Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bonds, Clemens and the HOF Class of 2013

If we assume that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are not going to be offered contracts to continue their baseball careers in 2008 and beyond, both would be eligible for the Hall of Fame Class of 2013.  Can you imagine a single HOF voting result of the past that would even compare in anticipation to the one we might see five years from now?  

Between now and then, of course, we'll know how the government's perjury and obstruction of justice case against Bonds turns out.  We'll know whether he cops a plea to avoid prison time. If he doesn't, we'll know whether he gets convicted, or walks out of court a free man.  And we'll know whether Clemens and his team of lawyers are successful in convincing a serious majority of voters that he is more believable than his former trainer, who told the Mitchell Report that he injected the Rocket with steroids and human growth hormone on several occasions between 1998 and 2001.  

Even if Bonds winds up a felon, and even if Clemens can't escape a tarnished image, they still might make the Hall of Fame, because many otherwise rational voters will subscribe to the theory that both had Hall of Fame careers before their alleged use of steroids began.  My friend, and respected columnist for the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, Lowell Cohn, is one of those voters, as he wrote in his December 27 column.

But on every HOF ballot, Rule 5 states that "voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."  Integrity, sportsmanship and character.  One could make a very compelling argument that Bonds has failed miserably, on all three counts, that his alleged decade-long use of illegal drugs, and constant lying about it, have disgraced himself, the once-proud name of the Giants franchise and the game itself.  And depending on how much more we learn about Clemens in the months and years to come, he may fall into the very same category.

Last weekend, before my wife, two daughters and I walked into the big tent outside A-T-and-T Park to see Cirque de Soleil, we enjoyed observing the beautiful statues of Hall-of-Famers Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Willie Mays.  And we wondered whether a similar statue of Bonds will them in the future.  That may depend on those Hall of Fame voters.   

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Mitchell Report

I just received an e-mail from the Giants, in which majority owner Peter Magowan is pledging his full support of former US Senator George Mitchell's 409-page report, including Mitchell's recommendations to help clean up the game from more than a decade of rampant steroid use. My reaction? I don't know whether to laugh or to cry.

If Barry Bonds is, indeed, baseball's Poster Boy for the Steroid Era, then the Giants are, without question, the game's Poster Franchise. Read the Mitchell Report, beginning on page 121.

Longtime (and former) Giants trainer Stan Conte tells the Mitchell committee that he was not happy with the presence of Bonds's personal trainer Greg Anderson (who later pleaded guilty to money laundering and steroid distribution) in the Giants clubhouse, back in 2000, and says he communicated that discomfort to Giants GM Brian Sabean. Conte says Sabean told him that if he were uncomfortable, he should talk to Anderson about it. Conte says he was willing to do that, but only if Sabean would support him, if and when Bonds complained about it. Sabean offered no such support. Conte also tells the Mitchell committee that two years later, he was approached by an unnamed Giants player, asking about anabolic steroids, and interested in purchasing them from Anderson. This time, Conte told Sabean he thought Anderson was dealing steroids, but, again, Sabean's response was that if Conte felt that way, he should talk with Anderson about it. Conte declined, believing that such a confrontation, no doubt, should have come from Sabean or Magowan, since he (Conte) never supported Anderson's presence to begin with.  

Obviously, this paints the picture of a franchise with its head in the sand, vis-a-vis the presence of a steroid dealer in its own clubhouse, and the use of steroids by its marquee player. Lending further credence to this theory is the fact that the Giants re-signed Bonds prior to this season, long after they were were well aware of the overwhelming evidence that Bonds has been a massive steroid user, dating back to 1999. The motivation was obvious. They were fine with continuing to employ Bonds, as long as he brought more fans to the ballpark, baseball integrity be damned. And now they're offering their full support to Mitchell's efforts to help clean up the game? Oh, please.  

It's worth noting that Jeff Kent's name was nowhere to be found in the Mitchell Report. No surprise there. The most productive second-baseman in Giants history, Kent this week decided to put off retirement at least one more season, at age 39, and return to the Dodgers for the 2008 season. And we're glad he is. Unlike the moronic fans at A-T-and-T Park, who continue to boo Jeff Kent unmercifully, we appreciate what he has brought to the game. A career .290 hitter with 365 homeruns (nearly half of them with the Giants, during a six-year period ending in 2002), this guy is headed for the Hall of Fame, but given the way he is thoroughly unappreciated by the fans here, it's unlikely he'll go into the Hall wearing a Giants cap. What a shame.

I've asked myself what Kent has done to deserve the vitriolic treatment he gets here, and this is my conclusion: He was the only Giants regular to stand up to Bonds, during the latter's 15 years in San Francisco. Shawon Dunston, Jason Christensen and Danny Darwin did as well, but Kent's 2002 shoving match with Bonds in the Giants dugout in San Diego is something few Giants fans will forget. Of course, the fans also will never forget Kent's lie at spring training that year, after he broke his wrist in a motorcycle accident, only to tell the Giants he broke it while washing his truck. OK, he lied about it. Big deal. What's worse, Kent's lie about how he broke his wrist, or Bonds's continuing lie about steroid use? Unfortunately, for the grossly sycophantic Giants fans, it's apparently the former.