Call it tainted if you want, but Bonds’ HR record stands
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 firstname.lastname@example.org