A Tribute to Barry Bonds and Other News

Posted on August 8, 2007 by

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Last night, as my daughters were going to bed, I turned the TV to the Giants-Nationals game. When the TV went on Barry Bonds was at the plate. The very next pitch was deposited over the wall and history was made.

Before this historic moment I was just about to sit down and write out Wednesday’s entry for The Wages of Wins Journal. But when the ball landed in the seats I decided to scrap my plans for another story on the NBA and focus today’s entry on the greatness that is Barry Bonds.

A typical entry in this forum is an original commentary typically centered on some empirical evidence. It’s not often that an entry at The Wages of Wins Journal consists of links to other sites.

Today, though, will be the exception. I do not think there is much I can say on Barry Bonds that hasn’t been said better elsewhere. So let’s take a look at a couple of sites that I think have done a tremendous job of covering the Bonds Saga.

The Wisdom of JC Bradbury

Last week JC Bradbury – of Sabernomics and The Baseball Economist – penned a column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution entitled “Cheer on Bonds while Jury’s Out.” In this column Bradbury notes:

A seeming tragedy hangs over the national pastime this summer as Barry Bonds approaches Hank Aaron’s record of 755 lifetime home runs. While the media have covered past record chases with much fanfare — Mark McGwire’s pursuit of 62 home runs, Cal Ripken surpassing Lou Gherig’s consecutive games played and Pete Rose chasing Ty Cobb’s career hit total — Bonds’ push past one of the game’s most hallowed records has generated more scorn than praise.

The problem, of course, is Bonds’s alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs, which many pundits feel is the reason for Bonds’s epic achievements. However, there is little evidence that Bonds broke any baseball rules, and the use of performance-enhancing drugs is not the only plausible explanation for his on-field success.

Bradbury goes on to site the role of league expansion, changing stadium dimensions, changes in strike zone enforcement, and even alterations to both the ball and bats being played. In other words, there could be other factors beyond steroids that could explain what is going on with Bonds.

Readers of The Baseball Economist, Sabernomics, and even of this forum – where Bradbury was a guest commentator in April – should find Bradbury’s argument quite familiar. And hopefully, as I do, rather compelling.

The Wisdom of the Starting Five

Bradbury is not the only one to question the conventional wisdom with respect to Bonds ascending to the all-time home run crown. The commentators at The Starting Five – especially D.K. Wilson (dwil) and Jonathan Weiler (jweiler) – have been offering a number of very interesting columns on this saga for more than a year.

Wilson summarized The Starting Five’s coverage of this story on Monday in a post entitled “Barry Bonds Through Time at the Starting Five.” In addition to Wilson’s work on this, there was a recent post by Weiler recounting a conversation between Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg (from Mike and Mike in the morning at ESPN). The conversation between Mike and Mike centered on Commissioner Bud Selig’s reaction to Bonds tying the record and I very much recommend Weiler’s recount of this exchange.

Not sure I can add to the commentary offered by Bradbury, Wilson, and Weiler.

Okay, I can offer a couple of thoughts. I do agree with Bradbury that there is more to the surge in home runs than steroids.

I also wish to respond to the critique that Bonds is a “jerk”, a sentiment that is often expressed by fans and members of the media. A few months ago I was interviewed by Mark Emmons of the San Jose Mercury News. Emmons was writing a story examining the work people were doing analyzing player performance in the NBA with statistics. In the course of one of our conversations Emmons noted that I appear to “like” Kevin Garnett.

I stopped Emmons at that point and noted that I do not know Garnett. So I do not “like” KG (nor do I “dislike” Allen Iverson). I can appreciate what these people do on the court, but I have no opinion about these people as people.

I have the same sense when it comes to Bonds. Whether or not Bonds is a “nice” person or not does not change how I see his accomplishments. He is quite simply the best player of his generation and that deserves some positive recognition.

In Other News

There are a couple of other stories I wanted to comment upon.

1. Freakonomics has a new home

On Tuesday Freakonomics.com moved to a new home at NYTimes.com. One of the many features of the new Freakonomics.com is an expanded blogroll, which includes (much to my surprise), links to The Wages of Wins Journal (as well as Sabernomics).

A few weeks ago I noticed that SportsBiz with Darren Rovell also includes The Wages of Wins Journal on the blogroll. Each of these sites our part of the blogroll at The Wages of Wins Journal, so the Freakonomics folks and Rovell might just be returning the favor. Or perhaps – and this is the way I am taking this – Rovell and the people at Freakonomics must occasionally read the musings offered in this forum. Which is, of course, nice to know (even if it isn’t true).

2. In the hometown paper

And one last story: Currently I live in Bakersfield, California. My family and I came to California from Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 2001, where I taught for three years (1998-99 to 2000-01) at Coe College. Prior to working at Coe College I was a graduate student at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. And prior to my time in Fort Collins, I lived in Lincoln, Nebraska. My father moved us to Lincoln back in 1981. Before this move we lived in Detroit, Michigan, which is the place I have always thought of as home. To this day I still follow the Tigers, Lions, and Pistons (as readers of this forum might have noticed).

Yesterday I got a call from Nathan Hurst of the Detroit News, the paper we used to have delivered to our home when I was a child. Hurst was asking about how Forbes was valuing the sports franchises in Detroit. In the course of our conversation I told Nathan that I was from Detroit. Typically when I tell people this they assume that my family used to live in the suburbs around Detroit. But no, our home was most definitely in the city. Unfortunately, according to Nathan, our old neighborhood is note quite as nice as it was back in the 1970s (which was kind of sad to hear).

Still it was interesting to hear from someone from Detroit. And the article (MVPs: Tigers lead Detroit pro teams in growth of brand value since 2006) gave me a chance to express the typical frustration any fan of the Detroit Lions must be feeling at this point.

– DJ

UPDATE: Soon after this post went on-line I received the following message from Darren Rovell:  “I READ YOUR BLOG”

Of course I am pleased to hear that Darren is part of our small audience.  Still haven’t heard from the Freakonomics folks, though.

Posted in: Baseball Stories