Major-league teams should tell Bonds to take a walk

May 03, 2006|By DANIEL MUNOZ AND AMIT CHANDA

Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams could not have timed it better. Game of Shadows, their damning account of steroid use in Major League Baseball, hit bookstores just days before the start of the season.

The book is an investigative tour de force of how steroid use has become accepted as standard practice by an increasing number of high-profile athletes, allegedly including Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants, who stands poised to pass Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time home run list.

Barring injury, Mr. Bonds will soon top Mr. Ruth's career total of 714 home runs and likely will also surpass Hank Aaron to become the best slugger in the history of America's national pastime.

Hence the worsening nausea.

Mr. Bonds' dishonorable approach is all the more revolting when contrasted with the experience of Hank Aaron, whose record of 755 career home runs is now in danger. In 1974, as Mr. Aaron approached Mr. Ruth's "unbreakable" career home run record, he literally feared for his life. His mail regularly included death threats from those incensed by a black man seeking to break a white man's record. But he soldiered on, eventually shattering Mr. Ruth's record.

How times have changed.

In grand jury testimony in December 2003, Mr. Bonds used an unacceptably adolescent argument in his defense against allegations of steroid use. He claimed that he never knowingly ingested illegal substances, saying he simply took whatever was given to him by his personal trainer, Greg Anderson.

Mr. Anderson was a known supplier of steroids to other high-profile athletes. He reportedly was found to be in possession of calendars documenting when he delivered steroids to and into Mr. Bonds. For a player proud of his near-obsessive control over all other aspects of his training regimen, Mr. Bonds' oblivious defense rings implausibly hollow.

Mr. Bonds' sworn denials have occurred against the backdrop of a U.S. attorney more interested in tackling steroid suppliers than their celebrity users and a baseball commissioner's office more concerned with damage control than with holding suspected cheaters to account. No disciplinary action has been taken against Mr. Bonds.

We have a simple suggestion: Let Mr. Bonds walk.

Don't pitch to him. Pitch him four balls and walk him. Deny him his swings for the fences. Teams, unite. Protect the integrity of the game. Honor the day-in, day-out courage of pioneers such as Mr. Aaron and reject shortcuts. Deny him the self-congratulation, which for Mr. Bonds, would be ample reward, given his apparent disdain for fans, for his teammates and for the game.

Nothing would make him more frustrated than to have come so close to the game's historic records, only to be denied.

Nothing would send a louder message to those at the Players Union, MLB, the U.S. attorney's office and even Congress, which thus far have embraced inaction instead of courageously seeking to salvage the dignity of what once was America's pastime.

Daniel Munoz of Baltimore and Amit Chanda of London played Little League baseball in Maryland in the 1980s, steroid-free. Mr. Munoz's e-mail is dmuno1@jhmi.edu. Mr. Chanda's e-mail is amit.chanda@gmail.com.

Columnist Trudy Rubin is on vacation.

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