As I sit out on the back porch, looking out at the backside of Twin Peaks, my thoughts creep back to the trial of Barry Bonds.
I’ve been trying to come to grips with what was proven at the trial that last week found Bonds guilty of obstructing justice.
I rooted for Bonds. I took my son to root for him, and we rooted together. I don’t remember talking about drugs. We talked about baseball.
Rooting for Barry Bonds was one of the most satisfying sports experiences of my “sports fan” life. He dominated his game like nobody I ever saw. More so than Wayne Gretzky in hockey or Michael Jordan in basketball.
For a few years there, Bonds tipped the batter-pitcher relationship in favor of the batter. It was like watching a Little League game with an imposing 12-year-old at the plate. The pitcher didn’t have a chance.
Obstructing justice. It’s a crime, and, found guilty, Bonds should feel the full force of the law, as any American should. But where does baseball fit in this storyline? That’s what I keep coming back to.
Barry Bonds was the best player in baseball before steroids. He was the best player in baseball with steroids. And he was the best player in baseball after steroids. Where did the steroids begin, and when did they end?
Bonds played during an era when, apparently, there was a lot of stuff going on.
And there was stuff going on, all the way back to 1990 when Red Sox fans filled Fenway Park with a chorus of “steroids, steroids” with Jose Canseco flexing his biceps in response.
Everybody laughed. Nobody did a thing.
Baseball had so many chances to take the high road, and avoided every one.
The game was in the business of selling tickets. No franchise wanted the ticket-selling to diminish.
For those who made the game their profession — when some guys in the clubhouse were thought to be taking performance-enhancing drugs — it was next to impossible to find a level playing field.
If the guy beating you out for a position was taking performance-enhancing drugs, and wouldn’t have won out if he didn’t take them, what option did you have?
As a baseball player, you only have so many opportunities.
You stood to make millions if you won that competition for a position, and a trip to Fresno if you didn’t.
Since then, the era’s best hitter (Bonds) has walked among whispers of alleged steroid use. So has the era’s best pitcher (Roger Clemens). And the era’s the most prodigious home run hitter (Mark McGwire).
It was a bad time for baseball. The trial of Barry Bonds proved nothing more.
Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. Email him at tliotta@ sfexaminer.com.