The Batter or the Bat?
No this article is not about politics, but it is about America. It is about our culture, how we see ourselves, and how we see our icons. Like him or not, think he is juiced or not, Barry Bonds is an icon.
Barry Bonds is now chasing Hank Aaron's all-time home-run record of 755. Bonds, as of June 11, 2007, had 747. Bonds is not my favorite baseball player, that place is taken by Tony Gwynn. Nonetheless, I think Bonds is unfairly treated by the media and the fans, because the media lives on scandal.
Some say Bonds is, or was, on the "juice," steroids. But allow me to compare his output vs. Aaron's, and see if the numbers support that theory.
Both show a fairly steady improvement with age, until age 40, when things started breaking down for both of them. Aaron's output really suffered; Bond's less so. This can be partly attributed to Bond's dedication to strength training, which was not so pronounced in Hank Aaron's era. Such training late in life can do miracles. Witness Albert Beckles' second-place finish in the 1985 Mr. Olympia contest (to Lee Haney, who won eight times, breaking Schwartzenegger's record of seven) at the age of 55! He was older than the first- and third-place finishers combined!
We also note a drop in Bond's at-bats per home-run in 2000, when he reached an even more impressive level. There are several possible causes. First, he started "juicing up" -- taking steroids. Allegedly. Without clear proof, I like to think he did not. Second, there was considerable league expanssion up to 1998, diluting out the pitching talent. The third is that he switched bats.
MLB made maple bats legal in 1998. Bonds started using one in 1999. Now, about half of the MLB players do. The first broken-bat home-run was made with a maple bat. Maple bats are simply harder than ash ones, and the ball comes off the bat faster.
One more factor goes into Bonds success. When he tied Wille Mays' mark of 660, Bonds was met at the plate with a hug and a kiss from his godfather and mentor -- Wille Mays.
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