Postgame Spread
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Modest Proposal    

Barry Bonds is approaching his 714th home run.  It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that Bonds will pass Babe Ruth, but he's so widely despised amongst players, coaches and fans that the quest to deny him 714 has gotten ugly.  Naturally, Barry could care less.  He's spent an entire career taking the "me against the world" approach to its ugliest extremes, so why would he let anyone else affect his enjoyment of home runs 714 and 715?  I think he believes that passing the Babe while clean erases all his past wrongdoing.  This is his last stand, the last achievement he'll have that nobody can take away from him.

Except I think it can be taken away.

Michael Strahan broke the NFL single-season sack record a few seasons ago.  Anyone remember the record-breaking sack?  Brett Favre gift-wrapped it for him by "tripping" at Strahan's feet, resulting in one of the cheapest sacks in NFL history.  But in ensuring the record for Strahan, Favre also denied Strahan the record forever... it became a record by technicality.  Nobody remembers Strahan's amazing season, but everyone remembers the unspoken asterisk that Favre stuck at his feet.  By intentionally collapsing, a questionable action in and of itself, Favre detracted from Strahan's moment of glory in a very permanent way.

So why not do likewise with Barry Bonds?  Make #714 and #715 the cheapest, weakest, most pathetic home runs Barry has ever hit.  Telegraph meatballs to him until he knocks them through the roof.  Tell your catcher to stand up and inform Barry exactly where the incoming Wakefieldian fastballs will be located.  Do a lot of pointing, just to make sure everyone in the viewing audience understands that Barry is being told where the ball will be, and that Bonds is not earning the record in any meaningful way.  Hell, why not announce the strategy to the media before the game?

Doing so would put Bonds in a lose-lose situation.  If he swings and connects, it's a joke, an embarrassment to himself and the plateau.  Bonds would essentially be placing the asterisk next to his own mark.  If he refuses to swing, out of some desire to "earn" the record, he would never get to 714.  Catch-22.  Either way, it would seem that Bonds has been denied the day in the sun that he doesn't deserve.

I admit this brings up a very basic ethical dilemma, in that the pitcher would be giving up runs on purpose.  But even beyond that, is it right to use dishonorable means to defeat a dishonorable opponent?  Is that the lesson you want to teach?  The ethic you want to live by?  Probably not.  You never want to look like you lost a game on purpose.  But riddle me this: would Russ Springer serving up batting practice fastballs to Bonds be any less ethical than Springer trying to put a fastball in Bonds' face?  It's a choice between the ethics of personal safety and the ethics of being a professional.  But in both cases, we're talking about destroying the sanctity of a particular game because the pitcher wants to make a political statement about Barry Bonds.  The game is a joke either way; why not do us all a service and ruin Bonds while you're at it?

Let's also remember that this was not a contested game.  San Francisco was large and in charge when the HBP happened.  A run here or there doesn't affect the outcome, and probably doesn't affect Vegas odds either, thus clearing the way for some good old-fashioned fat pitches.  Furthermore, teams often use such blowouts as an opportunity to air out dirty laundry relating to... beanballs.  Which is basically what Springer was up to.  So we're not talking about a particularly serious 14-1 ballgame.

Maybe I'm nuts.  But I think if Russ Springer had taken my advice and coughed one up on purpose, he would not have cost the Astros a game, nor would he have damaged the integrity of the Houston Astros any more than he just did.  He would, however, have embarrassed Barry Bonds in a permanent, irreversible may, just like Bonds has embarrassed us.

Just a thought...

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