Let me preface this article by noting that I am a lifelong, die-hard, bleed orange and black Giants fan. However, I have not exactly been the most staunch supporter of Barry Bonds—the man. Barry Bonds the player, well that's a whole separate issue.
Today, the MLB Players' Union has come out and said they intend to file a grievance against the league for colluding to keep Bonds out of baseball.
What took so long? It should've been painfully clear that no team was going to sign Bonds for the 2008 season. As soon as the Giants cut ties with the all time home run leader, he should have been on his way to ink a contract with at least half a dozen teams.
Why not? Plain and simple: Collusion.
Bud Selig wants absolutely nothing to do with Barry Bonds. He refused to follow Bonds' quest to break Hank Aarons' home run mark in 2007, and even had to be reminded to stand-up upon Bonds' record tying swat.
Believe me, I give Selig all the credit in the world for doing some fantastic things for baseball. Revenue sharing is brilliant. The Wild Card has given hope to countless teams year-in and year-out. The World Baseball Classic is even sort of fun, if not quirky. He even managed to bring fans back to the yards after the 1994 player strike.
Of course, it wasn't until 1998's epic home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa did fans start to really come back in mass numbers. Although, I hasten to consider the use of an asterisk on that claim.
But the bottom line is Selig loathes Bonds for his (supposed) use of performance enhancing drugs. Well, that's just not fair. The fact of the matter is, steroids were good for baseball.
Without performance enhancers pervading baseball for probably the last 10 years, the game would have suffered from an almost complete disdainful disinterest from fans. The gaudy numbers and statistics put up in what's come to be known as the "Steroids Era" turned baseball into real entertainment.
Remember Nike's ad "Chicks dig the long ball?" Everybody does.
Remember when 30 home runs was a small number? I do. You do, too.
Remember when everybody idolized Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and guys of their ilk? Fantasy baseball was easy then.
We all turned a blind eye to performance enhancers. The numbers were fun—as ridiculous as they may have been. Then the steroids scandal breaks, and all-of-a-sudden we cry foul?
Congress gets involved and Bud Selig commissions George Mitchell to a McCarthy-like witch-hunt on the players. McGwire and Sosa disappear. Ballplayers turn into tight-lipped statues. And fans complain that they knew all along that something wasn't right and all of the obvious steroids users should be crucified.
Those players that made the choice to use performance enhancers made a mistake. A regrettable one. But one that Bud Selig and we as fans goaded them towards.
McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro—they deserve better.
Barry Bonds deserves treatment so much better than he is receiving.
Like it or not, Bonds filled stadiums wherever he and his less than mediocre Giants team traveled. The man was a zoo, but the player was a real three ring circus.
And beyond the revenue he brought to other stadiums, the guy was still the most feared hitter in all of baseball. His 2007 statistics would have warranted a kings' ransom in his subsequent contract.
But Bonds never signed another contract, despite the best efforts of he and his agent Jeff Borris.
Bud Selig must figure that if the circus ceases to come to town, people will find other ways to amuse themselves—and, in a progressive world—forget all about the circus.
Unfortunately, it will be difficult to forget about Bonds. He is, for better or worse, the all-time home run king. Say what you want, but he's earned that.
He's also earned the right to play Major League Baseball.
The fact that 30 teams, in small, medium, and major markets, all of which know that baseball is a business before it's anything else, wouldn't sign the cash circus that is Barry Bonds is unfathomable.
As a fan of the game (and I am a fan of baseball above any allegiance I may have to the Giants), I feel deprived of the chance to continue to watch the greatest hitter of my generation continue to perform at a high level. Barry Bonds should be batting clean-up for somebody.
I applaud the Giants for deciding that the 2008 season was going to be dedicated to a youth movement with eyes set on building for the future. However, I, like I'm sure most other Giants fans, thought we'd still get the chance to see Bonds play another year or two somewhere else.
I cheer for Barry Bonds, the player. It's so rare to know that you as a fan are watching somebody make baseball history every time he steps to the plate. In a game that truly relishes and holds sacred its legends (induction to the baseball Hall of Fame is probably the most difficult to attain), Bonds will stand the test of time.
Yes, nobody sparks more debate and controversy in baseball than Barry Bonds. But, any true fan would be lucky and happy to have him in the middle of their teams' order.
Barry Bonds deserves so much better than baseball is giving him—especially after all he has given to baseball.