Call it tainted if you want, but Bonds’ HR record stands

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - SPORTS - Jay Dunn Base­ball

On Aug. 27, shortly af­ter Gian­carlo Stan­ton ripped his 50th homer, I heard a ra­dio talk show host spec­u­late on his chances of reach­ing 62, which the talk show host said would con­sti­tute a record. The host added that only those “will­ing to look the other way” think the record is 73.

Will­ing to look the other way?

‘Scuse me, but I’m look­ing di­rectly at the record book and it tells me that the mark for most home runs in a sin­gle sea­son is — in­deed — 73. It says it was achieved in 2001 by a player named Barry Bonds. To deny that is to claim — uh — al­ter­na­tive facts.

Bonds was 36 years old in 2001. Most peo­ple, in­clud­ing me, strongly sus­pect he achieved his record with the help of steroids. We know that Mark McGwire had used steroids in 1998 when he hit 70 be­cause he ad­mit­ted it. Sammy Sosa is be­lieved to have used steroids the same year when he clouted 66.

That leaves Roger Maris, who hit 61 in 1961, as the holder of the unofficial “clean” home run record. If Stan­ton beats that it would be a no­table achieve­ment.

But it would not be a record.

Mil­lions of peo­ple — and I’m one of them — find it dis­ap­point­ing that such a sig­nif­i­cant base­ball record was achieved un­der very du­bi­ous cir­cum­stances. Be­ing dis­ap­pointed, how­ever, doesn’t give us a li­cense to re­write his­tory.

The fact re­mains that Bonds hit 73 homers dur­ing the 2001 sea­son. It is also a fact is that he hit 762 homers dur­ing his 22-year ca­reer, and that’s also a record. We can’t erase those homers or pre­tend they weren’t hit.

Some would ar­gue that base­ball should at least put an as­ter­isk next to Bonds’ name in the record books. What a can of worms that would con­sti­tute.

If an as­ter­isk goes next to Bonds’ home run records, what about the all­time hits leader — a fel­low named Pete Rose? What about Shoe­less Joe Jack­son, whose life­time bat­ting av­er­age is the third best in his­tory? Should their achieve­ments be de­noted with as­ter­isks?

Both of them were per­ma­nently banned from base­ball be­cause of their in­ter­ac­tions with gam­blers. Nei­ther is el­i­gi­ble for the Hall of Fame.

Many Hall of Fame vot­ers, in­cluded me, have re­fused to vote for Bonds be­cause of his ap­par­ent use to steroids. But he re­mains el­i­gi­ble and might some­day be en­shrined.

More­over, while we’re look­ing at facts, here’s a few that need to be con­sid­ered. Bonds has never ad­mit­ted to the use of steroids and no one has been able to prove that he did. He never failed a drug test, per­haps be­cause base­ball didn’t test for steroids dur­ing most of the years that he played. He was never con­victed in court, per­haps be­cause a key wit­ness elected to go to prison rather than come into the court­room and tes­tify. The cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence against him might seem over­whelm­ing, but there is no smok­ing gun.

Plac­ing an of­fi­cial as­ter­isk in the record books could cre­ate un­nec­es­sary le­gal is­sues for Ma­jor League Base­ball.

Stan­ton ap­pears to have a le­git­i­mate chance to match or sur­pass Maris’ to­tal, but there ap­pears to be lit­tle chance that he could reach 73. Al­though he has said Bonds’ record is “tainted,” he has be­grudg­ingly ac­knowl­edged that it is, in­deed, the record.

It is, whether we hap­pen to like it or not. Char­lie Black­mon Twins Yan­kees Lackey Ricky No­lasco Hall of Fame voter Jay Dunn has writ­ten base­ball for Dig­i­tal First Me­dia for 49 years. Con­tact him at jay­dunn8@aol.com

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