Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Bonds sets a record made to be suspect
By JOHN ROMANO, Times Sports Columnist
Published August 8, 2007
And so it is done. Barry Bonds has left the yard, and has taken the game's integrity with him.
Feel free to applaud or bemoan, for surely it is an accomplishment worthy of either. By hitting his 756th home run Tuesday night, Bonds has simultaneously shattered a revered standard and decimated a fading illusion.
For the greatest record in sports is now a product of suspicion. Bonds is baseball's new home run king, and skepticism is the game's latest pastime.
Maybe you followed the ball's flight. Maybe you watched it sail through the outfield, over the wall and into history. And maybe you wondered how to react.
That is the damage Bonds has wrought. What should have been one of the greatest memories of a baseball fan's lifetime was, instead, a conundrum. A debate between the faith in your heart and the doubt in your mind.
And so, today, we are left to sort through this unnatural mess.
Once, this was a record reserved for beloved figures. The cartoonish, larger-than-life icon Babe Ruth. The dignified, steady-as-steel pioneer Henry Aaron.
Now it belongs to a perpetual grouch. And we say grouch only because it has not yet been proven he is a scoundrel.
You know, by now, that Bonds has been implicated in a steroids scandal. That his strength coach has been in jail for nearly a year because he has refused to testify about Bonds' training habits. That Bonds, according to leaked grand jury testimony, acknowledged unwittingly using steroids. That Bonds' physical appearance has given every indication of an unnatural transformation.
And here's the irony:
In his quest to become something extraordinary, Bonds' alleged steroid involvement made you forget he was already something remarkable. He is like a millionaire who got caught cheating on his expenses.
In 1998 Bonds was already a superstar, and it was not enough. He had three MVP Awards, eight All-Star appearances, eight Gold Gloves, a future reservation for the Hall of Fame, and was still consumed by jealousy.
It was after Mark McGwire's phenomenal -- and likely steroid-aided -- 1998 season that Bonds supposedly began using performance-enhancing drugs.
At the time, he was 34 and had 411 home runs. That offseason, using a formula created by Bill James that incorporated a player's age and performance as a guide, a Stats Inc. book estimated the odds of anyone reaching 756 home runs.
The probability for Bonds was 1%.
The point is not that the projection was wildly misguided, but that Bonds' career suddenly took a sharp turn off the charts.
No player in baseball history had ever hit 50 homers in a season after age 35. Bonds not only had his first 50-homer season at 36, he went on to hit 73.
Based on this unprecedented late-career surge, and on the preponderance of evidence presented in books such as Game of Shadows, it does not require much of a leap to presume Bonds was on steroids.
And that means his record is bogus.
Without steroids, Bonds would not be at 756 today. Chances are, he would not even be at 700. So is it right to applaud a record clearly advanced by cheating?
What's fascinating is the Bonds story has almost become this societal barometer. The realist believes the steroid era must simply be considered another chapter in baseball's evolving history. The romantic believes something invaluable was lost in a shameful pursuit. The fool believes Bonds was pure.
As for me, I'm certain Bonds cheated. I'm also certain dozens, and maybe hundreds, of other players cheated too. That does not excuse Bonds' behavior, but it does put it in perspective.
Bonds became the focal point of the steroid scandal not because he took more than the rest but because he was better than the rest.
So now, today, he has his record. He has his moment of glory and his memories for a lifetime. He has everything he dreamed of.
What Bonds lacks is a legacy in which to frame it all.
For whenever this time is recalled, whenever his final home run total is referenced, the story of steroids will not be far from the conversation.