Bonds Ties Aaron

It was almost inevitable that Barry Bonds would eventually hit his 755th career home run and thus tie Hall of Famer Hank Aaron's record. Yesterday, it finally happened in San Diego, and sometime in the next week or two, Bonds will almost inevitably hit his 756th and have the record all to himself. The response from the road crowd to Bonds' accomplishment was mixed. Many in the crowd applauded the history being made in front of them, while some others booed or held up signs with asterisks on them, signifying the possible boost that Bonds' homer total may have gotten from performance-enhancing drugs.

The most interesting response was that of Commissioner Bud Selig, who stood up as Bonds rounded the bases, but kept his hands in his pockets. No applause or cheering from the Commish. His expression remained unchanged. He didn't go down to the field during or after the game to congratulate Bonds for his achievement, but he did note that either he or someone from his office would be present at the next several games to attempt to see Bonds break the record. Clearly this record-tying performance was felt to be no reason for celebration, and it's unlikely that Selig will be glad-handing Bonds when #756 leaves the ballpark.

I found my own response to be similarly listless. And it's not because I've heard so many negative things about the man's personality. Neither does race have anything to do with it; Hank Aaron, the man whose record Bonds is about to break, is also black, so that's neither here nor there. It comes down to the feeling that Bonds did something that gave him an unfair advantage, that using performance-enhancing drugs is tantamount to cheating. He's never been convicted of doing so, but the evidence is right there in front of us.

And no, I can't condone anyone else doing so either, like Mark McGwire or Rafael Palmeiro or any of the others whose achievements during the 1990s are now viewed as tainted. There were also a number of pitchers who were caught using them, so it's not just the big home run hitters who are suspect.

Bonds will, of course, go into the Hall of Fame. It's as inevitable as 756. When it happens, the San Francisco fans in the crowd at Cooperstown will cheer, while the fans of any other player being inducted in the same class will likely give only perfunctory but polite applause. However unpleasant a person Bonds may be, he'll have nothing on someone like Ty Cobb, already enshrined. Cobb's numbers, however, will never be questioned. Bonds' numbers will be, for the rest of his career and beyond. He would have been a great player even without using whatever he did, but now, he looks like Babe Ruth on, well, steroids.