…so we need something to talk about.
This August the San Francisco Giants will retire number 25, in honor of Barry Bonds.
I’m offended by this. Given Bonds’ proclivities for sociopathic behavior, this honor besmirches the legacies of other former Giants greats, like John McGraw and Gaylord Perry. (Looks sideways, eyebrows raised…)
I was going to leave that as a snarky social media post, but there’s actually a larger, (slightly) more in depth point to be made.
When it comes to honoring former players, managers, commissioners (…ugh…) for the baseball Hall of Fame or retirement ceremonies involving plaques and numbers, we need to stop using behavior and 20/20 hindsight sanctimony as reasons they should not be honored.
It’s almost five months away and I can already hear the “cheater!, ‘roid user!” cries from the baseball illiterati with regards to Bonds’ honor. These cries of course, are completely based on the premise that prior to Barry Bonds, baseball was a game based on honor, fair play, and integrity.
This could not be further from the truth. Since the 19th century, many (most?) players, owners and managers bent and/or willfully broke the rules in an attempt to gain an advantage that would help them win. It’s been covered far more extensively elsewhere, so I won’t re-hash, but keep in mind:
The aforementioned Hall of Famer Perry barely even made an attempt to hide his “cheating’.
John McGraw, in addition to less minor departures from normative behavior, once needed to skip town quickly after a game as he (and some of his players) were about to be arrested for umpire intimidation. Actually, it was beating an umpire into unconsciousness, but while quibble with the legal jargon.
There are Klan members in the Hall of Fame. There are illegal drug users in the Hall of Fame – drugs from which they gained a competitive advantage.
Closer to home, there’s a two time convicted felon with a plaque in Yankee Stadium’s monument park that’s twice the size of Lou Gehrig’s monument.
I don’t really want to be in the business of defending a sociopath like Bonds. Frankly, his greatness as a player was only approached by his despicability.
But here’s your friendly PSA, courtesy of My Baseball Page:
When opining about who are deserving recipients of honors for achievement in baseball, don’t base your vocalizations on a bullshit premise. Fair play and integrity have never – never – been big parts of baseball. If you think they have, you really haven’t done your homework. I’m here to tell you that if you feel Barry Bonds is undeserving of any honor regarding him for what he was – one of the best three players to ever walk on a field – then your idea is based on a weak premise, to put it mildly, and is therefore…weak.
Is it opening day yet?