All but forgotten by the masses for the better part of seven seasons. Condemned by the lords of the game. Denounced by the men and women who wrote about his sport.
But Barry Bonds is back in Major League Baseball. He’s back because someone inside the San Francisco Giants organization had the courage to remember what a great ballplayer Bonds was.
And maybe sportswriters who cover the game will remember his greatness, too. For they are the ones, as much as the lords of baseball, that had pushed Bonds to the fringes of the game. They are the ones who have let their pettiness keep Bonds, baseball’s all-time home-run king, from his rightful place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Isn’t Cooperstown where the greats of the game go?
So why isn’t Bonds there?
To revisit the “why” would be pointless. The better thing to do is to just remind voters and fans alike of all Bonds has meant to baseball and hope, if not pray, that the dastards who vote for induction put aside their pettiness and write “Bonds” on their next Hall-of-Fame ballot.
For he has been in exile long enough.
Bonds was Hall-of-Fame good – the best of his time, if not necessarily the best there ever was.
To not celebrate that about him is to pretend all of his records don’t exist; it is to turn fact into fiction; it is to treat an entire era – Bonds’ era, Alex Rodriguez’s era, Roger Clemens’ era – as if it were a dream.
For no one since Babe Ruth produced power like Bonds did. Mark McGwire also had an impressive run of homers during his ’roids-fueled assault on the single-season record of 61. McGwire sped past 61 in the summer of ’98 when his total hit 70.
That record didn’t last long. Bonds bettered McGwire’s mark three years later, and his mark, too, was the result of substances baseball didn’t want its players to use.
Was that Bonds’ fault or baseball’s?
The lords of the game had no strict policy that prevented Bonds from turning his body into a drugstore. But some people wanted to play revisionists; they wanted to pretend what they saw Bonds and other men do in the eight summers between 1998 and 2005 didn’t happen.
Those summers happened, though. Bonds was part of those summers. We can’t forget those summers – or him. We can’t erase his records, no more than we can erase McGwire’s summer of ’98 when the single-season record for home runs became breakable.
To keep Bonds in exile means they should close the joint, for Cooperstown has a place for no one if it can’t let the man atop the all-time homer list in. He belongs there just as much as the Babe, Henry Aaron and Willie Mays do.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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Follow Justice B. Hill on Twitter: @jbernardh
(Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)