Today I take some blog space to congratulate Cincinnati's Ken Griffey, Jr. on becoming the sixth player in MLB history to hit 600 home runs. I'm not sure Sammy Sosa really belongs on there, and there will always be questions about Barry Bonds. But with all that he's been through, all the secondgeneration, first overall Draft pick hype, then the injuries and inquiries about what he had left, and the way he has always gone about playing the game, Griffey forever deserves to be on that elite list of players. He truly is one of the all time greats of this game. A fivetool superstar in his earlier years, and one of the most exciting players in my lifetime (since 1987, the year he was drafted), the younger Griffey could have been at 700 home runs by now had his health remained steady. Even so, 600 is quite an accomplishment. So once again, congratulations Ken Griffey, Jr.
August 7, 2007. A clear Tuesday night. My mom’s 47th birthday. (Apologies to you for giving away your age. It’s good to just let it go.) And a night on which, in San Francisco, California, 43-year-old Barry Lamar Bonds, son of Pat and the former MLB star Bobby Bonds, broke the most sacred individual record in North American team sports, previously held by Braves (and Brewers) legend Henry "Hank" Aaron.
He hit his 756th home run.
I wasn’t sure how to initially react or what any of my opinions would turn out to be after Bonds finally hit the home run. In the immediate aftermath of the accomplishment, things are starting to become more clear. Bonds hit the home run to right center field on a second 3-2 pitch off of 29-year-old Washington Nationals left hander Mike Bacsik. Bacsik’s father, like Barry’s, also played in the Major Leagues. The home run, in the bottom of the fifth inning with one out, tied the game at 4. Afterwards, Bonds congratulated everyone, then saw a pre-recorded message from Aaron on the video screen. Even if he read it from a teleprompter, it still surprised Bonds, who probably didn’t even care how real it was. He then briefly thanked everyone (sans Greg Anderson), including the Nationals, for their support. He conveniently left out the part where he bashed every one of his critics individually. He’ll probably get to that later. The delusional Giants fanbase cheered as the guy who came up with the ball was hauled away as if he were an almighty world leader. (Personally, I wanted one of those girls that got tangled up in the mob to end up with the ball. That would have been interesting.) Bacsik actually pitched the rest of the inning when the game resumed about…three years later.
Those were the facts…now for a few mixed opinions. As a long-time Atlanta Braves fan (I even include them in my Devil Rays rants), I found it more difficult to cheer for anyone to break Aaron’s record, as Aaron did it as a Brave back in 1974. I found it even more difficult to cheer for Barry Bonds to do it. I believe Bonds took steroids knowingly, dating back to at least 1999. Eyewitness accounts and testimony have backed this up, and right now I believe it. While he was far from alone, he was certainly the most noticeable. Anybody who’s head grows to be the size of a watermelon when he’s in his mid-30s will draw attention. And so will a guy who has treated so many people like dog **** the way he has. He has turned down charitable causes for his time and autographs. He has ripped teammates at the most inopportune times. He has criticized the fans and, more so, the media, even dragging unwilling family members into it. And because he acted alone in being a complete and utter dillweed (the most I can say refraining from my usual MA-rated dialogue), it may be even more so for that reason than over the steroid accusations that I wanted Barry Bonds to fail. It was only a matter of time before he did hit 756 home runs, unless he was run over by a trolley car, but that never happened. I just wasn’t sure that I wanted to see it. To watch this guy who took so much and gave far less over the years and lied about performance enhancers celebrate becoming the home run king would prove to be very difficult. If not for his inflated 2001 season, the record may still be out of reach. In a way, I wish it was. I, for the most part, didn’t want to see Bonds as the home run leader. But now he is. At least it’s over, and we can, years from now, move on to the next guy. I’m a huge fan of what Bonds could do as a player, especially in his early years when he had power and speed like nobody’s business. However, I’m not overly enthralled with this new development. I envision asterisks next to this record now, and that can never be a good sign.
And neither, for that matter, could Bud Selig and Hank Aaron no-showing.
For its historical significance, I caught the entire thing on my DVR. I’ll watch it again the next time I need to escape from reality. Or, better yet, find the true harshness of it.
R.I.P. 755, 1976-2007