FanPost

The Steroids Debate and Jeff Pearlman

As we all know, Jeff Pearlman's biography of Barry Bonds came out sometime ago. Jeff emailed me (I write for a Giants blog) me and asked that I take a look at a hard copy of the book and review it. That was a few months back. I did read the book, but for whatever reason never got around to writing an in-depth review. Once a certain time period passed, I figured what's the point in promoting a book that's been out for awhile now. Plus it's about Barry, so it really just promotes itself. But now this seems like a good time to blog about the book, and its author. Pearlman recently wrote an article entitled "Barry, It's Time to Come Clean". Seemingly out of nowhere with no provocation, Pearlman states Bonds is a "truly evil man." Now Bonds does have a surly disposition, and can be definitely be described as a jackass. But is he evil personified? I would say not.

As we all know, Jeff Pearlman's biography of Barry Bonds came out sometime ago. Jeff emailed me (I write for a Giants blog) me and asked that I take a look at a hard copy of the book and review it. That was a few months back. I did read the book, but for whatever reason never got around to writing an in-depth review. Once a certain time period passed, I figured what's the point in promoting a book that's been out for awhile now. Plus it's about Barry, so it really just promotes itself. But now this seems like a good time to blog about the book, and its author. Pearlman recently wrote an article entitled "Barry, It's Time to Come Clean". Seemingly out of nowhere with no provocation, Pearlman states Bonds is a "truly evil man." Now Bonds does have a surly disposition, and can be definitely be described as a jackass. But is he evil personified? I would say not.

Pearlman's book, he says, was written to defend Bonds and present a side of him that people would sympathize with. The book is well-written and does provide some insight into the inner Bonds, but I wouldn't necessarily say it sympathizes with the man. While at times he does seem to defend Barry, at others he jumps the fence and depicts a devil of a man who doesn't deserve to be involved in professional sports. In one of the later chapters, entitled "Shadow Dancing," Pearlman complains that no one seems to acknowledge the fact that Bonds used and abused HGH.

"And so it went.
Bonds's testicles had shrunk to the size of peanuts? Ho-hum.
not.
Bonds popped more pills than Robert Downey Jr.? Big whoop.
Bonds's closest friends were named Winstrol and Deca-Durabolin? Yawn.
There were other headlines to be written."

While taken out of context, this may sound like a defense, but when read in its entirety the sarcasm nearly drips off the page. This whole Bonds debacle has drawn more press and attention than any major sports scandal in recent history. If anything, there's almost too much focus on Bonds. After a complete game shutout from Noah Lowry, Bonds was the one who made the headlines for hitting his 17th home run. ESPN will go into reporting withdrawal when he retires and they have no one to follow around like a whipped boyfriend. Sportswriters hate the guy and we know it. Bonds probably did use steroids, and that's pretty common knowledge among fans and non-fans alike.

And then there's the ever popular "Should Bonds Make the Hall?" debate. In an interview in Pearlman's book, John Erardi of the Cincinatti Enquirer says absolutely not.

"If I had a pill that would make me Ernest Hemingway, maybe I'd take it. But I didn't have that opportunity. I believe very strongly that we're put on this earth with certain gifts, and the idea is to maximize them properly. Unlike scuffing and corking, performance-enhancing drugs physically change who you are. It goes against a line that should never be crossed. I'm a purist. Barry Bonds goes against everything I believe."

Where to start? First of all, Erardi basically admits if he had a magic writing drug he'd "maybe" take it. Not exactly the statement of someone who encourages the idea to "maximize [gifts] properly." As for scuffing and corking, even if they don't add a physical edge to a player, it's an edge all the same. Studies say a corked bat can add up to eight feet to a fly ball. Warning track power becomes home run power. Much like the effect steroids have on hitting ability.

Scuffed balls add movement to a pitch that otherwise wouldn't have any. Steroids add arm strength and velocity, which reduces movement. The amount of pitchers out there who can throw 95+ number a lot more than the guys who can't seem to throw a baseball without it moving three feet to the right or left. I'd take a Brandon Webb over a power pitcher any day of the week. Velocity is something you can gain and control over the course of a game. Movement is an intangible that a pitcher can have one day and simply not have the next. A Major League hitter can hit a juiced-up starter who tops out at 95. It's changing speeds and movement that fool hitters. Point in case: scuffing a ball gives more of a benefit to a pitcher, and doesn't do any of the long-term damage to the body that steroids do.

Pearlman's anger directed at Bonds is likely due to the fact that the reporters who outted the testimony of Bonds in the San Francisco Chronicle are refusing to reveal their sources and are facing jail time because of it. Pearlman calls for Bonds to admit he abused steroids to the press because of this, and to implore his ex-trainer be released from prison, and that the two reporters be left alone. While Greg Anderson is far from innocent, the Chronicle reporters merely did what any decent journalist would do with information that could out a superstar athlete. By reporting this, they also knew the risks that come with reporting facts given from a publicly anonymous source. If they choose not to reveal their source(s) in a court of law, they're free to make that decision, but face the consequences imposed by our legal system for not testifying.

I do not support Bonds's decision to use steroids, and I do not support the fact that people are being sent to jail because of this. Barry may have made an ill-advised decision and other people are suffering because of it, but that doesn't make him evil. Would it be a good idea if he finally just came clean and apologized to the baseball world? Absolutely. Jason Giambi did it and New York, one of the more unforgiving baseball towns, forgave him. But don't condemn Barry as sport's Antichrist. Human beings make mistakes. Mark McGwire made a mistake. Marion Jones made a mistake. Sammy Sosa said his corked bat was for "batting practice" and no one said another word on the matter again. Justin Gatlin, the co-world record holder in the 100-meter dash, was recently banned from competition for eight years after a positive test at the Kansas Relays. The only difference for Gatlin was that he didn't make any excuses. He cooperated with the doping board, and accepted he'd been caught.

Bonds may have made an awful decision, but don't make him the poster child for steroid abuse. Tim Montgomery and Floyd Landis were and are world-class athletes. They made the same decision Bonds did, and they were caught. The problem is prevalent in all sports and with hundreds upon thousands of athletes. In order to solve this problem, though, we need to forgive, but not necessarily forget. Be wary of top athletes, but it's my belief that they should be innocent until proven guilty.

Personally, it saddens me to live in an age where in order to be the best in their respective sports, athletes must be using some form of performance-enhancing drugs. But in order to move past this dark age in athletics, we as sports fans need to understand the pressure these competitors face on a daily basis. There's nothing wrong with acknowledging mistakes these demigods make. Even with this mistakes, the sports world has a lot of purging to do.

Keeping that in mind, I entreat you, condemn the substance, not the athlete.

This FanPost is reader-generated, and it does not necessarily reflect the views of McCovey Chronicles. If the author uses filler to achieve the minimum word requirement, a moderator may edit the FanPost for his or her own amusement.

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