Take Me Out to the Gulag

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As portrayed in the book Game of Shadows by Mark Fairnaru-Wada and Lance Williams, Barry Bonds — who was a Cooperstown-bound, three-time MVP in 1998 — succumbed to pathological jealousy as that year’s home-run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa monopolized the attention of the fans and media. We’ve subsequently learned that both McGwire and Sosa, like scores of other stars, were using performance-enhancing drugs. This was something the invertebrates running the corporatist MLB establishment were willing to allow in order to rebuild fan interest following The Year Without a World Series (1994).

Prior to 1998, Bonds — like his late father Bobby, and his godfather, the immortal Willie Mays — was a multi-dimensional player blessed with a wiry build. But at 33 he was confronting career mortality. Although he had “never used anything more performance-enhancing than a protein shake from the health food store,” write Fainaru-Wada and Williams, Bonds made a calculated decision to become a “juicer.” With the help of steroids obtained through an outfit called the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO), Bonds up-armored his musculature: Where he had been a sleek speedster with consistent power, he became a one-dimensional dreadnought, which was exactly what the  MLB corporate culture of the time demanded.

“Of the five best offensive seasons in Bonds’s career, four came after he was thirty-five years old,” note Fairnaru-Wada and Williams. This in itself is not remarkable: Of Henry Aaron’s 755 career home runs, roughly one-third came after he had reached that age, which is near-geriatric in baseball terms. Bonds’a late-career improvement, however, was unprecedented. Prior to 2001, when he hit 73 home runs, Bonds had never hit more than 49 in a season. Additionally, he was 38 years old in 2002 when he won his first batting title, hitting .370.

“Henry Aaron never hit 50 home runs in a season, so you’re going to tell me that [Bonds] is a greater hitter than Henry Aaron?” mused Reggie Jackson in reaction to Bonds’s twilight power surge. “There is no way you can outperform Aaron and Ruth and Mays at that level.”

Clearly, concluded Jackson, “somebody is guilty of taking steroids.” That is to say that Bonds’ career stats were debased by his inflated physique.

To get some sense of where Bonds stands when his stats are adjusted for physique inflation, consider the following. In 1927, Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs accounted for 14 percent of the American League’s total that year. To duplicate that single-season feat, Bonds would have to hit about 340 home runs–or a little less than five times the number of those in his record-setting year.

Performance-enhancing substances were pervasive  in MLB clubhouses, but with the game being re-engineered around long-ball pyrotechnics, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig wasn’t inclined to press the matter. It can thus be said that baseball found its economic salvation in statistical inflation. This sort of thing came naturally to Selig, who, as Welch points out, “spent his term helping owners soak taxpayers for more than $5 billion in baseball welfare” through stadium subsidies.

There is a certain symmetry at work here. Babe Ruth’s Major League career began in 1914, just months after the Federal Reserve Act and the Income Tax were inflicted on the American economy. In due course, the gang responsible for those abominations created the IRS, which would eventually employ the bilious little twit named Jeff Novitzky.

Major League Baseball’s statistical inflation has done no tangible harm to anyone. The monetary debasement practiced by the Regime Novitzky served so faithfully has literally resulted in widespread death and destitution. So, naturally, Barry Bonds may be headed for prison despite the fact that the Feds couldn’t prove that he had actually committed a definable criminal offense. However, the bovine specimens who composed the jury, not wanting to injure the feelings of the prosecutors, gave them a consolation prize by ruling that Bonds had somehow committed some unspecified form of “obstruction.”

Americans who are willing to countenance this spectacle have forever forfeited the right to condemn the former Soviet Union, or any other totalitarian society, whether historical or contemporary.

6:59 pm on April 13, 2011