Millions of Americans refuse to believe Barry Bonds employed performance-enhancing substances to fuel his rise to the home-run record. They’ll refuse to believe until Bonds confesses.
Just look at Pete Rose. The Dowd Report, compiled by John Dowd, offered overwhelming evidence Rose bet on baseball, including his own team. Dowd produced betting slips and Rose fingerprints and eyewitnesses, but Rose just shrugged. Ever ready to make an extra buck, he even signed copies of the report and sold them to baseball collectible shops. I saw several of these signed reports in shops in Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Rose always had followers. They would gather around him on his frequent visits to Cooperstown and listen to him preach the gospel – a word he used – of his innocence.
But he wasn’t innocent. That was always evident to anyone who took a rational, as opposed to emotional, look at his case. He was guilty.
Bonds plays the same game. The book “Game of Shadows” offers exhaustive and convincing evidence he used steroids, among other banned substances, to transform his body, but until Bonds comes right out and confesses – as Rose eventually did – he’ll still be blessed with loyal followers.
Bonds is not alone. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi and Rafael Palmeiro are fellow suspects. I talked with a woman at length earlier this month who is convinced McGwire’s outrageous home-run totals were fueled only by vitamins.
Major League Baseball finally introduced a better testing system in 2005, which signaled the beginning of the end of the steroids era. The entire baseball culture, starting with commissioner Bud Selig, shares in the guilt. The Players Association fought testing and watched the credibility of the game get shredded. The owners, fearful of yet another strike, declined to stand up to the players. The era is a sad blight on America’s Pastime. A ridiculous thirst for home runs stained the game forever.
I’ve heard from many Bonds believers in the past few weeks. They overlook his transformation from a slender, quick cat of a player to a muscle-bound slugger. Bonds should think about finding employment in professional wrestling after he retires from baseball.
Yet his supporters see a victim. And they often ask this question:
If Bonds is guilty, why is he still allowed to play baseball?
That’s a good question.
Why is he still allowed to play baseball?