Burt Reynolds did the football-star-in-prison movie. Now maybe Barry Bonds -- along with what I believe are indisputable Hall-of-Fame credentials -- can be the subject of a baseball-star-in-prison movie.
“The Longest Hit’’? “The Longest Needle’’? Ah, if only San Franciscan Bonds had instead played in St. Louis. So he could star in “The Longest Card.’’
Baseball’s all-time home-run champ has been indicted on five felony charges for his 2003 testimony before a grand jury. Barry swore he never used anabolic steroids or HGH. The result: Four charges of perjury, one charge of obstruction of justice, and a cap size that could cover the hole in the Texas Stadium roof.
And now comes the hot debate: Should the despicable Bonds eventually be given a spot in Baseball’s Hall of Fame?
Let’s make it clear, first of all, that the focus on Bonds is no witch hunt. Because, you know, in witch hunts, there weren’t actually any ladies guilty of being witches. In Bonds’ case, he is the Wickedest of the North, South, East and West, in terms of ethics, personality and his “bad’’ (meaning “good’’) performance.
But having said that: Bonds is The Face of the Steroid Era. … and if he doesn’t get into the Hall, then precious few other of his contemporaries should, either. Bonds is dirty,but if his homers “don’t count,’’ than neither do the runs scored by teammates he drove in, and neither do the ERAs of pitchers he opposed. Hell, teams’ won-lost records don’t count!
Bonds is one degree of separation from every person and every occurrence in baseball. And while he is a justifiable fall guy here, I will always be convinced that ALMOST EVERYONE in the sport has, for the last 20 years, been one degree of separation away from steroids. One degree, or fewer.
I see media people arguing that we can never prove that ALMOST EVERYONE did something wrong here. But let me break it down for them, using the one-degree-of-separation argument: Maybe manager Tony LaRussa didn’t USE ‘em. But he benefitted from them, because Mark McGwire used ‘em. Maybe Derek Jeter didn’t USE ‘em. But he benefitted from them, because Jason Giambi used ‘em. Maybe Rangers team president George W. Bush didn’t USE ‘em. But he turned a $600,000 investment into $14 million while supervising a team featuring a bulging pack of ‘roided-up Rangers, so he benefitted from them.
That steroid-connected guy – a man smart enough to be President couldn’t have been dumb enough to not notice his team’s suddenly protruding foreheads and pimply shoulders, could he? – was allowed to be Leader of the Free World. And this steroid-connected Bonds guy can’t be allowed to be a simple citizen of Cooperstown?
Where do we draw the line? Maybe nothing should count if it occurred during the Steroid Era. Maybe everybody – the out-and-out cheaters, the accomplices, the incidental beneficiaries – should be tattooed with a Scarlet Asterisk?
Remember, this isn’t about whether Ty Cobb was a bad guy or whether Gaylord Perry greased it up with Vasoline. This is about Bonds AND Bonds’ contemporaries – all of them – and about a time in sports that cannot be ignored.
Outraged about Barry Bonds? Good. But spread it around to all the kids down a Single-A who were desperately seeking steroids, too. (Ask them about it. I have. They’re all accountants and plumbers and teachers now. They have nothing to lose by admitting the truth: It was everywhere.) Spread it around to Bush and LaRussa and everybody who ever made a buck off the filthy sport.
Why couldn’t Bonds be satisfied with his pre-steroid career, when he was already Hall-bound? What does he say to himself when he peers in a mirror? How does he explain all this to his kids? Good questions all.
Maybe they’ll be answered in the movie version. Barry Bonds definitely belongs in a Hollywood movie. And in jail. And in the Baseball Hall of Fame.