported that Bonds had tested positive for anabolic steroids, specifically stanozolol, in Novenber of 2000. Seven years and four MVPs later, Bonds was indicted on Nov. 15, 2007 for perjury and obstruction of justice. 2007 marked the last year of Bond’s 21-year career. On April 13, 2011, Bonds was convicted for obstruction of justice and giving an evasive answer under oath. Bonds and his team of lawyers appealed and the appeal is still going on today. In the 13 years of the 21st century, Bonds has occupied all of them, as the central figure of the steroid scandal in baseball and steroids in sports. Bonds singlehandedly changed how media and fans view athletes. We, as a whole, began to seek to catch athletes, especially the best athletes, involved in controversy.

Since the Bonds’ scandal, many of the best players in baseball were found to be tainted with steroids, college football programs began receiving sanctions right and left for a whole host of things – preferential treatment, we are missing a Heisman in 2005, Joe Paterno is no longer a legend, – Tiger Woods is a sex addict, Michael Phelps smokes marijuana, four of the seven Tour de France winners since 1998 were found to be positive for steroids, Lance Armstrong was disowned by the world, NFL players are taking “study pills” and people are even throwing badminton games in the Olympics.

All of this fallout began when Bonds, the greatest athlete in sports, was accused of using steroids in 2001. Since then, the 21st century of sports has been characterized and defined by the pursuit of catching premier athletes and sports programs doing something wrong.           

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.