As Barry Bonds closes in on the Home Run record in the coming months, there is little question that issues about his character, cheating, and steroids are going to dominate any conversation on the subject. But, I wonder what history has in store for Barry Bonds? While the same character issues did not hamper Roger Maris, by all accounts his breaking of Ruth's home run record was far from embraced by the general public at the time and even resulted in the infamous asterisk in the record book next to Maris's name. While it is unclear at this point whether or not Barry is going to eventually have an asterisk next to his name in the record books, I have to say that I have little doubt that history is going to be very very kind to Barry Bonds.
One reason that Bonds is going to be looked upon much more favorably in the coming decades is that I have a feeling we have only seen the tip of the iceberg to the true story of the Steroid Era in baseball. As more of the players, managers, and league office employees realize that their bank statements aren't what they used to be and that they can cash in on stories from a very important era in America's Pastime, I wouldn't be surprised to see many books and articles in the coming years shedding some insight into what was really going on at the time. There are rumors circulating at this point about the extent of the steroid abuse at the time and the lack of discouragement from the league office and managers. It appears that as long as home runs were flying out of the parks and fans were coming back to the stadiums after the strike it was all good. Trust me, these stories are only going to be validated in the coming years and Bonds will be the most vindicated individual from this era in baseball.
Why, you ask, would perhaps the most notorious member of a questionable era in baseball be vindicated in coming years? The issue is that everyone has been ripping Barry Bonds up year after year for what countless others were doing at the same time, they just weren't as good to start with and didn't have the amazingly unlikeable disposition that Bonds has. What does history have in store for Bonds? He is going to be our era's Ty Cobb. Looking back, people are going to realize that he holds records that we may never see broken, party because of the era he played in and partly in the way he stretched/broke the rules, and that as much as anyone since Cobb, people love to hate him. The parallels are almost uncanny. And in the same way that having an asterisk seems ridiculous next to Maris's 61 home runs, people will one day feel the same way about any question of Bonds's legitimacy in holding the home run record. Does anyone question Cy Young's win record just because the era in which he played allowed him to win 511 games when 300 wins is incredible these days? Hell no. And it will be the same with Bonds. If you want to hate Bonds for anything, hate him because your kids and grandkids are going to want to hear all about Bonds and will give you the most quizzical expression when you try to describe to them why you hate him... just wait.