Friday, August 3, 2007

If Barry Gets an Asterisk So Does Babe Ruth

The Man
For the longest time, as a sports fan and baseball purist, I would say that I didn't much care for Barry Bonds. He appeared in the media to be an egotistical, selfish, mean person, who carried with him a substantial amount evidence that would point towards use of an illegal substance, possibly steroids. All of this is still possibly true, and lets say for a second that hey, maybe he did do steroids. And for the sake of this argument, lets just go ahead and say that he does. With that said, I don't think an asterisk is called for, or even warranted, next to the Home Run Record that Barry Bonds will inevitably hold in the coming days, unless you want to put an asterisk next to Babe Ruth too.

The Legend
Babe Ruth, the home run king, the legend, the father of modern baseball, he has 714 home runs to his credit. Has anyone in the sports media, any baseball analyst ever suggested that Babe Ruth deserves an asterisk by his name in the record books? What, Babe Ruth, why, he is the 'sultan of swat', he is the 'greatest of all time', why on earth would he deserve an asterisk?? Why, I will tell you why. Not because he put up his numbers on 'hot dogs and beer' as they say, but because he did not play against the best players of his era. He was the best baseball player in the major leagues, while he played. True. But the major leagues at that time included only half of America's population. When Babe Ruth played African American players were banned from the majors! There were no Latin players, there were no Asian player,s and more importantly there were certain players from New York, Chicago, and anywhere else in the USA that were not allowed to compete against the Babe because of their skin color. Would Babe Ruth have hit all those home runs if he had to bat against a Satchell Paige during his prime, four times in a given game? Might a Willie Mays type player have robbed Mr. Ruth of a homer or four during his playing days? Most likely yes. But you don't hear this argument for an asterisk in this case, Ruth's mark is considered hallowed. Should it be?

The Choice
If you still don't want to give Babe Ruth an asterisk on his mark, than you shouldn't give one to Barry either. Why? Because. While in Babe's day there was a league rule banning people of color from being allowed to play in the majors, during Barry's there was no league rule that banned steroids from baseball. Is Barry the only player to do steroids during this era? No way, that is why they call it the 'steroid era.' They don't call the era of baseball that Rollie Fingers played in the 'handle bar mustache era', because one guy, Fingers, had a 'handle bar mustache.' And they don't call this the steroid era because one guy, Barry Bonds, did steroids. I don't think we will ever know how many guys were on the juice, but it wasn't just the so called stars. While we know guys like Conseco and Palmeiro took 'roids, it can be argued that Sosa and McGwire did as well. While we don't know for sure that Sosa or McGwire did, we do know for sure that McGwire's congress testimony about 'refusing to talk about the past' and 'being here today before congress to talk about the future' is the most hilarious testimony I have ever heard. And on that day as well, the once often quoted Sosa, forgot how to speak English - convenient. But while these stars are associated with steroids, there are also some bums that have been busted. Neifi Perez being the latest, the 34 year old was busted again coming off a 25 game suspension, for 80 games. Perez's numbers however, are not too hot, even with 'roids. He hit .172 in 64 at bats this year. Which is an example of my point, Bonds is not the only player in his time to use steroids, he just happens to be the best player of an era - the steroid era. And oh yeah, what if it turns out he hit the majority of his homers off pitchers...who where on the juice as well! The Indians had a reliever that was suspended a couple of years ago, and he's so unimportant of a player I cant even remember his name.

The Discussion - Chris Rock
The discussion here about Bonds is part of a larger issue, that we will dive into in further analyze the analyst columns, but ask me this before I conclude. Did I come up with this point about Babe Ruth myself, or did I hear it somewhere? I heard it somewhere, but not from Buster Olney or Peter Gammons, or Tim Kurkian, or Steve Philips, or Ken Rosenthal. I heard it from Chris Rock. The comedian Chris Rock was on Bob Costas' HBO show recently, and he made the point about Babe Ruth, and Barry Bonds. I was amazed by the comment. Amazed in part at my own ignorance. I had never put two and two together before. Of all that I have heard, seen, and read about Ruth, I had never heard that point made. Obviously, I should have figured it out before, pretty blatant that Ruth played in an all white majors, but I just never thought of that before. And I wonder, how many of us really have? But don't blame Babe, he was just the best baseball player of an era. And so is Barry Bonds.

The Homerun
Bonds would go on to hit 755 this past weekend. He hit it off San Diego Padres pitcher Clay Hensley, in front of the San Diego fans.

Two things that are interesting about this. Despite what analysts, including ESPN's Steve Phillips, thought would happen in the stands, the Padre fans cheered the homerun. Whether they cheered Barry, cheered the feat, or cheered the fact that they were there to witness history, may never be known. But we did here cheers from the fans, and I think that was good.

The second thing that was, we will say ironic, was in regards to who Barry hit number 755 off of. Clay Hensley. Never heard of him, you say. I didn't either, and I suppose this will be the most significant thing he ever does in the major leagues as a pitcher. However, what is ironic is that Clay Hensley, when pitching in Triple-A, tested positive for...steriods. True story.


Kevin said...

yes, you are right the babe played against only people of a whilte color. the answer why is the babe still thought of as the greatest is because everyone loved him. he was a people person, he never cheated the game, and simply enough he played the game as it should be, hungover, drunk or sober. the later part of that statement makes it that much better. for instance, i have gone to work hungover and watched the clock until i could leave what did babe ruth do, simply jack 60 hrs in a year and jack up 715 hrs for a career. the last thing i wont even touch on the fact that the leauge was only 12 teams large or that most teams only pitched thier best three pitchers for over 8 innings a game.but what i will comment on is that most people forget is that babe ruth was a great pitcher as well as hitter simply the greatest always and forever!!!!

BigTimeGameBoards said...

One more time, hitting the nail on the head! this point is completely true.
if bonds gets an asterisk, every player from every team deserves one as well.
plus, bonds has never tested positive in all his years of playing.
Tailgate like a champion, BTGB

Anonymous said...

How can you defend Babe Ruth? . we have no idea how crappy that pitching was. To your point do you really think Walter Johnson or Three Fingers Brown fastball was strong given the fact they had to pitch every three days. The answer is no at best they were fifty percent and they could be because the did not have to strike out gibson, doby, o'niel, robinson, etc. all they had to do is strike out for the most part bums. Furthermore, for the pitchers that were not elite (because the major of pitchers were not) they out and out sucked on three days rest. In today's game Babe Ruth does not make it on a Major League roster. One of the reasons why there was only twelve teams is because there were no blacks, latins, asians, hell there weren't even any aussies . To the comment about pitching. He pitched in the begining of his career with a dead ball against crappy hitters(very few hitters of note from this era ever mentioned) in ball parks even bigger than the polo grounds. If Barry went back in a time machine right after he graduated from highschool and was ALLOWED to play he would have hit 1200 home runs. Barry is the best because he did it against the best on the best drugs. Ruth sucked.