Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has announced that he will make an effort to attend the game -- soon to come -- when Barry Bonds will hit his 756th career home run. With that blast, Bonds will become the all-time career home run leader, surpassing the legendary Hank Aaron.
While Bonds is undoubtedly an extraordinary talent, it's clear that Bonds' performance and totals have been enhanced by the use of anabolic steroids. To me, that's a taint that renders Bonds' record illegitimate. Unless Bonds can hit another 100 homers or so, I will always regard Aaron as the career home run king -- and Bonds as an extraordinarily talented cheater.
Since the record will probably be broken in the next few days, this is a good time to post ESPN's back-of-the-envelope guess at how many home runs Bonds hit thanks to steroids. At the end of 2005, the number was 98:
Truth be told, we can only manage a crude approximation. An educated guess, but a guess nonetheless.
On the other hand, that sure beats an unsightly asterisk.
So, how did Page 2 place Bonds' "legitimate" total at 616 homers? In taking away 98 home runs since 1999 -- when Bonds' allegedly began using steroids -- we sought to quantify the performance-enhancing effects of steroids in four hitting-related categories: strength, stamina, longevity and confidence. To do so, we spoke to a swing guru, a major league scout, training and biomechanics specialists, and an expert on the physics of baseball. We looked over hit charts and home run distances, tabulating every Bonds blast from '99 to now. We even got help from a nuclear scientist (albeit a nuclear scientist who really likes baseball).
So here's a salute to Barry Bonds, with his 655 or so career home runs. That puts him just about on a par with Willie Mays, who hit 660. That puts Bonds on the short list of the all-time great players who cheated.