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An Open Letter to Jay Mariotti

Dear Jay,

I believe Barry Bonds gained an unfair advantage by using performance-enhancing drugs. That was an advantage not everyone was willing to take, and that makes Bonds's decision an ethically questionable one. On Saturday, I stood and applauded every time Bonds came up to bat. In my mind, there isn't a conflict between the two points. I must be one of those unconditionally glorifying sheep about whom you were writing. I am wearing wool socks, and I do enjoy a good salad. Guilty as charged.

Do you really think that this scenario would only play out in the San Francisco Bay Area? Is this specific region of the country the only place where Bonds's career would be glorified? If that's your position, don't worry about anything that follows this paragraph. We're done. If you truly believe that the affection the San Francisco fans have for Bonds after 15 seasons wouldn't be the same affection felt in Boston, Chicago, or Atlanta if that were where Bonds had spent the bulk of his career, you lack the critical thinking skills needed for honest debate.

If you concede the point that it isn't just a regional sickness that leads us to cheer for Bonds, then you can understand why it's silly to single out the fans in San Francisco as "unconditionally glorifying sheep." Have you ever pondered why a baseball fan would cheer for Barry Bonds? Here's a condensed answer: The Giants almost moved to Florida after 1992. Instead, they opened the following season in San Francisco after acquiring the best player in baseball. Since then, that player has done more positive things on the field for his team than any other player in baseball. Good things for the team lead to good feelings for the fan.

That's it. You can break it down psychologically or chemically if you want, but the end result is the same. Good things for the team lead to good feelings for the fan. After 15 years of watching Bonds do amazing things on the ballfield, we've grown attached to him. He's had us all hopped up on mood-enhancing chemicals (MECs) for years, and now he's the easiest target in the history of yellow baseball journalism. So we defend him and continue to cheer.

To the San Francisco fan, the performance-enhancing drug debate extends beyond Bonds. To the folks who want to sell newspapers and television advertising slots, the debate stops at Bonds. That's unfortunate. The list of players who have been caught is underwhelming. Manny Alexander? Mike Morse? Jamal Strong? More than half of the suspensions from Major League Baseball have been handed out to pitchers, three of whom (Ryan Franklin, Guillermo Mota, and Felix Heredia) have served up homers to Bonds. If performance-enhancing drugs helped, they certainly weren't magic.

Some have opined that the main benefit from the drugs comes from the improved stamina; as in, the drugs didn't create a super-Ryan Franklin, it just allowed Ryan Franklin to be Ryan Franklin at peak Ryan Franklin condition for a longer period of time. Maybe it did make a super-Ryan Franklin. I don't think any of us would be able to tell. If you want to do some hand-wringing in the name of moral superiority, think about the roster spot Franklin occupied over the years. He'll get a pension. He'll have a baseball card to show his kids. Did that come at the expense of someone who wasn't willing to take PEDs? That's a bigger question of morality than anything to do with some intangible number. And we don't really think about it much in San Francisco. It gets in the way of baseball. And grazing. We can never forget the delicious, delicious grazing.

This is all a part of why we still root for Bonds. He made us cheer over and over and over again - both before and after he bulked up - and now he's being attacked as if he was the only one who took performance-enhancing drugs. He wasn't. He batted against other users, and he lost to teams built around other users. Every other fan base would wave the same collective middle finger back at the rest of the world. It isn't because we're mindless idiots.

Well, I know you are, but what am I?


Grant from McCovey Chronicles