George Will

Pending some definitive judicial finding, which is hardly guaranteed, what is a responsible judgment? Begin with the spring of 1999, the year after Bonds, according to Fainaru-Wada and Williams, became obsessively jealous of the adulation accorded Mark McGwire as he hit 70 home runs.

When Bonds reported to spring training in 1999, jaws dropped because he was suddenly so huge. And this very intelligent player was unintelligently huge. For many years, baseball discouraged strength training with weights because of fears that players would become "muscle-bound,'' losing their flexibility. Jon Miller, the Giants broadcaster, remembers that in 1999, Bonds, for the first time in his career, had trouble turning on an inside pitch. His manager, Dusty Baker, expressed worries to Bonds.

In 2000, in the first inning of the Giants' first spring training game, an opposing player hit a shallow fly ball to left field. Miller grabbed his binoculars to confirm that the left fielder actually was Bonds, who, perhaps because he was doing more judiciously whatever he was doing, looked somewhat less inflated than he had the previous spring. In 2000, Bonds hit 49 home runs.

It is still unclear if there will be judicially imposed punishment in this matter. But condign punishment for a man as proud as Bonds would be administered by the court of public opinion, and exclusion from the Hall of Fame.

In any case, Bonds' records must remain part of baseball's history. His hits happened. Erase them and there will be discrepancies in baseball's bookkeeping about the records of the pitchers who gave them up. George Orwell said that in totalitarian societies, yesterday's weather could be changed by decree. Baseball, indeed America, is not like that.

Besides, the people who care about the record book -- serious fans -- will know how to read it. That may be Bonds' biggest worry.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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