Having Bonds take the fall accomplishes nothing at all

Commentary

July 21, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

If it's all true and Barry Bonds lied to the grand jury and sold autographs without reporting that income to the Internal Revenue Service, I have only one thing to say:

Lock your doors, because the grand jury still hasn't decided whether to indict him and he's still walking the streets, which means that he could sneak into your house some night and lie to you about his past steroid use and sell your kids his autograph without filling out IRS Form 1099.

This is a dangerous man.

Perhaps I'm missing something, but I no longer see the point in any of this - the BALCO investigation that refuses to die; the George Mitchell investigation that refuses to live; the national obsession with proving what everybody already knows. How about we just stipulate that steroids are bad, the players who took steroids in the past were wrong and that if you take them in the future you're obviously too stupid to realize that human growth hormone is undetectable.

Finding an excuse to prosecute Bonds on ancillary charges only proves the futility of continuing the multimillion-dollar campaign by the Justice Department and Major League Baseball to expose the extent of the steroid problem that has scandalized the national pastime. Now it has become largely an exercise in face-saving, with the feds still trying to land the one big fish that would justify all those BALCO tax dollars and MLB making its grandstand play to show the public that it is not pulling the rug over its ugly steroid past.

I say, lay that carpet back down and let's get on with our lives.

Don't misunderstand. I'm not letting Barry off the hook for being a generally despicable character who apparently has cheated on his wife, his taxes and the ball field, but I'm also not buying into the notion that we're going to gain some kind of closure from his public undressing and eventual censure from the commissioner's office.

In fact, I'm guessing that history will not look kindly on any of this. Bonds, depending on the outcome of the lingering BALCO investigation, could end up being this generation's Shoeless Joe Jackson, his place in the steroid scandal exaggerated because of his status as one of the sport's biggest and most controversial stars.

Let's not forget that - by most accounts - Bonds was late to the steroid party, allegedly embracing the mad science of performance enhancement because he was getting lost in the shadow of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in the late 1990s. Let's also not forget that he was not the only athlete called to testify by the BALCO grand jury, yet he apparently is the only one who still has a target painted on his back.

There are some good reasons for that, of course. He was closely associated with the two BALCO figures who were imprisoned for distributing illegal steroids and he left himself vulnerable to the machinations of a disgruntled mistress, so it wasn't very hard to pick him out of the steroid lineup. He also has spent his entire baseball career making enemies with a brusque, arrogant manner that eventually alienates just about everyone with whom he comes into casual contact.

Still, I fear that if he's indicted by the BALCO grand jury and disciplined by MLB, he'll be able to cast himself as some kind of racial martyr, forced to pay for the sins of the entire steroid generation while the likes of McGwire and Jason Giambi somehow avoid the same level of public scorn.

It's not like the steroid scourge ended the day they shut down BALCO, unless Victor Conte is the secret CEO of the mail-order firm that sent all that hGH to Jason Grimsley's house. The spotlight is on Bonds because he recently passed Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list and he's within striking distance of Hank Aaron, and - it seems - everybody thinks it would be an abomination to have him stand atop baseball's most hallowed statistical ground.

I wouldn't be too thrilled about that, either, but nobody seemed to mind when McGwire was doing a pretty fair imitation of the Michelin Man on the way to shattering the single-season home run record in 1998.

We were wondering about Big Mac's freakish biceps long before anybody noticed that Barry's head was starting to look like it belonged in the Macy's Parade.

If you want to buy into Barry's persecution complex, you might remember that the House Committee on Government Reform refused to force McGwire to confirm or deny past steroid use. Bonds did not have the luxury of refusing to answer similar questions from the grand jury, so he claimed that he never knowingly used steroids, which has set him up for a possible perjury charge.

It appears that he was not being entirely truthful, but what does it really matter at this point? If the feds want to get him, they're going to get him one way or another. Let's just not fool ourselves into thinking this is about justice. peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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