Sunday, June 04, 2006

In Which Rose Addresses The Elephant In The Blog

In re Barry Bonds hitting his 715th home run, thus passing Babe Ruth on the all-time list:

Don't care.

That's right. I don't care.

At this point, I'm sure someone is already writing to tell me that I obviously do care, if I'm writing about it and all -- and, fine, for that person I'll concede that I care exactly enough as is necessary to notice the fact of home run number 715 and promptly decide that it doesn't matter.

Sure, Bonds holds the single-season home run record, and may very well challenge Hank Aaron for the all-time title. But I think that as a culture, we care more about Mark McGwire toppling a decades-old, seemingly untouchable record, than we do about someone breaking the new one a couple of years later. We may even give more regard to Sammy Sosa, for being the other guy who hit more than 61 out of the park that year. By the time Bonds did it, it was old hat. (Also, it happened in September of 2001, when there were... other things in the news.)

Plus, it doesn't help that for all appearances, Barry Bonds is an arrogant, self-centered jerk. And one thing he doesn't seem to understand is that he's shooting himself in the foot.

Baseball is inherently a team sport, and that simple fact is clear whenever anyone approaches an individual record. If Bonds had thought about it, then he might have pointed out to the Giants front office that if there were a couple more decent hitters to pad the lineup, then he might not have been the guy everyone wanted to walk. He might have reached the 715 mark long ago, without being quite so reviled for it.

(Of course, this supposes some intelligence on the part of the Giants front office, which is packed with people who clearly haven't come up with this radical notion on their own. Which is further proof that the Giants suck, and that the former Giants who followed Ned Colletti south should be thanking their lucky stars that there was room for them down here.)

If Bonds cobbles together a few more seasons of double-digit home run counts -- which could happen if he goes to an AL team and doesn't have to worry about that whole pesky "playing in the outfield" thing -- he may pass Hank Aaron, but he'll never have as many homers as Sadaharu Oh. You remember him, don't you? He set the worldwide record for career home runs with 868, and stuck around Japanese baseball after his playing days were over. Just a couple of months ago, he coached Japan's national baseball team to the world championship. It's too early to say for sure, but I have a feeling Bonds' idea of giving back to baseball will turn out to involve another wretched reality show that doesn't even make it through its first season.

I know there's no requirement that a baseball player be a nice guy. Baseball lore is riddled with guys like Babe Ruth: Legendary players who you'd like to have on your team, but wouldn't really want to hang out with -- not that they'd want to hang out with you, of course. Barry Bonds wins all those MVP awards because as far as the numbers go, he's usually the guy who does the most to help his team win the most games in a given year. But in the flesh-and-blood world, intangibles count. And that's where Bonds falls short.

And that's why I don't care.