Last night ESPN aired a town hall meeting to discuss the Barry Bonds scandal. After watching it I came away with two clear conclusions; 1.) St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell is pretentious and thinks he is a lot smarter than he is, which is why he was booed numerous times by the crowd, and 2.) the mantra that kept being repeated against Bonds always came back to "look at these pictures, he is so much bigger now" and "how can he be so good at his age"? These two points seem to be the thrust of the Bonds steroids argument. In spite of all of the second hand allegations, there is still no person that has ever said that they saw Bonds taking steroids, and Bonds has never tested positive. So in the absence of any concrete proof, those who are certain that Bonds used steroids always come back to the two common sense arguments based on Bonds' physical change and elite performance at an advanced age.
For arguments sake, lets take a look at the these two arguments on the Bonds side, and then compare those same two arguments to another aging baseball hero; Roger Clemens.
Every single time that you hear an argument about Barry Bonds, someone flashes up a picture similar to this;
You really can't argue that Bonds has undergone quite a transformation since his rookie season with the Pirates. He went from being a lithe and skinny speedster to being a hulking slugger. The visuals speak for themselves in this regard. But don't men generally gain muscle mass as they age? Wouldn't being on a pro baseball team and having access to their weight training facilities as well as having the money to buy your own trainers also contribute to a much larger physique?
So how on earth was Barry able to go from a really good home run hitter throughout his career to breaking the single season record at the age of 36 and then continuing to have 40 home run seasons into his 40's? Is there any precedent for such a run? The following year at age 37 Bonds hit 46 home runs, which stands as the second highest mark for a player that age. So who holds the record for age 37? Hank Aaron, with 47 homers. So how come Bonds performing at an elite level at an advanced age is an indictment against him, while Hank Aaron's performance at the end of his career is lauded as a measure of his consistency?
So now that we have looked at these two arguments as they pertain to Bonds, now lets turn our gaze to Clemens:
Do you remember what Roger Clemens looked like when he first entered the majors? Now, do you remember what he looked like with the Astros? In case you don't, here is a refresher;
You know what? Clemens got bigger as he got older. Imagine that.
So you thought that Barry Bonds' recent performances were unbelievable for his age? Try this one on for size. In 2005 Clemens posted a 1.87 ERA at the age of 42. So how rare was this? It was the lowest ERA by a starting pitcher in their 40's since 1917, when Eddie Plank posted a 1.79 ERA. So how come Clemens can post historically amazing numbers in his 40's without arousing any suspicion, while Bonds hitting 40 homers in his 40's sets off the steroid alarm?
I'm not saying that Roger Clemens used steroids. I'm also not saying that Barry Bonds didn't use steroids. I'm merely pointing out how flimsy some of the common sense "evidence" against Bonds truly is.