Looking for a Stance on Bonds
From the treadmill at the Sport & Health club Thursday morning, I watched a “SportsCenter” highlight of Barry Bonds hitting another home run Wednesday night. This was Bonds’s seventh home run of the season and the 741st of his career. Hampered by injuries the past two years, Bonds, 42, is healthier and on a tear. If Bonds could keep this up, Hank Aaron’s record of 755 home runs could be surpassed before the Fourth of July.
This leaves me and millions of baseball fans — including Commissioner Bud Selig — in a state of limbo. We don’t know how to feel about this guy. We don’t know how to measure Bonds’s accomplishments, what to think about the cherished record he’s about to set or how to feel about him personally. Aaron, the current home run king who retired after the 1976 season, has no plans to be on hand when Bonds ties or surpasses his record. Selig hasn’t decided, according to his spokesman.
For several years, Bonds has been suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs (he’s never tested positive), as well as being a central figure in several investigations of drug use by baseball players. Outside of his own burg of San Francisco, Bonds clearly ranks among the least-liked major figures in sports.
Still, New York Times sports columnist Bill Rhoden wrote Monday that “if baseball ever hopes to get out from under the so-called steroid era that it was slow in dealing with and move on, Aaron and commissioner can set the tone. Attend the ceremony for Bonds, acknowledge the achievement.”
Rhoden’s suggestion, while high-minded, still leaves many in a quandary. Do we root for him, or the opposing pitcher? Do we sneer at the San Franciscans who ignore the incriminating stories on Bonds by the Chronicle reporters? Do we shut Bonds off completely because, as many have suggested, “Please, we don’t want to read about him anymore.”
For guidance on the matter, I sought advice from a friend, Matthew Simon, who is Rabbi Emeritus at B’nai Israel Synagogue in Rockville, and Father Bill Byrne, the Catholic chaplain at the University of Maryland.
“Part of Bonds’s problem is he does not endear himself to anyone,” Simon said. “We really want a ‘Nice Guys’ Hall of Fame and Bonds doesn’t fit.
“But what if Bonds is innocent of the drug charges? I’m a believer in the doctrine of innocent until proven guilty, or if needed, repentance.
“And if it’s proven that Bonds had chemical assistance,” Simon added, “put an asterisk by his name, as the baseball commissioner [Ford Frick] did when Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in a 162-game season when Babe Ruth had hit 60 in 154 games. “There are precedents in sports.” Byrne said: “It’s difficult to convict anyone without evidence. And this is about guilt or innocence — not a popularity contest. He hasn’t been convicted of anything. For the commissioner — and all of baseball — the rule of law should apply.
“Besides, I’d rather congratulate a guilty man than spurn an innocent one.”
Drafts to Remember
I love day one of the NFL draft. So much hope, so much action, so many happy relatives. Who doesn’t think his team stole the day? I don’t.
I don’t understand why the Redskins chose LSU safety LaRon Landry with the No. 6 pick in the first round. Don’t they already have one Pro Bowler (Sean Taylor) at the position? Wouldn’t a defensive lineman have been a better choice? The Redskins puzzle me.
Still, my favorite Redskins drafts occurred from 1943 through 1959, when each team had at least 25 selections, plus an occasional bonus pick (Alabama QB Harry Gilmer to the Redskins in 1948). Such quantity would have left ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. in an exhausted heap.
Wouldn’t you know it, the Redskins’ first draft, in 1937, the year the team moved to Washington from Boston, might have been their best: “With the sixth pick of the first round, the Redskins take quarterback Sammy Baugh from TCU.” Not bad. Baugh, 93, is in the Hall of Fame, one of the greatest players in NFL history.
Some of my other personal favorite Redskins picks include WR Andy Farkas (No. 1, ninth overall) of Detroit in 1938; RB Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice (No. 16) of North Carolina in 1950; DB Lonnie Sanders (No. 2) in 1963 (just ran into him at the Farragut North Metro) of Michigan State; WR-RB Charley Taylor (No. 1, third overall) of Arizona State in 1964; RB Larry Brown (No. 8) of Kansas State in 1969; WR Art Monk (No. 1, 18th overall) of Syracuse in 1980; CB Darrell Green (No. 1, 28th overall) of Texas A&I in 1983; Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), QB (No. 1, third overall) of Tennessee in 1994; and, of course, LaVar (No. 1, second overall) from Penn State in 2000.
Suggestion to Redskins: Bring back LaVar. He’ll be great, better than most of the free agents you’ll overpay.
Draft trivia: The late George Allen, from 1971 to ’77, traded 42 of his top 47 draft picks for veteran players. Allen never used his No. 1 pick. The team of Bobby Beathard-Charlie Casserly-Joe Gibbs traded each of their No. 1 picks from 1984 to ’90. I drafted Feinstein out of Duke for The Post in 1977 and miraculously did not lose my job.
Notes on the Nats
I know Nationals owner Ted Lerner was enamored of the Senators when growing up and living in Washington in the ’40s and ’50s, but did he have to recapture the love by recreating the same kind of stumbling team?
I know, I know. It’s a long season and the organization has a plan: Create a foundation with a solid scouting department that builds a strong farm system with good young players who will develop into first-rate major leaguers. And next year, when the new stadium opens, life changes, as it did in the play “Damn Yankees.” But who needs reruns?
If the results have been shabby on the field, at least announcers Bob Carpenter, Don Sutton (tell me he wouldn’t be the ace of this staff right now?), Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler are good. And it’s nice to have Johnny Holliday on the scene as well.
NHL Update: Sports Week’s link to the playoffs, former Caps coach Ron Wilson, checked in after his San Jose Sharks eliminated Nashville to advance to the semifinals of the Western Conference. Of the NHL’s struggles these days, Wilson says: “We don’t market our players enough. And outside of the occasional display of egregious violence, I guess we aren’t controversial enough to attract attention.”
Remembering his Caps team that reached the Finals in 1998, Wilson said: “We had a lot of guys who probably performed at their best ever for two months. But we were no match for the Wings.” Wilson’s opponent this week: the Wings.
“Friday Night Lights” update: Those in the know say the show is likely to be renewed for next season — but possibly on a reduced budget. What? Like fewer football/life scenes from Dillon, Tex., and more studio shots in Hollywood? Forget that; I need to see Smash and Matt Saracen on the field.
As the Giants’ Barry Bonds, above, closes in on Hank Aaron’s home run record, it’s hard for many people to know how to feel about the controversial slugger’s accomplishments.