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Jon Heyman has the most sensible Bonds take I’ve seen all day

Apr 14, 2011, 4:00 PM EDT

Barry Bonds

When I woke up this morning I wouldn’t have guessed that the most sensible, spot-on analysis of the Barry Bonds case and legacy among the big national writers would come from Jon Heyman, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t:

Scoundrels and cheats are already in. So are foul-tempered jerks. Bonds may be all three. He is also one of the three greatest players I ever saw in his prime, along with Alex Rodriguez and Rickey Henderson. A baseball Hall of Fame would be empty without Bonds.

Read the whole thing. You could take his name off the top of it and put mine on it and I’d publish it in a second.

  1. thefalcon123 - Apr 14, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    While I agree 100%, this comment is absolutely infuriating coming from Heyman. If you’re going to be a reprehensible douchebag, at least be a consistent one.

  2. sdelmonte - Apr 14, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    So glad he invokes Gaylord Perry. I would love to know if anyone wrote as passionately against Perry being inducted as we see now regarding the PED generation. Obviously, it must have not bothered a lot of voters.

    BTW, did you read JoPo’s efforts to defend Manny? I just found it now, and yet again tip my hat to his skill as a writer and also his willingness to approach things rationally and calmly and to not accept conventional wisdom. (Also, he talks a lot about LBJ. Which is really cool to a history buff like me.)

    • thefalcon123 - Apr 14, 2011 at 4:06 PM

      Robert Caro’s so-far 3 part biography of LBJ is the single greatest thing you’ll ever read. Reading that post made me love Joe Posnanski more than I already did, which I didn’t even know was possible.

      • levistahl - Apr 14, 2011 at 4:19 PM

        Caro’s book on Robert Moses, The Power Broker, all million or so pages of it, is one of the best, most engrossing things I’ve ever read. And I find Johnson’s role in the Civil Rights era absolutely fascinating. So it’s ridiculous that I haven’t read Caro’s book on Johnson. You may have just sent me to the bookstore on my way home today. (Also: agreed–Posnanski’s columns about Manny on his blog and at SI were wonderful.)

  3. calrulz25 - Apr 14, 2011 at 4:23 PM

    I do like the article but here is the one thing I never understood about the steroid issue. Analysts like Heyman claim that they McGwire became the player that he was because of steroids but Bonds was the amazing player he was before he started taking steroids. We have no idea when any of these players started taking steroids. Why are we so naive to believe that players like Bonds waited until 1999 to start taking steroids. It is quite possible that Bonds has been taking steroids his whole career and just waited until 1999 to start taking steroids to bulk up.

    Mark McGwire was hitting home runs since he was a rookie, Bonds was playing well and stealing bases since he was a rookie. They both got bigger in their careers. Why is McGwire’s early success attributed to steroids but Bonds’ early success is not?

    • nudeman - Apr 14, 2011 at 4:39 PM

      Bonds supposedly told those close to him after the McGwire/Sosa steroid-fest of ’98 that 1) he was resentful that nobody noticed what a tremendous all around player he was; and 2) he was going to start juicing that offseason.
      Look at pics of him with the Pirates. Slim, sleek, and athletic. Look at the ‘roided out pics of him with the Giants: Bloated, incredible Hulk-esque, huge head.
      I think it’s fairly easy to tell when he started using. And the shame of Bonds is that he was probably the finest all around player on baseball BEFORE he started using. A true 5 tool guy.

      • dnc6 - Apr 14, 2011 at 4:50 PM

        Nudeman, that is objectively wrong. You just cannot look at a guy and determine when he used steroids. Alex Sanchez and Rafael Betancourt. What day did they turn from slim and sleek into bloated and huge-headed? The problem is that people like Heyman pass off that kind of nonsense, and people like you eat it up and all of a sudden it gets treated as factual

      • calrulz25 - Apr 14, 2011 at 4:53 PM

        What exactly does a steroid user look like? What does a nonsteroid user look like? I know that when we think steroid user we all have that picture in our head of the slugger with bulging biceps and a monstrous head, but what about the steroid user who looks like (admitted steroid user) Brian Roberts. He sure doesn’t look the part of a steroid user but he was. I’m not saying that Bonds necessarily did steroids before he watched that ’98 season. I’m just asking why it’s we all assume that he always did it legally until he decided to do it illegally.

    • mkd - Apr 14, 2011 at 4:47 PM

      I’ve heard this question pop up a few times now. It all boils down to their steroid origin stories. According to Game of Shadows Bonds started using specifically because of the 1998 Home Run Race. McGwire on the other hand was in close contact with Jose Canseco from the beginning of his career and Canseco states very clearly that he and McGwire were using while they were teammates in the late 80s/early 90s

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 14, 2011 at 5:00 PM

        But McGwire still hit 49 HR as a rookie. The guy was always huge, he just got more huge in the late 90s.

        Also, to quibble with Heyman, didn’t the Feds retest the ’03 sample against the cream and clear and find that bonds was on it? Of course he passed the ’03 test, Trevor Graham didn’t send the anonymous sample until 06/03, before that it was designed to pass all known drug tests.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 14, 2011 at 5:55 PM

      I think the difference is that Bonds had excelled at every facet of the game…hit for avg, hit for power, great batting eye, stole bases, ran the bases well, superb defense etc etc. McGwire was kind of a one-trick pony: he hit the ball really far, and that is the one skill that steroids are said to improve the most.

      If you scaled back McGwire’s gaudy HR totals, there would be no discussion about him going into the hall. The same cannot be said about Bonds.

      • explodet - Apr 15, 2011 at 12:21 AM

        Yeah, one-trick pony. Let’s all just ignore the .394 career OBP because it doesn’t fit the rhetoric of him being one-dimensional.

  4. nudeman - Apr 14, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    dnc6 – I didn’t think I’d have to explain this, but ok …

    You are correct in that some steroid users don’t get outrageously buff and bloated like Bonds. Palmeiro never looked the part. Neither did A-Rod, though supposedly he had “man boobs” according to those who saw him without his shirt on.

    On the other hand, any objective person (apparently you’re not in that group) can look at a before and after pics of McGwire, Clemens, Sosa, Canseco and Giambi – all admitted users – and tell they’re juicing. Maybe it can be explained by this: My understanding is that some ‘roids bulk you up; others don’t, but still increase strength, speed, etc. Bonds supposedly was on EVERYTHING. ‘Roids, HGH, etc etc.

    Let me put it another way: Bonds, pre-1999: Ferrari. Bonds, post 1999: School bus.

    • dnc6 - Apr 14, 2011 at 5:21 PM

      Wow. Just wow. Any objective person knows that the only proof of steroids is a positive test. This visual test is filled with hindsight and conjecture. Does Jim Thome get grouped in with them for bulking up? What percentage of guys who bulked up must of used steroids? What percentage of guys who used steroids didn’t bulk up? Those are the kinds of questions we need to ask to truly be objective.

      • nudeman - Apr 14, 2011 at 6:34 PM

        DNC6 – Thome is an interesting case. He actually hit more home runs in a 4 year period (2001-2004) than anyone other than Ruth or Gehrig. Oh … and, ahem … Sosa, McGwire and Bonds.

        Bulked up significantly and had a curious spike in power at an “interesting” time: 1996.

        Is that 100% definitive? No. Is it suspicious? Yes.

        Just my opinion, but I think he was a juicer.

  5. cur68 - Apr 14, 2011 at 6:19 PM

    Lets clear something up. Bonds also took insulin. Not just because it’s a masking agent. It’s the primary mechanism for sugar uptake to fuel cells. Elevated insulin in a normal person (without insulin resistance) has been known to cause macrosomy; growth. Some of his size changes may not have had that much to do with the ‘roids and may have been due to the insulin he was on. It’s very VERY difficult to tell if his body changes had that much to do with steroids once you throw the insulin in the mix.

    • nudeman - Apr 14, 2011 at 6:36 PM

      So what is your point? Why was he taking insulin? I’ve never heard he was diabetic, and yes, it’s a known masking agent.
      BTW, looks like from the recent pictures we’ve seen of him, he’s off it now. I guess the diabetes is in remission.

      • cur68 - Apr 14, 2011 at 7:52 PM

        Insulin and HGH are commonly used together for enhancing. Not only because insulin masks but also it increases the amount of energy the cells can pack in thus increasing growth. My point is that you can’t call his size changes dependent on steroids. In cases where subjects over produce insulin, increase in body size can be evident REGARDLESS of HGH or other hormone use. His change in size might be wholly due to insulin which is not banned.

  6. kolfax - Apr 14, 2011 at 7:35 PM

    Is it surpising that in a game that stealing is good, juicing the basball, corking the bat, deceiving the hitter are common that we discover that the players are juiced? Teams and players, with the exception of the Mariners, are always and will always look for a competitive edge, it’s just some don’t always play within the lines. If Bonds enters the Hall, then Rose belongs there too. No soup for you Craig and no Hall for Barry.

    • cur68 - Apr 14, 2011 at 7:54 PM

      ok, good-ish argument but did you have to kick the poor Mariners in passing?

  7. chrisny3 - Apr 14, 2011 at 9:51 PM

    Heyman’s take on the Bonds issue is the most sensible unless one believes in the morals clause of the HOF. If you believe in it, then Heyman’s take is non-sensible and arbitrary. The worst thing you can do in this entire thing, though, is start making your own rules and judgments as to when a certain player started juicing and how much PEDs did or didn’t contribute to their record. This is something you can never know for sure. So it seems like it’s just an excuse to be arbitrary and biased. It’s far fairer to either bar all known steroids cheaters from the HOF, or admit all whose stats qualify them. But don’t do what Buster Olney did — vote for McGwire but then declare he won’t vote for Manny. That makes no sense to me.

    • Kevin S. - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:39 PM

      Why should one believe in it? It was never used until writers needed an excuse to get on their high horses about steroids. No, seriously. I can find dozens of morally-deficient characters enshrined in the Coop. You find me just one person who had HOF numbers but was kept out because he was just a rotten SOB.

      • chrisny3 - Apr 15, 2011 at 10:31 AM

        Whether or not the clause was used before is irrelevant. It is being cited by many writers as part of the basis for their not intending to vote for certain steroids cheats.

        And many said it HAS been used before. More recently to deny Alomar first-ballot admittance because of the spitting incident.

        Also, I would think most can distinguish between moral lapses which directly impact the game and those which don’t. The former being the most offensive.

      • Kevin S. - Apr 15, 2011 at 2:54 PM

        You know how many players greater than Alomar had to wait longer than their second ballot? Barely keeping him out the first time, then easily waiving him in the second time, is hardly any kind of universal rejection based on the morality clause.

        The morality clause is nothing more than a loophole that the hand-wringers seized upon, regardless of how hypocritical it would be compared to the institution’s history.

      • chrisny3 - Apr 16, 2011 at 4:07 PM

        Except that most analysts believe as I do that the spitting incident and morality clause are what kept Alomar out of the HOF on the first ballot.

        And again, despite the fact the clause has been used before, it it totally irrelevant if it had never been used. It is being cited now in regard to steroid cheats.

  8. chrisny3 - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    And cheating with anabolic steroids is much worse than using a spitter. All forms of cheating are not equal.

    • Kevin S. - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:42 PM

      You’re right about all forms of cheating not being equal, but you’ve got it wrong as to which is worse. Steroids are illegal because Congress chose in 1990 to ban them over the objections of nearly the entire medical community. Spitters are illegal because they pose an actual danger to the hitter – Ray Chapman died because Carl Mays threw him one.

      • cur68 - Apr 14, 2011 at 11:16 PM

        Spitballs also have a definitive effect on the game as opposed to juicing, which is equivocal. Spitballs move around all over the place and are unhittable. Same with ball cutting, scuffing, and greasing. However plenty of guys with lousy results juiced and had no real change in production. Since the HOF has never had a problem with out and out admitted cheaters like Perry, its a bit rich getting up on a high horse over Bonds cheating. Ball doctoring has ALWAYS been against the rules. Steroids haven’t.

      • chrisny3 - Apr 15, 2011 at 10:40 AM

        It’s debatable whether a spitter caused Chapman’s death. Some think it was merely a bean ball and the result of headhunting — but even that is debatable. And spitters are illegal not because they are dangerous but because they are considered a form of cheating.

        And, no, I’ve got it right that steroids are worse than spitters. Steroids are illegal in baseball because they give a player a huge advantage on the field unlike any other form of known cheating including spitters.

        As for saying “spitballs have a definitive effect” on the game but steroids don’t, most experts, fans and analysts who aren’t baldly pro-steroids will tell you the opposite.

        I’m sure plenty of guys who tried spitters had lousy results too.

        And, steroids were against the rules of baseball when Bonds and company did them.

      • chrisny3 - Apr 15, 2011 at 10:43 AM

        One more thing, spitballs weren’t “always” against the rule of baseball.

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