Every once in a while it’s nice to write about a general issue to see what people are thinking, if they even care, about it. I haven’t written one of these in a long time. Let’s see what happens…
It’s not happening as quickly as everyone thought it would, but all things being well, it will happen soon: Barry Bonds will pass Babe Ruth and take over #2 on baseball’s all-time home run list. There are several media outlets that are making the chase for Ruth the important matter. This may be sparked by Mr. Bonds’ comments about the importance that he’s placed on passing Ruth. I have not always been a fan of Mr. Bonds. I’ve been guilty of following the mob and holding his personal attitude towards a media quick to turn on him (even before the accusations of the steroids abuse) ahead of his accomplishments in the game. My opinion as a fan, as if it really matters to him, has definitely softened in recent years.
I’m a weird one in that I’m a fan of the game of baseball more than of what people do outside of it. What he is able to accomplish on the field is what he would be remembered for if he were playing in most other eras. I’ve already shared my thoughts on that issue while writing about Ryne Sandberg’s HOF induction speech last year. Despite our tech savvy culture, it will most likely be what he does on the field that will matter in the end.
There are several Hall of Famers that were not necessarily media darlings. The name Ty Cobb comes to mind in particular. He was known as a great player but also was not considered someone that most people would identify as a role model or stand up citizen all of the time. When Sandberg played, his lack of cooperation with reporters gave him a reputation of being somewhat cold, even though he is considered one of the best second basemen to play the game. It took that warm afternoon last summer to melt that perspective away in the minds and hearts of many people.
We’ve become a culture where we expect our players to serve as the ultimate role models on and off the field and yet we don’t hold ourselves up to those same standards. So why am I going to give Barry Bonds grief about not talking to reporters and trying to let his actions on the field speak for themselves? He’s not perfect; he’s doing his job. He’s paid to entertain us. And like most people in the sports world, he’s supposed to be enjoying his job. It’s one that many children dream of doing but only a few get a chance to do for any length of time. He’s also 41 and whether allegations are true or not he’s going to begin to slow down eventually.
The interesting thing for me is that more people are talking about Ruth’s 714 as though it is the record. The media is treating Hank Aaron’s 755 home runs, the actual MLB mark, as more of an asterisk and with less importance, at least currently. The only people that seem to realize that Ruth’s total is now only second place are Mr. Bonds and MLB. Mr. Bonds was hit by a foul ball during batting practice earlier this week. That was not nearly as important as it was that the commissioner of baseball was not in attendance at a game in Milwaukee to potentially pass Ruth on the list. Some find it ironic that he was not there since he was once owner of the team. Others felt it was ironic that Hank Aaron played most of his career in Milwaukee. There have also been stories involving Major League Baseball’s not authenticating the balls leading up to passing Babe Ruth on the list.
Let’s look at this from Barry’s point of view. Hitting 600 is a milestone. Passing your godfather (Willie Mays) on the list of is important too, especially since he played for the same team that you currently do. Passing Babe Ruth is important as well, but not as long as the main objective is to pass Hank Aaron. If you are a true fan of the game, even with the deistic levels at which Mr. Ruth is praised and worshipped for bringing baseball notoriety in his day, you know that the record is Aaron’s and that MLB will not begin to make a big deal about Bonds’ chase again until he gets closer.
Baseball’s attempts at controlling substances is coming a little bit late for many fans. It is also peculiar as it only became important as one of the game’s current controversial figures is approaching the holy grail of his sport. The need to control substance abuse is important. The need for Congress to address it in America’s pastime the way that it has in recent years during other more serious levels of concern, including rising oil prices, a war in the Middle East and current issues with immigration laws makes me wonder if we couldn’t be spending our tax dollars in more meaningful ways. If he breaks it this season (and it’s becoming a bigger if with each passing day), he breaks it. The question will then be “How quickly will Albert Pujols break it?” towards the end of his career.
Let me know what you think.