Baseball’s Pathetic Acceptance of Barry Bonds

Bonds was back in a Giants uniform for the first time in seven years.

Bonds was back in a Giants uniform for the first time in seven years.

Perhaps my disgusted reaction to Barry Bonds’s week-long return to the baseball world is exacerbated due to how the course of his playing career left me, and I’m sure many other young, credulous baseball fans, utterly heartbroken. But even if I put aside my biases, the decision of the San Francisco Giants to re-introduce Bonds into their clubhouse still remains disgraceful and egregious, and reflects the baseball world’s pathetic attitude towards, and handling of, the sport’s PED scandal.

On Monday earlier this week, the Giants brought Bonds–who retired in 2007–into their spring training facility in Scottsdale, Arizona as a guest hitting instructor. As part of a group of former players that rotates every year, Bonds was tasked to instruct the team’s hitters, but his presence alone proved more noteworthy: the Giants were welcoming him back into the game after having been ostracized from it for the past seven years.

As Keith Olbermann effectively puts it, Bonds is the “symbol of [baseball’s] worst crisis and darkest time since the era of the Black Sox scandal.” He played the biggest role in the BALCO scandal, was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, and remains one of the few high-profile PED-users to have not confessed to his crimes. 

So while any backlash to this seemingly minuscule one-week stint initially appears overblown, it’s the idea of Bonds’s acceptance that bears greater significance than however many days he was involved with the team.

The situation illustrates yet another whitewashing scheme on the part of the “baseball world” (what I mean here is a consensus of sorts and general common attitude of fans, players, organizations, and figures linked to baseball) regarding its once heralded, but now disgraced, steroid users. It shows the inability for the baseball world to rise up as a whole and courageously confront this issue as it now spreads into another decade of the sport’s rich history; the baseball world pathetically shies away from the glaring problem–and away from the necessity of acting boldly in response to it–and instead opts for purposeful ignorance, choosing to be complacent rather than proactive.

Furthermore, this unwillingness to set a bold precedent–perhaps starting by banning anyone connected to steroids from Major League Baseball–will undoubtedly continue to tarnish the sport. Rather, the baseball world has done the exact opposite: it has allowed PED-users to be involved in baseball, whether still on the field, like Ryan Braun and Jason Giambi, or in dugout roles, such as Mark McGwire and now Barry Bonds.

It’s also important to reiterate and re-establish the severity and detrimental effect of steroid usage, as another event linked to it has come up. Simply put, the use of performance-enhancing drugs destroys the integrity of the competitive game. The establishment of a set of rules for all to follow provides stability and control. In turn, the violation of these rules produces a destructive effect, and impairs those who actually abide by the standards, a phenomenon that stretches beyond the smaller scale of the baseball world into the greater level of society.

Bonds’s alma mater, Arizona State University, also seemed to capitalize on the Giants’ naive push to welcome Bonds back into baseball. Before the Sun Devils’s game on Saturday, Bonds–as well as other 1980s ASU stars–threw out the first pitch at Packard Stadium, five miles from San Francisco’s Scottsdale Stadium where Bonds had been working the past week. Though a less egregious decision than that of the Giants, as Bonds was an All-American legend in Tempe presumably before any PED usage, ASU still appeared keen on ignoring Bonds’ past misdeeds and receiving him as untainted baseball hero. Thus, the team’s decision displayed yet another questionable choice by the general whole of the baseball world with respect to its steroid dilemma. 

And while this stance may seem callous and unforgiving, it’s important to note that before we can give the slightest of pardons to Barry Bonds, he must be the one taking the first steps to asking for forgiveness, starting by the most humbling of acts: plainly accepting his fault.

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