Barry Bonds Is Unethical

Brandon HeikoopSenior Analyst IDecember 24, 2008

Over at the Hardball Times there is a well-written, albeit illogical, rationale regarding why teams did not sign Barry Bonds for the 2008 season. THT writer John Brattain has spent much of the season putting together a series of asserting that MLB has intentionally avoided Barry and done so wrongfully.

To start, I will reaffirm to everyone that I am an official Barry Bonds apologist. I always thought the needle-throwing incidents, while humorous, were inappropriate and appeared to align with jealousy and envy over anything else.

That is, I simply do not feel that the chance that Bonds did steroids was worthy of the scrutiny that he received (keep in mind, this "chance" has increased exponentially in the last four years, although it still is not confirmed with any legitimate evidence).

Barry Bonds is still a phenomenal ballplayer. If the court of public opinion had not already drawn up its verdict regarding Bonds' alleged steroid use, the 2007 season should have gone a long way in guiding Bonds to innocence. I mean, how many 43-year-old ballplayers put up a wOBA of .429? A non-park adjusted rate that would have been good for No. 6 in all of Major League Baseball had Bonds qualified. Keep this fact in mind.

All that being said, in similar fashion to John Brattain, I do feel as though Bonds would have helped a number of teams in the 2008 season. His impending trial would not have affected how many games he played, at worst giving Bonds some much needed time off from the baseball world.

While there is a legitimate reason to believe that the fans of the teams Bonds could have helped would have been disappointed regarding the signing of Barry Bonds. But how many of them would have truly turned their backs on their favorite MLB franchise? How many of them wouldn't have come pouring through the turnstiles in the midst of a postseason race in August and September? How many of them would have rejected the playoffs because of speculation?

If, of a team's fan base, more than 5 percent were truly against the Bonds signing so much so that they would bail from following the team, I would be surprised. While it may take some time to warm up to Barry, even in the worst of lights, his game would have created enough buzz to forget, at least temporarily, why people hated the best player of all time.

Back to the article at hand. Jack Marshall is labelled an "ethicist," a questionable moniker if there ever was one. This, in my opinion, is the equivalent of the faux pas it would have been for a professional snowboarder to call himself a "pro" a decade ago. This is like religions battling over who is going to be saved. This is an interesting profession and comically un-ethical.

Getting to the article, the author asks, "Are baseball commentators really so disconnected from the ethical imperatives of the game?" He mentions these "imperatives" later, but they are a joke. He claims that these "imperatives" are obvious due to one case, the Red Sox potentially avoiding the drafting of Clay Buchholz due to a high school incident. I don't think I need to remind everyone how that turned out. Yes, the Red Sox still drafted Clay and he has vaulted up the club's prospect rankings.

Now I'm not a "logicist," but has the author not heard of negotiation tactics? Is he also 100 percent certain that this is factual? Could this not simply been one of the "cons"? Nope, not according to the author. It is an open and shut case in his opinion.

It's too bad jumping to conclusions is ethical.

The author also fails to properly report facts. "Can anyone imagine a pro football team hesitating for one second from drafting a promising prospect because of something like this?"

Yes, there is a penalty for teams drafting players with a "history" if that player gets into trouble with his drafted team. There is also a strict personal conduct policy in the National Football League. What does baseball have?

The author asks another question, "Do they really not grasp what signing Barry Bonds, for any amount of money or no amount at all, would have meant?" To which he himself never really answers, maybe I can piece some sort of logic together.

"[S]igning Bonds in order to make the playoffs would have been a dubious and foolish deal for any team, even if one buys the questionable assumption that he would have played well enough to hold up his end of it."

"Questionable assumption"? Based on what? Yes, Barry would have been 44 years old in 2008, but is this author really trying tell me that it was likely that Bonds would fall off the map as a designated hitter? We would be talking a fairly substantial fall as well. That is, Bonds' non-park adjusted wOBA of .429 would need to plummet nearly 100 points in order for him to be worse than the league average designated hitter.

The author then points to the Mitchell Report as his evidence why teams were justified in avoiding Barry. We do recall that the major sources in the Mitchell Report were essentially drug dealers, right? Either way, I find it depressing that the lawyer and ethicist author is: a) taking the opinion of a drug dealer, and b) acting upon Napoleonic Law (guilty until proven innocent). How ethical is it to circumvent due process and figure that a person is guilty based on a tiny amount of evidence?

In case you thought it was hilarious that the author tried to suggest that Bonds wouldn't help a team, you might want to cover your eyes for this next doozy.

"Cynics may scoff, and Barry himself couldn’t care less, but baseball is the one professional sport that carries with it a duty to the American culture. Character counts in America, and baseball is bound by history, tradition and its role in legend and myth to make certain that character counts on its playing fields as well. Baseball players, as Bill James quite accurately stated, are paid to be heroes. The sport does not have the raw physical display of football, or the speed of basketball, or the simple-minded appeal of soccer. What it does have that no other professional sport even values very much is integrity, or at least an appreciation that integrity is important."

Carries the duty of American culture? I think the author means Melanophobia, right Houston?

Let's skip through the bulk of that quote as much of it comes off as ignorant and comical. But let's tough on "integrity." Is the author really trying to tell us that the baseball executives, journalists, and fans of the 90s truly thought steroid use was "ethical"? There was no integrity at the height of the steroid era. There was a campaign to encourage hitters to take more steroids.

It has been well documented that teams shifted their focus toward weight training in light of the home run explosions. In Howard Bryant's "Juicing the Game," the author has multiple sources suggesting teams use to provide amphetamines for its players. Baseball has integrity? Since when?!?

"But the Mitchell Report, released a year ago, was a crystal-clear announcement that the sport was banishing its ethical ambiguity on the matter of performance-enhancing drugs."

Crystal clear? Taking the word of a man with a gun to his head is "crystal clear"? I'm sorry, but I really cannot understand how one can make that conclusion. What the Mitchell Report did was name some names and force it down the public's throat. For a couple years prior to the report, baseball had been attacking its steroid problem head on. Not a whole lot has changed since the report, at least nothing that is "crystal clear."

"Cheating was not cool, and cheaters were not welcome. The conduct was officially inconsistent with the values and best interests of the game (as it had, in fact, always been), and the owners, players, teams and fans were hereby expected to heed that fact."

How is Bonds a "cheat"? Did he break any rules? Did he do something out of the ordinary? Let's agree that he did PEDs. Was this against the rules of baseball? Were they throwing the book at Bonds' peers while Bonds invariably threw his teammates under the bus? What logic can one have to assert that Bonds "cheated"? How would one define "cheat" or "to cheat" in order to conclude that Barry in fact did cheat?

The fact is, Bonds did not "cheat," he simply was an amazing player who benefited from baseball turning a blind eye.

This isn't like a student copying off of a peer's test when the teacher isn't looking. This is like driving over the speed limit and then slowing down in areas where police officers typically park. This is like not properly counting your change at the grocery store, not noticing that the cashier gave you an extra 50 cents.

According to the author, "A team could employ one of the many mediocre, borderline or journeyman players whose names appeared in the Mitchell Report without making the implied statement that it was endorsing and rewarding a cheat."


Well, according to the author, it is because Bonds broke records. The author asserts that Bonds did so on the back of PEDs and PEDs alone. It would come as no surprise if the author believes Bonds was using in 2007, and probably still is today.

"[H]is career stood for the proposition that steroid use could turn a great player into a super-human juggernaut, shattering all previous limits; that they could allow players to improve dramatically when historically athletes began to decline; that the drugs could lengthen their careers, make the players become more valuable to their teams, and earn them millions more dollars than they would have earned otherwise—and they could get away with it."

A "great" player? Lance Berkman is a "great" player. Chipper Jones is a "great" player. Barry Bonds was historical prior to any steroid allegations. He was historical prior to even becoming a feared home run hitter. Had Barry Bonds retired after the 1999 season he would have been a Hall of Fame no-brainer, and would have gone down in history as one of the best hitters of all time.

What did the steroid use do? Honestly, we don't and won't ever know. In 2006 and 2007 Bonds was 42 and 43 years old. During these years, which are labelled as "post-steroid," Bonds was still in the upper echelon of hitters in all of baseball. Wait?!? Players aren't supposed to do that sort of stuff. He must have been still using.

As we can see from Bonds' age 42 and 43 season, clearly his career would have been long no matter what. In fact, there is a legitimate argument to be made that steroids have shortened his career. I mean, isn't rapid degeneration of muscles, joints, etc. one of the main reasons steroids aren't prescribed more frequently?

Also, isn't there a legitimate argument that steroids took money out of Bonds' pocket? Think about it. While Bonds was making a lot of money, how much more would he have made if there wasn't a Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, or juiced-up pitchers?

The author then goes about an interesting scale called the Cognitive Dissonance Scale. In summary, this scale is a popularity index. For example, I love apples, but hate bananas. I find out apples are bananas and begin to like apples less, and bananas more.

What I don't see is how this relates to Barry Bonds.

The author is telling us that Mets and Jays fans (and other "also-ran" franchises) would feel better in October watching other teams in MLB's playoff then their favorite simply because of an accusation?

Let's put it this way, and maybe I am in the minority, but October 2008 was half as enjoyable as October 2007 because the Indians were not in the postseason. This, coming from an individual who simply loves baseball and doesn't spend an intense amount of time following a single team.

That said, there is very little the Indians could have done to get into the playoffs that would have pushed me to the brink of not cheering for them. Very little.

"I would not continue to follow or support the team if it embraced the warped ethics of Barry Bonds and the steroid apologists by signing him. I would, I am quite sure, actively dislike the team until a new regime took over, and it would probably never regain my previous level of loyalty or good will. Cognitive dissonance dictates that the team’s unavoidable decline on the value scale would also pull down others associated closely with it, such as its players, management, and major league baseball itself."

This is interesting. The author discussed the Clay Buchholz issue and seemingly had no issue with that. The Red Sox employed David Wells recently, and we all know how little Wells stands up for. What about the team acquiring Paul Byrd for the playoff run? I'm sure there are many other scenarios where players have had questionable ethical considerations, so why is Barry any different? Why would Bonds affect this author's fan-ship?

This is sounding more of personal vengeance then logic. Logic would suggest that you stand up for what is wrong no matter what. Personal vengeance is taking a stance when it suits you. One is ethical, the other is wishy-washy.

"Sure: some factors could raise a player’s score: cooperating with Mitchell (Giambi), apologizing (Pettitte), minimal use (Paul Byrd), not being good or healthy enough to matter (lots of guys). But Bonds had many factors that deepened his negative score: greed, warping the records, encouraging other players to use by his success, arrogance, embarrassing the sport through his prominence, and more."

Greed? How was Barry greedy?

Warping the records? The ones he would have already "warped"?

Encouraging other players to use by his success? Right, because Barry was at the forefront of steroid chemistry. Bonds was the first one to stick a needle in his backside. Bonds was only successful through the addition of drugs.

Arrogance? Oh, because Bonds doesn't like the media.

Embarrassing the sport through his prominence? The author is talking about the prominence which Bonds did not create himself.

Is it ethical to have a preconceived notion prior to writing a piece of this sort? The author asserts that a team adding Bonds would be making a "questionable assumption" that Barry would add offensively, yet has nothing to back this up (i.e. his previous season in the majors, which was among the best in all of baseball).

This is a maddening article written by a non-baseball mind about a non-baseball subject. It is depressing that such a legitimate site as the Hardball Times would post such a piece of garbage.

People are welcome to have their opinions, but have something to back it up. Has some logic and reason. Don't step into the pool when it is the thing everyone else is doing (i.e. hating Bonds and steroids) and step out when the story is under the radar (i.e. Paul Byrd and steroids). Be a man! Go all in, or don't go at all!


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