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Is steroids the issue for Bonds?

posted by xscot mcknight

Most I talk with think Barry Bonds ingested steroids in one way or another. I want to suggest another issue that may have had more impact on his inflated home run numbers than the alleged steroid abuse: Barry Bonds is armed. Just look at the pictures of Bonds when at bat, and you’ll observe a noticeable set of pads and gear around his right elbow, forearm and tricep. That’s the basis for his inflated numbers right there.
Have you ever faced a 100mph fastball? Fear is at the heart of batting, and Reggie Jackson was one who openly admitted how scary it was. Standing on top of the plate puts the body at threat, and since getting hit hurts bad, most batters stand away from the plate. When they do, it gives the pitcher room to maneuver: throw outside and get the batter to lean, and then jam him inside; or get him pulling off the plate and throw it on the paint away, and you’ve got him again.
But, not with Barry Bonds. Because he’s armed, protected from where it would hurt the most, he can hug the plate and pull outside pitches or at least get them solid with the heart of the bat. His armor takes fear away from batting, and that means more than most think. I think the armor is wrong; and I can’t understand how pitchers and opposing teams can put up with it. Why not give someone armor all the way up and down the side facing the pitcher? C’mon, Barry, play by the rules.
I rest my case: Barry Bonds might be taking steroids, and that might help him hit more homers. But he is wearing armor, and that armor clearly permits him to crowd the plate, and pull more hits into McCovey Cove.



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Brian

posted April 1, 2006 at 12:46 pm


You make a good point. But Barry himself has admitted to taking steriods, though he claims he didn’t know they were steriods. I don’t there’s any question about his steriod use anymore. And, the fact is, he still may be taking HGH for which scientist have not found a way to test for yet. The roids, the armor, and his natural talent make a pretty potent combination.



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Roger

posted April 1, 2006 at 1:16 pm


Since the umpires aren’t enforcing these rules, they don’t mean much, do they?
From the MLB rules

Protective Elbow Pads
The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed to standardize the elbow protective equipment a player may use for all major league games, including spring training games. The following regulations apply to elbow protection:
No player is permitted to wear an elbow protection pad that exceeds 10 inches in length, as measured when the pad is lying flat.
A nylon pad shall surround the shell of any elbow protection equipment.
A manufacturer’s logo on the protection pad may appear in one location and shall not exceed one square inch.
No player may wear a non-standard elbow protection pad, or any pad designed to protect the upper or lower arm, unless the player has an existing elbow or other arm injury and the Club had obtained the prior approval of the Commissioner’s Office to wear that particular non-standard equipment. To obtain such prior approval, the Club will be requested to provide the following:
A letter identifying the player and describing the nature of the injury and describing the proposed elbow protection pad;
A physician’s report diagnosing the injury; and
A physician’s estimate of length of time the protective pad will be necessary.
If, during the course of a major league game, a Club has a complaint regarding the use of protective elbow pads, that Club should alert the home plate umpire working that night’s game. Following the game, the Crew Chief will file an Umpire’s Report regarding the complaint to the Commissioner’s Office, which will immediately begin an investigation. The Club’s General Manager should also report the violation to Frank Robinson, Vice President for On-Field Operations at the Office of the Commissioner. A Club will be subject to discipline if any of its players are found to have used a non-standard elbow pad without the prior approval of the Office of the Commissioner. The umpires will not be enforcing these guidelines on the playing field, either before or during a game. If a Club has a complaint about a violation of this policy, it must follow the complaint procedures described above and should not expect enforcement by the umpires on the spot.



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Ron Fay

posted April 1, 2006 at 3:05 pm


I thought those rules were put in place for this coming year?



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Richard

posted April 1, 2006 at 5:58 pm


I fully expect some sort of face mask (similar to what is used in Cricket)to be developed and become standard equipment by 2020. I also expect some specialised head protection to be developed for pitchers. In terms of the aestetics of the game I am not looking forward to these innovations but they do make sense. RE: the body armour I agree with you. Apply the rules, Ump! RE: Steroids I don’t agree with you. Bonds has been on them for sure. His hr count spiked after he hooked up with BALCO. This is all well documented now. He is not worthy of being mentioned in the same class as Hank Aaron. Stress the word “class” in that last sentence. Henry has it. Barry doesn’t.
Opening day tomorrow! Go Sox (the Red kind)!



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Matt

posted April 1, 2006 at 6:19 pm


That would certainly be a ground-breaking opinion: Barry Bonds inflated numbers due to elbow pads, not steroids. How do you explain the fact that numbers have declined as sharply over the last 4 seasons for everyone suspected of steroid abuse (Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Brady Anderson, etc etc etc). Matter of fact, they’ve gone from 50-55 HR’s on average to 35-40. That’s pretty telling, don’t you think? Elbow pads…I hope you were being sarcastic.



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Alan R

posted April 1, 2006 at 8:42 pm


I agree that Barry shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence as Henry Aaron. It pains me to see this man whom has admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, has as much humility as Terrel Owens, to be inching closer and closer to the most hollowed record in all of sports. Henry Aaron had to face death threats, Bonds has to face a farce of a investigation by MLB. I believe that Budd Selig is as guilty in this whole fiasco as Bonds is and both should be thrown out of the game.
Alan



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metapundit

posted April 1, 2006 at 8:50 pm


I gotta say, this steroid thing seems to bring out all sorts of opinions that are… less than intelligent. I’m trying not to say dumb because even smart people (some of them sportswriters) are saying things about steroids that I don’t think stand up much to scrutiny.
I think Scot has a good point about the armor actually – it’s got to have been good for Barry’s average and power not to fear getting hit on the elbow area. I’d note from the the fear perspective that he could still be hit on the head. In general, actually, I think some of the stat inflation is due to hitting batters being frowned upon now.
On the steroids issue though – First I do think Bonds took a variety of steroids. But re Brian: he hasn’t admitted to taking steroids, he’s admitted to taking Balco substances he allegedly did not think were steroids. And re Matt: please – You mention 4 players as evidence who are all completely different. Brady Anderson? Suspected of steroid abuse with declining stats the last 4 seasons? Please. He’s been out of the game since 2002 (2001 really, he was only in 30 odd games in 2002) and is a historically weak hitter with one abberant year. His HR totals are from ’91 on were 2,21,13,12,16,50,18,18,24,19. Note that there is only one year with elevated power.
Gotta be steroids, right? Nobody has a power surge like that without help. Maybe; take a look at this line of homerun totals: 14,28,16,39,61,33,23,26. Yeah, that 61 is Roger Maris. Some years, people get lucky… I won’t get into Barry or Sosa or McGwire. It just seems like people are worked up about all the damage done to baseball by steroids and what a tragedy it is and yet it’s mostly innuendo and hearsay…



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Jpb

posted April 2, 2006 at 12:15 am


I still can’t get over the pictures. When you compare his size – and not even just his body, but his head – it becomes very telling. Perhaps the numbers declined over the last 4 seasons because they actually got off the steroids once speculation began over the topic. I’m still looking for any other reason for why Bonds exploded in size. I don’t think it was elbow pads that were injected into his arms. ;)



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Scot McKnight

posted April 2, 2006 at 6:49 am


Jordan,
I don’t disagree that steroids gave him the power, but the fearlessness of standing next to the plate, without medical warrant, gives one the confidence to let it rip.



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Jpb

posted April 2, 2006 at 1:33 pm


Scot,
I can grant you (and Bonds) that. And in fact, I think that’s pretty insightful. I’ll have to use that argument at work as this topic seems to come up weekly. (And I’ll be sure to give you the credit) ;)



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Matt

posted April 2, 2006 at 3:52 pm


There are dozens of reasons why Barry Bonds became the greatest hitter anyone has ever seen or perhaps ever will. The question is: Did he cheat to get there? I realize that elbow pads are technically cheating, it’s not as though he hid it from officials. With any sport, cheating is defined by what is enforced by officials, not by what someone can dig out of the depths of a thousand page rule book.
I put this in the category with some people’s claims that McGwire and superstars like him had a different strike zone given to them than everyone else, so he only swung when he saw a pitch he liked. But the steroid use was a very hidden, illegal and unethical way to become the best and is the reason why it is the focal point. If it wasn’t so big, it wouldn’t have to be hidden, unlike elbow pads.
One could go into Bond’s father, his cultural upbringing (batboy), his special treatment by league officials, etc. as clear advantages that aren’t afforded others. But steroids are and should be in the spotlight because of their track record of being illegal, unethical and potentially deadly. I have not known elbow pads to have this sort of resume.
My assumption is that this topic is being discussed because we are trying to find ways to say that steroids weren’t the most important reason why Bonds was able to excel. I could be wrong about that. I am saying that it is a given that steroids aren’t the only reason, but should be the most important one given the weight of damage they have currently caused.



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