Everyone now knows that Barry Bonds has escaped prison time. He will be under some form of house arrest (in his large house) for a little longer than a month, do community service, and pay a whopping $4,000 fine. Of course, Bonds has appealed.
Major League Baseball has another major-league headache, whether Bonds comes clean now or never. The player with the greatest number of hits, Pete Rose, lives out his lifetime ban. Likewise, there is almost no chance the player with the greatest number of home runs, under present circumstances, will be given much consideration for induction into Cooperstown.
Whether betting on the games as a player is a “worse crime” than shooting HGH is not for me to judge. Under the new labor agreement, MLB finally will clean up its act: That is good.
One of the HGH questions might go like this: “If everybody ‘does it,’ how is this cheating? Who is harmed?” The question is not exactly like asking why drive 55 mph when everyone whizzes by at 70 or faster. (In fact, the inverse appears to apply: At 55, you are more of a danger to others on the road.) Think: What are these athletes, in collusion with players’ associations (“unions”) and owners, communicating to young people? Steroid abuse is insidious. It could ultimately lower life expectancy and quality of later life.
Times change. Sacred baseball records fall. Roger Maris bore an asterisk because he broke the home-run record during a season that had just then been expanded by eight games. Once another Roger, Bannister, broke the four-minute mile, others suddenly were mentally more than physically free to do it. (“The mind forg’d manacles” William Blake wrote about.) Once Babe Ruth started bombing the ball out of stadiums, along came Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Hack Wilson, Mel Ott. There is something heroic about this.