Saturday night, in an extravagant pregame ceremony in San Francisco, Barry Bonds became the latest Giant to have his number retired. The first was Christy Mathewson. Bonds and Mathewson had more than the Giants in common. They had chemicals.
Saturday’s game was against the Pirates, Bonds’ team before he grew to become a misshapen Goliath who well into his 30s also grew to become The Game’s home run king.
As if a commercial model for some miraculous potion, Bonds has appeared as a “before,” an “after” and now as a “before.” His normal-sized head, swelled to the size of a plump pumpkin, but has receded to the confines of standard human proportion.
Sunday morning, ESPN’s “SportsCenter” showcased the ceremony in the most favorable terms: A deserving superstar was honored for only the best reasons.
It was ESPN that paid Bonds for exclusive access while he surpassed Hank Aaron’s career home run record. That decision, which included Team Bonds’ pre-approval of content, left many ESPN news staffers appalled and embarrassed, especially among those who had suffered Bonds’ persistent rude side. He avoided good questions about his relationship with the anabolic steroid provider BALCO, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.
They didn’t wear numbers when Mathewson was winning 378 games, 1900-1916, thus his “number” appears as the interlocking “NY” the Giants wore.
Mathewson, at 45, died in Saranac Lake, N.Y., near Lake Placid. For decades Saranac Lake was known as a tubercular “cure town.” Abandoned brick hospitals and patients’ cottages remain as ghostly prompts to ask who, what, when, where, why.
Though in his mid-30s and despite his wife’s pleas, Mathewson enlisted in the Army when the U.S. entered World War I. He was accidentally gassed in training. He tried a comeback, but couldn’t breathe.
While Mathewson was finished, in part, due to chemicals, at 35 Bonds had enough chemistry in him to hit 272 more home runs.
And while Mathewson was posthumously selected to be among the first five Hall of Fame inductees, what’s to be done with Bonds, among many other record-busters from the Steroid Era?
Depends on how you look at it.
Certainly the national pastime went on a long crime spree, a national disgrace that relegated clean players to the “Suckers” column. And the team owners’ and dirty players’ great enabler of the period, commissioner Bud “Bottom Line” Selig, entered the Hall almost immediately after he retired. If Hall of Fame standards had been diminished, Selig’s on-the-double inclusion was the next floor down.
Even after Bonds was revealed to have a Body-By-BALCO, Selig allowed team owners to raise the price of tickets when Bonds came to town. “Step right up! See the freak show!”
So what to do about Bonds? It’s no longer a case of baseball’s Hall of Fame refusing to reward the infamous. Before Selig’s entry, George Steinbrenner, a two-counts convicted felon twice suspended from baseball, was appointed to its board of directors.
It comes down to what so much in sports now comes down to: How much compromise can you endure before you no longer care.
Analysts miss mark with Tiger
As Tiger Woods finished second to what’s-his-name in the PGA Championship, his presence caused both TBS and CBS to create a four-day festival of such transparent insults only suffered through laughter. Highlights:
TBS posted a full-screen graphic, “Most Under Par In Majors (minimum 7 rounds).” Woods topped that list, far ahead of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka.
Anyone with the ability to think had to laugh at the silliness it took to accumulate then share such info. Woods is 42. The next oldest listed was Day, who’s 30. When Woods played in his first major in 1995, Spieth was a toddler.
Then there was the usual silly from CBS’s Peter Kostis: “Tiger has negotiated his speed brilliantly on a couple of long, lengthy putts.”
Saturday, Dottie Pepper, a good analyst until Woods appears — she goes to pieces — reported that Woods’ tee shot was “his first missed fairway, today.” It was Woods’ fourth hole, and one had been a par-3. So two-of-three fairways hit caused her to marvel.
Sunday, Pepper actually gushed over Woods’ three practice swings before he swung for keeps. And when he lipped out a longish putt her anguish was palpable: “You can’t hit a better putt!” Oh, but you can.
But the cappers began late Saturday. As Koepka had the lead, CBS noted that he’s in an extraordinary position — he can win his third major in his last seven tries. That’s when Jim Nantz wondered aloud why Koepka receives so little attention.
Really, Jim? Think CBS has anything to do with that?
I want to see every shot Woods takes, too. But wouldn’t fabulous players such as Koepka be provided more attention — and the TV future of golf be better served — if Woods weren’t shown on the practice range, in the parking lot, walking down fairways, walking to the next tee, lining up 40-footers from six angles?
As Koepka was about to win, Nantz, Nick Faldo and Pepper noted that much media — photographers included — had bolted to chase Woods, who’d finished. Such media included CBS, which summoned Woods for an interview. CBS’s voices concluded that Koepka was about to tap in to win another major in virtual media anonymity.
YES, they ignore the obvious with Sanchez
Why do they pretend that those who know better don’t know better?
Tuesday on YES, Michael Kay and John Flaherty noted Gary Sanchez is still on the DL. A graphic showed Sanchez to have been hitting .188 with 14 homers and 42 RBIs in 66 games. From that, they concluded that despite his batting average, Sanchez had been productive.
But that’s not the issue with Sanchez, and they know it. It’s his indifference to running to first and allowing too many passed balls, then not running after them. His persistent failure to play winning baseball outside of trying to hit home runs — he struck out 67 times in those 66 games — is the issue.
And when Meredith Marakovits reported that Sanchez has “not run at 100 percent yet,” the Tri-State Sarcasm Response Meter blew a fuse.
I owe FOX’s John Smoltz and readers an apology. Last week I ridiculed Smoltz for playing fantasy baseball in presuming where runners would be placed if a replay challenge reversed a line drive foul call into a fair call.
But when the reversal was made, neither the umps nor Smoltz proceeded as per guesswork. The ball had jumped into the stands thus was a grounds rule double. I was dead wrong.
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