All hail the new king

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Chris Ruddick Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Barry Bonds is the new home run king, and I am not exactly sure how I feel about it. I totally believe Barry Bonds did steroids, and at the same time, I feel that he is the best player I have ever seen.

In a perfect world, Bonds would have retired once all the BALCO stuff came to light. Sure, the questions would have still been there, but he would have been out of the limelight and certainly would not have challenged baseball's and maybe sports' most cherished record.

Bonds should have disappeared only to reappear in five years at Cooperstown, where he would have been honored as one of the greatest players of all-time and one of the most prolific home run hitters ever. Again, he wouldn't have had the all-time record, but I am telling you, his legacy would have been more secure had he taken that approach than what it will be now.

There was no need for him to continue after what had been whispered for so long started to become an acknowledged reality. Forget about the integrity of the game, he should have gotten out for his own sake.

Why would he put himself through the constant speculation? I will tell you why, because his ego is big as his monstrous head.

If you believe San Francisco Chronicle writers Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams' book, Game of Shadows, Bonds began using steroids after the 1998 season because he was jealous of the attention that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa received during their epic home run battle, when (in retrospect, on the part of most of the public) it was clear they were up to something.

I guess being a three-time MVP at that point, and already being considered one of the greatest ballplayers in the history of the game, was not enough for him.

So instead of walking away somewhat gracefully, Bonds showed why he is public enemy No. 1 everywhere outside of San Francisco, as he denied everything and threw the allegations back in the fans' faces, as he passed Babe Ruth and continued his pursuit of Hank Aaron's all-time mark.

Bonds can deny all he wants, there is no doubt in my mind he knowingly took steroids or some sort of performance-enhancing drug. Did he take as many as the book suggests? Perhaps not, but he definitely took something, that is for sure.

Your body doesn't change that much without something going on. Players are supposed to break down as they hit their 40's, not have the best years of their careers. Unless, of course you are Roger Clemens.

Which leads me to my next point and why I am having so much trouble with this whole thing.

Bonds was not the only player doing steroids. Not even close. At this point there is not a name out there that would shock me if it was revealed that player was doing a PED. Nowadays, it is almost like you are guilty until proven innocent when it comes to steroids in baseball.

But of course, Bonds is the one breaking the records and is the poster boy for the steroid-era, so everyone comes down on him. He is not the first player to cheat, though, and unfortunately he won't be the last.

Ever hear of a guy named Gaylord Perry? He makes a mockery of the game with his constant confessions of doctoring the ball, yet people find that funny for some reason.

If you want to be technical, steroids weren't, in a sense, illegal in the majors at the time Bonds was supposedly using them. Players weren't tested for them. I know it doesn't make it right, but Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt admitted to taking "greenies", or amphetamines, throughout his playing career. What effect did they have? How much more focused were players while hopped up on them? Nobody ever mentions that, and that practice was far more rampant among players than steroids.

Do steroids give you an edge? I am sure they do, but numerous players likely took them, and how come they didn't break records?

I guess the thing that rubs people the wrong way about Bonds, is for one, he is about as miserable a human being as you are ever going to encounter and two, he never needed the edge. He is as talented a player you will ever see.

It is a funny thing with these records, though. They are there to be broken, yet when someone challenges them people always try to find ways to discredit the person chasing them.

Obviously I wasn't alive during Roger Maris' pursuit of Ruth in 1961, but by all accounts nobody wanted him to break that record. And of course when Aaron broke Ruth's all-time mark, some people moaned because he was African-American and that he wasn't as good of a player as Ruth was.

The point is, people like to complain when a record gets broken. They find all kinds of reasons why the new record holder isn't as good as his predecessor.

Today, Maris is recognized for his historic campaign in 1961 as he never was in his lifetime. And for Aaron, forget about it. He is universally adored as a great player and is a true ambassador of the game.

And whether you like it or not, Barry Bonds deserves to be honored along with them. For all you baseball "purists" out there who cry foul because he is making a mockery of the game, get over yourselves and get a life. Major League Baseball and the word "integrity" haven't been uttered in the same sentence in a long time.

And don't think Bonds is not a five-year lock to get into the Hall of Fame. Mark McGwire was a one-trick pony, Barry Bonds was a five-tool superstar and probably one of the top-5 best players ever in the game.

I don't want to come off as the guy that applauds Bonds for allegedly doing steroids, but he has definitely taken way too much heat for something it appears many players were doing.

Allegations aside, Barry Bonds is the best baseball player I have ever seen. I felt that way before he blew up into this home run monster and I still feel that way.

Thirty years from now, when I am talking to my kids and grandkids about baseball, I am going to tell them what it was like to watch Barry Bonds, and how special a player he truly was.

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Chris Ruddick
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