Tuesday, March 07, 2006


If you had any doubt in your mind that Barry Bonds took steroids to enhance his performance, today's bombshell from Sports Illustrated will probably end that. Two San Francisco Chronicle reporters (Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams) have been investigating the story in conjunction with the BALCO investigation for over two years, and here's an excerpt from the SI story:
Beginning in 1998 with injections in his buttocks of Winstrol, a powerful steroid, Barry Bonds took a wide array of performance-enhancing drugs over at least five seasons in a massive doping regimen that grew more sophisticated as the years went on, according to Game of Shadows, a book written by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters at the forefront of reporting on the BALCO steroid distribution scandal.

Here's the main link to the story:

I took a looks at career statistics for Bonds, and here are some numbers for his at bats per home run:

Those are great numbers, in case you're wondering. Averaging a home run every 13-14 at bats is Hall of Fame power. Look at what happens starting in 1999, though:

If you're wondering how often that happened to a player in his thirties before the steroid era, the answer is--never. To repeat: never.

Does the same suspicious pattern exist with many others players of that era, including Sosa and McGwire? Absolutely. Sosa's changes from one "era" to the next are nothing short of ridiculous, and while McGwire had power as a rookie, including probably the greates power season ever for a first-year player (49 HR, 557 AB in probably the toughest power park in baseball at that time), he only had 32 HR the following year with almost the same number of at bats.

McGwire killed baseball for me, I'm sorry to say. I was sitting in the outfield bleachers in St. Louis when he hit 66-70 in 1998, and it was one of the greatest moments of my life. I know I've told this story before, but I bought tickets in MAY for those three games because I was so convinced that he was going to break Roger Maris's record. For four months, I followed every game and watched as many as I could, and the whole time I knew I was going to be right.

And I was right, and man, did that feel good. We had tickets in Section 593 (just left of dead center field), and as we were walking to the game on Saturday, we passed a guy trying to buy a ticket from a scalper.

"Got anything in 593?" he asked.

"Man, nobody's got anything in 593!" said the scalper. But we did. Two of those home runs that weekend landed within twenty feet of us.

That might well have been the single most exciting weekend of my life.

I also admired how straightforward McGwire was personally, or how straightforward he seemed to be. And he was an incredibly charismatic figure, larger than life. He was a modern-day Paul Bunyan.

I thought.

So when the Congressional hearings unfolded, they hit me hard. Very hard. To see his legacy destroyed--by himself--was unbearably painful to watch. I felt sick. I still do.

So I can't really bring myself to watch baseball anymore. That wasn't the only reason, and I'll still watch every post-season elimination game the Yankees play (hating the Yankees is one of the finest traditions in sports), but it will never be the same.

That's why I'm so incredibly pleased with MLB '06 this year. Sony delivered a wonderful baseball game, and in the game, I can still pretend that baseball is the way I remember it and not what it means to me now.

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