09 January 2013

Barry Bonds in the Wild, Wild West - Pioneer or Outlaw?

Barry Bonds had one of the most amazing careers in the history of baseball. His career batting average was nearly .300. He hit 73 home runs in one season and 762 for his career. Based just on stats, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to label him baseball's greatest player during his life. Yet he did not win enough votes to reach the Hall of Fame this year.

Jim Thorpe was considered the greatest athlete in the world during his life. He lost his Olympic medals from 1912 when officials learned that he had lost his amateur status by playing semi-pro ball for a couple of years.

Today, of course, the US unashamedly fields an Olympic Dream Team whose average salary is in the 8-figures. Times have changed and the assumption seems to be that the world's best athletes will be professionals. Pay is expected for great athletes.

In the future, people are likely to regularly use performance enhancing drugs in the course of wanting to feel younger and more alive. In whatever form, they'll probably be taking supplements and drugs that make them stronger and smarter. It is hard to imagine that in such a future professional athletes will do less - as opposed to more - than the average person to enhance their performance. Whichever performance-enhancing drugs the common people are taking, the professionals will likely take - at a minimum - a larger dose. And perhaps in that world, Barry Bonds will be seen as a pioneer rather than an outlaw. Perhaps.

Meanwhile, in this world, he's standing out in the cold with people like Roger Clemens and Pete Rose. And while I understand that stats can't be the only criteria for admission to the Hall of Fame, you have to wonder whether a team of the best players - in their prime - excluded from the Hall of Fame might not beat a team of the best players who are in the Hall of Fame.

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