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BONDS NO MORE EVIL THAN MOST PLAYERS.

Byline: JOHN KLIMA

Babe Ruth would have done steroids, too.

He did everything else. If all he had to do was drop his pants for a boost of power, well then, that wouldn't have been much of a departure from his habits. He was, after all, just a ballplayer, and it's always about chasing. But Ruth signed a few more autographs than Barry Bonds did, so he's considered colorful instead of cancerous.

A ballplayer who lived larger than the rest, a glutton with twodistinctions: Ruth wore pinstripes and no one ever got to see what Josh Gibson might have done to his record had he played in the bigleagues.

Now, we've gotten to see what Gibson, another glutton, might have done, though with the name of Barry Bonds. And as the caravan of hatred rolled into Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night, here it is, ladies and gentlemen: Like him or, more likely, hate him, Bonds is good for baseball.

If you despise Bonds because you believe he cheated, you must also accept that hundreds of players of his era likely did as well. If you despise Bonds because you need a villain in your life, that's OK, because you paid to see him play.

The hatred of Bonds is an amoeba. It has no brain and is only capable of reacting and reproducing. The hatred of Bonds is tenfold what one player can radiate. Instead of shackles, armbands or hoods, we have an asterisk. As it turned out, Bonds' chase for Aaron's record was full of envy after all.

There is a group that pays to come to games to ridicule him. Yet as far as baseball is concerned, it costs the same to hate Bonds as it does to love Alex Rodriguez.

The animosity toward Bonds is worth hard currency. Major League Baseball knows this. On its own Web site, you can find an easy link to Bonds' Web site, and if you play the streaming video, you'll find it is generated by the league. Hatred is sparked by passion. Passion is what leads the game to survive.

MLB knows that a villain is worth billions, and is most certainly worth more alive than dead.

Baseball perspectives are warped by nostalgia, a belief that ballplayers are gods. They're not.

Many of them are lower-level gluttons. If you yearn for baseball in the 1960s, ask yourself this: If these drugs were around then, do you think those players would have passed on the opportunity? If the answer is yes, you've never been inside a clubhouse.

There came a time when everyone stopped thinking and started writing and saying the same thing. This is a collective sign of not wanting to accept that baseball is filled with more than one player like Bonds.

Too much nostalgia neglects reality. If you don't want to accept that this is what baseball is and will be, then please, cheer for Rodriguez or Albert Pujols to break the record Bonds will set, but don't tell me that their numbers from the same era are not also inflated.

Baseball has a tainted history, from the Black Sox to discrimination to labor strife. Don't be so quick to canonize other players and demonize Bonds. Of all the players in the starting lineups on both teams Tuesday, I guarantee Bonds was not the only one to give drugs a try.

You can't vilify any player for doing what he felt he had to do. This is you're-with-me- or-against-me all over again. But Ruth proved that if you are nice, you can do anything. What Bonds proves is that passion has a dollar sign, and that's what baseball is about.

I don't agree with everything Bonds has ever done or said. I don't agree with how he has treated other people, as his father often did to anyone not in a uniform, which is to say, like dirt.

I don't disagree that drugs have changed the face of baseball. But at some point, don't you have to appreciate the spot in history you have been chosen to see, and to think instead of react, to respect instead of loathe, to stop for a moment and realize this is a piece of the baseball nostalgia you long for?

Well, maybe giving Bonds a little bit of credit is just too far beneath us. If you look for the perfect player, you'll never have one at all.

john.klima@dailybreeze.com

(310) 540-4201

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

(color) Does San Francisco's Barry Bonds deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays; or is he forever tainted?

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 1, 2007
Words:777
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