****EDIT: I got a 95%. The only things for which points were taken off were nitpicky grammatical errors, but I got all possible points for content. Go me!****
Before that one ball was pitched, it was just a ball. It was off-white with stitching in waxed red string, just like any other. It was made of cork and wound yarn, was covered in leather, and weighed the same five ounces as all balls used in Major League Baseball. But after it was thrown, Barry Bonds launched it out of the park for his 71st home run of the 2001 season, breaking Mark McGwire’s single-season record.
The moment that ball went over the wall, Bonds’ critics have protested his record and questioned its legitimacy, saying his alleged steroid use propelled his batting performance. They’ve said he does not deserve to have his name in the hallowed record books next to greats like Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. Those critics are absolutely correct.
The record books are for men who defied the odds and did what was not possible for any other man before them. Records are set by players who have that extra something special that propels them to greatness. In most of these players, that “extra something” came from within; it was something natural and God-given. For Barry Bonds, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative supplied that extra boost, and Bonds’ legacy should not survive without a footnote stating exactly that. An asterisk next to his name would not undo the damage he did to Major League Baseball by cheating; nothing could ever do that. But it would help ease the minds of the fans who realize what an injustice his steroid use was and still is.
The bottom line is that Bonds can not go unpunished for the disservice he has done for baseball’s purity. Thanks to him, ‘
Until someone else comes along and breaks the bonds of the Bonds record, this generation of MLB fans must stand firm in this. Otherwise, future players might be tempted to follow the same path to hollow glory that Bonds has. If cheaters can prosper now, what’s to stop someone from cheating in the future? Bonds’ malfeasance must not be sugar-coated or glossed over; if it is, up-and-comers of the future may bask in the apparent ease of the ‘cream and the clear.’ They may shun the high road and rely on banned substances. What’s scarier than that is the fact that taking those paths of darkness might actually work to win over legions of fans, just like Mr. Bonds.
Surprisingly, many still support Bonds and the legitimacy of his home run record. Some of them say that he is more talented than any other hitter of the last 25 years. They argue that his swing is so very solid; it was only a matter of time before he broke McGwire’s single-season home run mark from 1998. That certainly begs this question: if he could have done it without the aid of steroids, why didn’t he? Baseball would be much better off if today’s children and teens had a drug-free home run hero. Instead, they have asterisks, BALCO, Victor Conte and testimony before Congress getting in the way of their enjoyment of baseball.
If the name of Barry Bonds goes unmarked in the MLB record books, this generation of ballplayers is damned to a lifetime of negativity. Folks will look back on this era and only remember steroids and scandal. They may not recall today’s greats who have worked and done things the right way: sluggers like Jim Thome, and the all-around amazing Albert Pujols. Future generations might forget this era’s excellent pitchers like Johan Santana and Roy Halladay. Men like these have labored for years to perfect their performance, and they may be overshadowed in time because Barry Bonds gave into the temptation to cheat his way into the records.