On the outside he remained stoic as the verdict was being read in his criminal trial on Wednesday. On the inside, Barry Bonds was the happiest man on the continent. Once on the courthouse steps his head swelled another hat size as the joy percolated to the top of his cranium, forcing a broad smile across his face while he flashed the victory sign.
The second happiest man on the landmass: baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.
Selig had a big weight lifted off his shoulders when jurors deadlocked on all three perjury charges of making false statements (although the steroid (9-3) & HGH (8-4) claims never stood a chance).
With the lone conviction on the lesser obstruction of justice charge, Selig got just the excuse he needed to ditch the thorny record-book issue which has been staring him in the face ever since the steroid-dung hit the fan ten years ago. Now he can focus his energies on the easy ones like instant-replay and playoff expansion.
While baseball’s long, storied history is rich with famous feats, it’s the home run marks which most captivate the fandom, specifically, the career (762) and single-season records (73). Both gems are held by the legally-excused but still steroid-suspicious Mr. Bonds.
Those who revel in baseball’s past had hoped Selig would be bold and take corrective action with regard to the official records (Elias Sports Bureau). Dust off the old asterisk (*) and apply it to those exploits achieved in the PED-era, an era which shows no sign of passing as baseball remains contently deadlocked on the blood-test / HGH issue.
But the players aren’t fooling anyone that doesn’t want to be fooled. In the prevention of performance enhancing drugs, major league baseball is stuck in 2001.
Bud Selig’s past would suggest a man with baseball in his blood. Born in Milwaukee to Romanian-Ukrainian parents at a time when rounders was king (1934), Allan “Bud” Selig was schooled in the game by his mother Marie. After serving Uncle Sam and studying history (BA), Dad’s car-lease fortune would serve as springboard into baseball’s big-time as Bud held shares in the Braves and then turned Pilots into Brewers (1970) (Wikipedia).
But somewhere along the way Bud lost the spirit. He found the money but forgot the game’s grand design. As for Barry, I’m not so sure he ever had the spirit.
Case in point: Miller Park, the Brewers new home. High praise for nixing the dome but an uglier exterior you could not design. And that’s Bud Selig all over. When other new ballparks are hearkening back to the golden age of baseball architecture, Selig and his engineers chose multi-use and profit-maximization over charm and tradition.
Barry’s trial was never about Cooperstown. Even if exonerated it wouldn’t have gotten him a plaque, not before 2030 anyway. By that time the kids who framed his rookie card will be the elite sportswriters and casting the votes. To them, Barry, Manny, Mark, Sammy and Roger are all locks.
It wasn’t about preserving the legal system. The average Joe knows that a federal jury wouldn’t let him get away with lying under oath. The rich & famous are judged by a different standard, Martha Stewart notwithstanding (someone got a bench appointment for that one). When one of your top witnesses flips on the stand and goes defensive, you have to wonder whether the Feds really had their hearts in this one.
And it wasn’t about sending an arrogant man to jail who may’ve lied to a Grand Jury. Barry Bonds didn’t kill baseball any more than Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK. Both men appeared to be willing participants in their distinct tragedies but both scapegoats for a nation that lacked leadership at the most critical time.
This trial was about the chronicle of baseball. It was about history.
Unlike Kenesaw Landis (Black Sox) and Bart Giamatti (Rose), Commissioners who grabbed hold of ‘em and took action, Bud needs a failed drug test or perjury verdict to force his hand. Without it, MLB’s record book will remain a false statement while the student of history retires having left it in a mess.
Keys to Sport
About the Author
Written by Steven Keys
A native of the old Northwest Territory (IL), my wife and I have lived in four Midwestern states and Arizona. Today we live in Duluth, Georgia. I have a history / legal background.