Friday, August 10, 2007

Day four – Barry Bonds the new home run king and the media

The San Francisco Giants completed their four game series against the Washington Nationals Thursday afternoon at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. As expected Barry Bonds who made the series one of the most memorable in Major League Baseball history took the day off. Bonds is expected back in the lineup tonight when the Giants open a three game series at AT&T Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Monday the Giants and Pirates will play a doubleheader at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park to make-up the two games the two teams where scheduled to play earlier this season in Pittsburgh but were cancelled (along with many more games in April). Barry’s 23-year MLB career has been with the Pirates (the organization that drafted Barry) and the Giants. Barry signed with the Giants as a free agent before the 1994 season, it will be interesting to see how Pirates fans react to baseball’s new home run king Monday, the first road game(s) Barry will play since he hit number 756 Tuesday night.

The media continued their unabated bashing of Barry Bonds. With the exception of very few journalists, the full frontal assault on Barry continued everywhere. From questioning why Hank Aaron offered Barry his best Tuesday night in a taped segment that was shown on AT&T’s giant scoreboard, to suggestions comments made by two members of the Baseball Hall of Fame represented the collective thoughts of the 280 members of the HOF towards Barry, to columnists insulting the San Francisco Giants fans. Barry’s 756th home run and the media’s subsequent reaction have become one of the more intriguing stories (extending well beyond the sports industry) in 2007.

In one of the distasteful columns written to date concerning Barry Bonds, USA Today’s Christine Brennan laid out not only Barry Bonds (fair game there) but suggested in a column Thursday there was something wrong with San Francisco Giants fans (objectionable comments on Ms. Brennan’s part).

The first two sentences of her not very well balanced column Thursday – clearly any objectivity Ms. Brennan was prepared to offer didn’t include sparing those who for whatever reason supported Barry Bonds.

“Our long national nightmare is over. Barry Bonds, the San Francisco Giants and their sycophantic fans can now stop demanding our attention like restless children and slink back to the oblivion of last place.”

Ms. Brennan is entitled to her views but to suggest those who believe in Barry Bonds and appreciated his efforts as being “sycophantic” is as wrong as wrong can possibly be. Ms. Brennan doesn’t have to support Barry Bonds, doesn’t have to like Barry Bonds but to mock those who did embrace the moment is insulating.

One of those who enjoyed sharing in the moment with Barry Bonds – President Bush (no word from Ms. Brennan if she believes the President of the United States is one of the ‘sycophantic fans’ she refers to). Wednesday, the President took time to offer Barry his personal congratulations, something that caught Bonds by surprise.

"That was pretty neat," Bonds, looking a tad dazed and tired, told reporters while lounging in front of his locker before Wednesday night's game against the Nationals according to’s Barry M. Bloom. "How many times do you get to talk to the president? Maybe if you win a World Series or something. But as an individual? That's what I'm talking about."

Bush, the former president of the Texas Rangers in what must seem like another lifetime, congratulated Bonds for his achievement.

"You've always been a great hitter and you broke a great record," Bush told Bonds on the phone, according to White House spokesman Tony Fratto.

Bonds said he told the president, who has been under fire because of the five-year-old war in Iraq, that he has many friends who are soldiers and is strongly behind the troops.

"[The president] said, 'Congratulations,'" Bonds said. "It was great having my kids there, my family there. He understood the importance of being a father and that [the home run] was an outstanding achievement."

Bonds reported that he had received 80 messages since breaking the record Tuesday night, including one from Yankees third baseman and 500-homer hitter Alex Rodriguez, returning about 20 of them. Bonds also spoke at length Wednesday to Jim Leyland, the Tigers manager who was Bonds' skipper in Pittsburgh for the first seven years of his career.

"I don't even want to look at it," Bonds said about the phone. "It's been ringing off the hook."

It is somewhat ironic that President Bush the baseball fan took time to contact Barry Bonds the baseball player. Meanwhile as alluded to: U.S. Justice Department headed by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez is still pursuing a case against Bonds for perjury during a federal grand jury investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative for drug laundering and the sale of illicit performance-enhancing drugs without prescriptions nearly four years ago.

Another grand jury sitting in San Francisco and hearing testimony regarding the Bonds perjury case has been extended to its full 18-month term and is currently adjourned.

During an interview Wednesday afternoon on Fox News Net, President Bush was asked about the Justice Department investigation into Bonds, the media’s treatment of the new home run king and Bonds’ baseball legacy.

"There is a lot of speculation about Barry Bonds, and my only advice for people is to just let history be the judge," Bush said during the interview. "Let's find out the facts, and then everybody's opinion -- one way or the other -- will be verified or not verified."

Though Bonds has often said he didn't use steroids, Bush added that any new revelations could disappoint a lot of people. And ultimately the onus for how Bonds will be honored would be placed on the shoulders of members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, who annually elect former players into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"Baseball and the baseball writers will have to make the determination as to whether or not he would receive the highest accolade of all, which would be to be admitted into the Baseball Hall of Fame," Bush said.

"It really depends on what the facts are, and it's going to be up to [baseball] to make the determination as to an asterisk [on the record], but more importantly, it will be the Hall of Fame. That'll be the ultimate decision point for the baseball writers. In the meantime, anybody who knows the game will tell you Barry Bonds is a great hitter."

Meanwhile while many media members continue to suggest Henry Aaron not being at AT&T Park was a further slight against Barry Bonds, Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Terence Moore spoke with Aaron in hopes of offering those interested a better understanding as to why Aaron offered a video tribute to Bonds that was played at AT&T Park on the teams’ scoreboard moments after Barry hit number 756.

According to Moore Aaron agreed to tape the segment after speaking with MLB commissioner Bud Selig. Rather than become a part of the story, Selig (and Bud deserves to be applauded for his leadership in protecting Aaron and baseball) believed Aaron had to offer something that would allow Aaron to step away from the Bonds story while showing Aaron remains what he has always represented – one of the greatest players and ambassadors in baseball history.

"It is a great accomplishment which required skill, longevity and determination," Aaron said in his message. "Throughout the past century, the home run has held a special place in baseball and I have been privileged to hold this record for 33 of those years. I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historic achievement.

"My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dreams," he said.

"He [Selig] figured that this would be the best way to handle it, and I agreed," Aaron recently told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Just make one statement [on Bonds breaking the record], and then be done with it." And even better on Moore who knew what was planned well before it took place to respect Aaron to have not ‘broken’ the story. That is what great journalism should be all about. Getting the story, respecting the confidentiality that had to be kept. Clearly the industry needs more men like Terence Moore.

One of the more interesting columns concerning Barry Bonds eclipsing Hank Aaron came from Thursday’s edition of The Baltimore Examiner. In a story that appeared Thursday, but from interviews that were conducted on July 27 in Cooperstown at the start of the Baseball Hall of Fame weekend, Examiner reporter Sean Welsh spoke with Brooks Robinson and George Brett about how they felt about Barry Bonds (who had yet to surpass Hank Aaron).

“I didn’t celebrate that much when Hank [Aaron] broke [Babe Ruth’s] record, and I won’t celebrate that much when Bonds breaks Hank’s record,” Robinson told the paper.

“I’m OK with anything that happens in the game,” Robinson said. “If you don’t like it, you don’t celebrate it. If you like it, you celebrate a little. I’m riding a fine line right now to see how this whole thing plays out.”

“I didn’t celebrate when Hank Aaron broke [the home-run record] and I won’t celebrate it when Barry breaks it,” Brett said. “And I won’t celebrate it when [Alex Rodriguez] breaks Barry’s.”

Well if you read what the two Hall of Famers said – they’re not going to celebrate whenever and whoever breaks the record. Neither man was being critical of Barry Bonds. So how could those two quotes create this story lead from Welsh? “If the words of two respected Hall of Famers speak for the entire group, Cooperstown could care less about Barry Bonds setting the all-time home-run record.” Firstly Mr. Welsh the words of two men do not sum up the thoughts of the 280 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. And secondly if you can understand your own quotes neither Hall of Famer showed any disrespect towards Barry Bonds and his accomplishments.

While Brett’s and Robinson’s comments clearly in no way are meant to insult Barry Bonds, a long list of baseball luminaries joined Henry Aaron in offering their personal congratulations to Barry Bonds.

"I'm tickled to death for him," said Detroit manager Jim Leyland, who steered Bonds' Major League entry with the mid-'80s Pirates. "Other people might look differently at him, but when you have a personal relationship with him ... it's different for me. I couldn't be happier.

"I raised him as a young player, and I think he raised me as a young manager. I don't say I like everything he does, but we've got a tremendous understanding and mutual respect. ... He played every day for me and he busted his tail. What else can you ask for?"

"I think it's phenomenal," said Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts. "I'm trying to get 750 hits. It's crazy, and the numbers are just insane when you think about what he's done. Ninety-nine-point-nine [percent] of us can't put into perspective or fathom it."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who had caught up in person with Bonds last month in Chicago during the Giants' series against the Cubs in Wrigley Field, issued a statement: "He remains the most feared batter with the most home runs and the most walks. I know his father rejoices tonight."

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, ready to proclaim the day-after Barry Bonds Day in his city, said, "We are honored to have witnessed his incredible accomplishment here at home in San Francisco."

Sadaharu Oh, whose 868 Japan League home runs endure as a global pro record, said, "[Bonds'] next milestone will be 800. I wish him all the best in reaching that next goal and will be following his pursuit ... with high expectations.

"Hitting home runs requires tenacity and passion for baseball while overcoming hardship," Oh added in his comments to The Associated Press, "and I want to congratulate him from the bottom of my heart."

White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who spent the 2004 season in San Francisco, called Bonds "the best teammate I ever saw when he stepped in the batter's box.

"Good for him," Pierzynski said. "I'm happy for him that he broke the record. Congratulations to Barry."

Reactions to Bonds' 756th homer were immediate, as peers across the country paid homage to his deed and gave thanks for being able to share his time, and kept streaming in all Wednesday.

"I got chill bumps," said the Braves' Chipper Jones. "It was one of those times in your life you're going to tell your kids and your grandbabies what you were doing the moment that he broke the record."

Indians rookie Ryan Garko doubtless spoke for his generation when he said of the moment, "That was sick." In neo-speak, that means "fantastic," the way "bad" means "best."

"It's such a big deal for all guys in my generation, who grew up seeing him play," Garko added. "It's just an amazing accomplishment. And that's a tough park to hit 'em in, too. He could have 100 more homers if he didn't play in San Francisco."

"I never got a chance to see Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle play," said the Orioles' Kevin Millar, "but we're getting a chance to see this in our generation. When we're grandfathers, we can explain it to our grandchildren, and that's what it's all about."

As games ended and ballpark lights dimmed late Tuesday night, Bonds' accomplishment fueled chatter in clubhouses.

Not everyone had waited for their games to end before offering comment.

As video of Bonds' shot played on Chase Field's scoreboard in Phoenix, Diamondbacks second baseman Orlando Hudson openly applauded at his position.

"That's great. That's unbelievable," Hudson said following the end of Arizona's game against Pittsburgh. "I can't wait to see him and give him a big old hug. He deserves it.

"He's the greatest player to walk between the lines. That's Barry Bonds. I'm going to tell my kids I played during the time of Barry Bonds. That's a great man."

Hudson has warm memories of being an All-Star teammate of Bonds and seeing his loving attention toward his toddler son.

Angels’ center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. can do better. He once was the little kid being tended to by Barry, when their fathers -- Bobby Bonds and Gary Matthews Sr. -- were Giants teammates from 1972 through 1974.

As he watched video of the seminal home run from center field in Angel Stadium, Matthews drifted 33 years back and 450 miles north.

"I've known Barry since I was a baby," said Matthews, 11 years younger. "I kept wondering what Barry was thinking. I thought about Barry, and his dad not being there, and how lucky I am to have my dad here.

"And I thought about Hank Aaron, everything he went through as a pioneer for future African-American ballplayers. This was quite a night."

So much of the Barry Bonds story has been told by journalists who for all the wrong reasons continue to have a hate/hate relationship with Barry Bonds. Barry Bonds has and will continue until Bonds retires and his Hall of Fame election takes place five years later.

Atlanta Braves outfielder Chipper Jones one of baseball’s good guys. If Barry Bonds is at one end of the spectrum when it comes to baseball players and the media Chipper Jones is at the other. Jones announced Wednesday he would no longer speak to the New York media after New York reporters twisted quotes Jones shared with the Associated Press regarding Alex Rodriguez into a series of embarrassing headlines in the New York Post and New York Daily News (both tabloids).

In the New York Post, the headline said "A 'Roid Shocker" with the subhead "Chipper says drug questions will dog Alex."

In the Daily News, the headline across the top was "Chipper's A-Bomb."

According to a report in The Atlanta Journal Constitution, when Jones arrived at Shea Stadium Thursday afternoon for the final game of the Braves – New York Mets series, when Jones entered the clubhouse Thursday morning and saw one of the tabloids, he tossed it on a table in disgust and said to several reporters approaching his locker: "New York media — beat it. If you guys think you're going to get anything more out of me, you've got another thing coming."

"It's just the pot-stirrers here," he said. "I'm actually defending A-Rod, and they turn around into a swipe," he said. "It's a joke. But what more do you expect from people who follow high-profile guys around with camera phones so they can get them in trouble."

Recent quotes attributed to former major leaguer Jose Canseco concerning Alex Rodriguez suggested Canseco in the midst of writing a follow-up to his best selling book “Juiced” is going to ‘spill the beans’ on A-Rod. Chipper was doing what Chipper does best, being a good guy coming to the defense of unfounded allegations from Canseco.

"There's been a lot of validation to some of the things that Jose Canseco has said over the years," Jones told the AP. "... Unfortunately, this cloud is following probably two of the best players of the century," Bonds and Rodriguez.

“... I'm playing in the steroid era. Everything that I do is going to be judged. It's the same with a lot of good ballplayers that have put up a lot of good numbers in this era that did it the right way."

What upset Jones – the gutter tabloid journalism the Post and the Daily News have become famous for.

"But that's the way the media is here," he said. "I should've known better.... Some weasel [from a New York newspaper] walked in here last night and asked me to clarify my answers. I said I was asked a question about A-Rod and I said he would have to answer questions, just like me, just like anybody else from this era. Now all of a sudden I'm taking a shot at A-Rod."

"I think he's pretty familiar with how sensationalistic this journalism is up here," he said. "I will [call him] because I want him to know what was said and in what context. It was nothing aimed at him. I was actually defending him. I think he'll see it my way."

There are many journalists who have offered opinions about Barry Bonds (none of them complimentary) that are well thought out and well presented. Certainly Bob Costas never a fan of Barry Bonds has done his best to offer a balanced, yet anti-Bonds view. He hasn’t insulted San Francisco Giants fans, he has implied that two members of the Baseball Hall of Fame are speaking for all Hall of Famers, he hasn’t twisted their remarks and it’s certain while Costas appreciates what Hank Aaron did Tuesday night, Costas respects what Aaron did.

If nothing else the full fledged assault this week on Barry Bonds by far to journalists with their own private agendas against Barry Bonds have so little respect for their profession they’ll create their own version of the truth to serve their ends. Ask yourself who is hurting the sports industry more – the athlete who allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs in an era when his sport didn’t test for those drugs, or the so-called journalists who twist the words of others?

For SportsBusinessNews this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: USA Today, The Atlanta Journal Constitution and The Baltimore Examiner

ask to receive a FREE 14-Day SBN Trial Subscription.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,