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Extra Innings: This juice is squeezed

As many baseball fans know, for the longest time, Babe Ruth was the home run king. With a grand total of 714 of the suckers in his career, the Babe was the epitome of power hitting.

And then Hank Aaron came along. Finishing his career with 755 homers, Aaron surpassed Ruth in the record books. And he earned every single home run he's credited with. A deserving champion.

Unfortunately, a sad event is looming for Major League Baseball. Barry Bonds, the slugger most often associated with steroids, is only a few home runs away from breaking Ruth's record. Don't get me wrong - I have no problem with Ruth's record falling. At this point, it's not even anything to celebrate as Aaron already broke it.

What my problem is though, is that Bonds has cheated his way to this place. Yes, I know that he's never tested positive but in every baseball fan's heart, the knowledge is there. Just like McGwire, just like Sosa, just like Palmeiro — all cheaters.

A book titled Game of Shadows was recently published. This book chronicles the highly sophisticated — and highly illegal — steroid regiment that Bonds was on beginning with the 1998 season when he supposed chose to start juicing as a result of jealousy over the attention McGwire and Sosa were receiving. On top of that, MLB just launched an investigation into the dark steroid past of the sport. A little late? Yeah. Necessary. Yeah.

It’s easier to deal with the random players that test positive for steroids now in the game. The guys like Alex Sanchez don’t really mean anything. They don’t sell tickets, the entire record book isn’t written around them. But the Palmeiroes and the Bondses, these guys are in the upper echelon of the sport. Bonds is aiming for the most sacred mark in all of sports and he’s ahem, allegedly, cheated his way there. Even if an investigation shows that Bonds took every possible illegal substance every chance he got, you’ll hear the argument that baseball didn’t have rules against it prior to 2002. The question though is, did baseball really need anti-steroid rules when they were illegal in the real world? I’m sure baseball doesn’t have a rule about killing another player but those of us in the real world play by that rule — shouldn’t that translate onto the field?

There's no easy way to deal with the past decade plus of inflated records. Maybe it should just be the Asterisk Era with every record up for examination. The single season home run record should be returned to Roger Maris, who won it back in '61. He had to live with an asterisk for years as people felt that the difference in games played compared to Ruth (154 to 162) gave him an edge.

But Maris never cheated.

Maybe the best thing that we can all do when the day comes when Bonds passes Ruth — and even possibly passes Aaron — is to just ignore it. Pretend that it never even happened. Never mention his name to our children. Stop writing about him. As much as Bonds has shunned the fans during his career, what if we shunned him? Could he just fade away as if just a bad dream?

Here’s hoping Bonds fades away.

Originally published in the Cardinal Courier (Volume 5-Issue 11; April 5, 2006).
Bill Kuchman
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