There is an inordinate amount of hype surrounding Barry Bonds' career home run total and the fact he stands two away from Babe Ruth on the all time list at 714. ESPN which continues to completely prostitute itself by reporting Bonds steroids scandal but at the same time serving as the slugger's shief promoter has been giving daily updates on Bonds pursuit of Babe Ruth. Apparently the fever pitch has reached a point there Major League Baseball on two seperate days has announced that there will be no celebration if Bonds hits #715(and I say if because Bonds' knee is literally being held together by a string of ligaments). MLB also said it will not authenticate the balls used during San Francisco games during the run up and passing of Babe Ruth. Why? Quite simply MLB has said that it does not celebrate someone moving to #2 on any record list. Of course as much as MLB gets wrong, they got this one right. Why is ESPN and the rest of the media so hot to trot to celebrate Bonds' passing Ruth when all he is doing is moving from 3rd to 2nd on the list?
1. Babe Ruth still maintains a legendary mistique.
Even though Hank Aaron passed Ruth by over 40 homeruns, there is still something about Babe Ruth that piques the interest of baseball fans. Given that Bonds is only the third man in MLB history to hit 700 homers, passing Ruth who played 70-80 years ago is considered a big deal. Obviously it is difficult total to attain, so much so only one man prior to now has ever done it. In fact it seems to be such a difficult thing apparently it cannot be done through any legal and normal means, but I digress. Since Babe Ruth is long considered the most well known and one of the greatest sluggers to ever play the game, the logic goes that if Bonds' passes him he somehow attains the same status. Even if that status is only second best in totality.
2. ESPN et. al do not believe Bonds will catch Aaron
It is clear based on the way Bonds has played and the fact he no longer benefits from the use of certain drugs to stave off the ravages of old age on his playing form that Aaron's record is out of reach. Passing Ruth represents the only opporunity to hype Bonds doing anything significant at this point in his career. The ESPN hype maching never misses a chance to treat something that is not really a record as though it was a record just for the sake of boosting their own ratings(see Pat Summit.) As I said above, Ruth still hold a magical place in the pantheon of MLB greats so by having Bonds pass him validates Bonds in that regard. Of course how many of the other MLB greats have a suspicious trail of syringes and chemical creams in their past?
3. ESPN loves Barry Bonds
Now, I never miss a good opportunity to bash ESPN for muddying the water when it comes to presenting sports and presenting news. I have written before about the skewing of the line between the business side of ESPN and the journalistic integrity or lack thereof. Now, ESPN has been intensely focused on the Bonds steroid scandal and regardless of this it is very evident that ESPN loves Barry Bonds. Or rather ESPN loves the ratings Bonds brings which may explain why they tout the scandal and the accomplishments all at the same time. People love a train wreck, so they talk about his history of steroid abuse. People also love accomplisments, milestones, and singular moments of triumph so ESPN presses the passing of Ruth. And if it was just that maybe I would be writing another post about NC State basketball but ESPN has gone Bonds wild. During Baseball Tonight ESPN has been chronicling the 20 Greatest Moments in Bonds Career. What is that? I can think of 10 other guys who played the game cleanly and whose accomplishments are not tinged with the possibility it was done using performance enhancing drugs but ESPN chooses to focus on Bonds. On one hand at least it still falls within the journalistic realm of being some kind of historical retrospect on a storied career. However, ESPN did not stop there and became a utterly contemptible whore for Barry Bonds when the elected to broadcast a weekly reality program showcasing the slugger behind the scenes. So in the midst of reporting allegations of steroid abuse and a career on the cusp of tainting some of the greatest records in the game ESPN decides to shed any objectivity they may have possessed in the name of ratings and revenue.
The saddest character in this whole saga is Hank Aaron who is being dissrespected on a nightly basis by ESPN who thinks passing Babe Ruth is a great accomplisment. It is a great accomplishment and Aaron not only did it but did it by a whole season's worth of home runs. ESPN is out there marketing a non-record chase which is the most solied and tainted chase we probably have ever witnessed in the world of sports. I just happen to think that creating this much hype around a player who may have broken Federal law and used drugs to enhance his play for becoming the 2nd best home run hitter in MLB history is a gigantic slap in the face to the guyswho is #1 one on the list and did so entirely through his own physical abilities. And it should be noted that instead of being a prickly, self-righteous, prima donna, jack*ss as Bonds has been throughout his career, Aaron played the game and broke the record with class and respect.
I would agree that Bonds is in very select company. He is a member of a club which only has three members at 700 home runs. I also think that his membership in that club is extremely suspect and ESPN should take a more reserved approach to celebrating Bonds passing Ruth since (1) it is not even a record and (2) he did not do so on the up and up.
Author's Note: I have made numerous references to the Bonds steroid issue in this post and in doing so I have presented it as being a fact of reality rather than merely allegations. The reason being is I happen to think Bonds is guilty as sin of using numerous steroids and any other drug he thought might help his cause. And this is not a court so innocent until proven guilty has no bearing here. There is enough evidence out there from comparitve pictures to suddenly rising statistics, and the book written by the SF Chronicle writers to safely assert that Bonds not only used steroids, but that he also gained a significant advantage from them. It also should be noted that I believe that if something is prohibited by Federal law then it is automatically prohibted within a sport even if that sport does not address the issue. MLB falls under the juristication of the Federal government and by default it is subject to the laws of the Federal government unless it is given an exemption(such as the anti-trust exemption). No exemption exists and therefore any use of steroids by any player was illegal on its face.