OK, let’s get this out of the way. Barry Bonds sits 4 home runs shy of tying Hank Aaron’s all-time home run mark. The whole race has been a divisive issue in baseball, what with the steroid investigation hanging over the whole thing. Many say Bonds cheated and shouldn’t get the record. Some say everyone cheated and he still hit those home runs, so he should get the record. You know the debate, it’s pretty well established in most baseball outlets.
What I think is missing in some of these discussions is one basic point: Bonds is not a nice guy. It’s been fairly well documented that he’s a me-first type of jerk, at least most of the time. I’m sure that he has his moments and that his family and friends love him, but he doesn’t put on much of a face for America, and that’s his right. He doesn’t have to be all cute and cuddly.
However, when you go out of your way to alienate most of the people following you, don’t expect them to give you much of the benefit of the doubt when it comes to situations like this. I think that, even with all the same information out there, if Bonds was more of a Ken Griffey Jr. type, who seemed to have fun and was well respected in fan circles, more people would be willing to push the steroids stuff out of the way and celebrate this acheivement.
That’s really how it worked with McGwire and Sosa. There are still more people that will give them the benefit of the doubt than will Bonds, though that leaked grand jury testimony does have something to do with that. But more importantly, we liked those guys in ’98. We loved the fact that they knew they were doing something big, that they were playing off of each other and getting into it. The lovefest that was #62 in Busch Stadium went a long way.
When Bonds hit #73 a couple of years later, sure, part of the lackluster response was the fact that the record was only 3 years old, and of course it came in the shadow of September 11. But I believe that if Bonds had been in the running for the record in ’98 with his personality, most people would have been wanting him to fall short. And that was before any of the steroid stuff really came out.
So, in summary, be nice to people. They’ll be a lot nicer to you if you are.