Normally this would probably be a fan shot, but Bruce Jenkins had a great article remembering their awesome showdown from a few years ago. 102 MPH fastballs, and Bonds won with a HR to center.
So which side are you on?
(02-13) 20:08 PST -- One of the greatest at-bats of modern times was a thoroughly enhanced affair. It was a showdown between Barry Bonds, whose steroid use is now beyond question, and the Dodgers' Eric Gagne at the Giants' ballpark five seasons ago.
How you feel about that confrontation, right now, with steroid talk ripping at the game's foundation, is how you feel about the game. It defines you as a baseball romantic or a hard-core realist, someone who embraces the game unconditionally or feels the attraction slipping away.
Gagne took the mound that season with stuff that defied description. He threw fastballs at 100 mph, curveballs that broke from Hayward to Gilroy, and a bizarre changeup that moved as unpredictably as a hummingbird. He was at the peak of his powers, and most everyone inside the game suspected him as a user. The Mitchell Report exposed Gagne for having received shipments of human growth hormone (one of them sent directly to Dodger Stadium) and noted that Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, soliciting reports on Gagne in 2006, was heard to say, "The Dodgers think he was a steroid guy."
Let's just say he was, OK? To believe otherwise would be absurd. The point is that Gagne's world-class arsenal had now encountered Bonds, the closest thing to pure genius ever seen in a power hitter.
After getting two quick strikes with off-speed pitches, Gagne just missed striking him out with a third. With a 1-and-2 count, Gagne unleashed a frightening inside fastball that had Bonds thinking "two broken ribs and a punctured lung," as he said later. "I don't know how the hell I got out of the way."
Mike Krukow, who called the game from his usual perch, takes it from there: "So it's 2-and-2, the radar gun says '101' on the next pitch, inside corner, and Bonds turns on it. Absolutely crushes it into McCovey Cove, foul. We've got the Splash Cam out there, but we can't even find the ball, he hit it so far out of its range.
"Then he throws another 101-mph pitch, just outright gas, and Bonds hits it into the right-center-field seats. No way! That was the greatest at-bat I've ever seen. It was pure country hardball."
Put me in Krukow's camp, which includes every player and ex-player I ever asked about that night. Forget the steroids, OK? They have no place in the conversation. It was a classic, period, the epitome of great entertainment and something we'll never forget.
I guess it's a little bit like "The Natural" or "Field of Dreams," two baseball films that moved me greatly. I always felt a curious distance from someone who scoffed at such whimsical fantasy. To be sure, nobody's right or wrong. If the Gagne-Bonds thing is a joke to you now, you're hardly alone. I just know I feel as invigorated by the coming season as any in the past. They're all in a tie for first. If my head's in the sand, let the tide roll in.
Check these biceps
People always wonder why already-great players would even bother with steroids. Why doesn't anyone mention sex? It's not strictly about more power, better stats, a more lucrative contract. It's about looking damn good in the mirror. Sports tend to reflect society, and enhancement is all the rage: implants, enlargements, tucks, Botox, Viagra. I'd bet the house that vanity was a huge factor in Alex Rodriguez' case ... "And to be quite honest..." A-Rod, don't ever say that again. In fact, that goes for everybody. What, you've been lying before? ... The commissioner's office has become a laughable shambles as the steroid-era headlines pour in, but the new Major League Baseball Network is a triumph. Almost instantly, in the wake of A-Rod's admission, the network had Bob Costas interviewing Selena Roberts, who broke the story for Sports Illustrated. Ensuing days found constant panel discussion involving Harold Reynolds, Al Leiter, writer Tom Verducci and others. They're offering unbridled analysis, and the Web site (mlb.com) displays a useful library of all recent video ... People find it hard to believe that A-Rod didn't know what he was taking, but when he admitted being "young, stupid and naive," he characterized a significant element in clubhouses everywhere. These guys aren't memorizing how the drugs are spelled, or pronounced. Some veteran says, "See this here? This is the magic," and that's all they need; they're in.
I am in the same camp. I detest the whole steroids era, but it happened mostly because Bud, the owners, and the players let it happen. The majority of the media did an awful job in sniffing this whole thing out over the past 20 years as well. Everyone made money and everyone was happy because they were entertained. Despite all of that though, I'm hard pressed to remember anything I've ever seen watching a baseball game that captivated me as much as this moment did. Other then maybe Giants playoff games...yet the fact that it was "enhanced" doesn't take anything away from that for me at all.
I threw in the part about the MLB Network at the end here, because I think it has been excellent so far. I'd say it's already way better than the other major sports networks because the analysis is much better. Harold Reynolds is the man. And all of the historical shows and such are just awesome.