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Bonds’ place in history is secure

I, for one, am enjoying the Barry Bonds situation. Hell, I’m lovin’ it. I can’t stand the player, but I love the situation he’s put himself in. Remember the saying, “You reap what you sow”? Well, Barry’s reaping a whole lot of emotions these days, and none of them good: anger, resentment, indifference and hostility are just a few that top the list.

Bonds passed Babe Ruth this week with his 715th career home run…and nobody cared. C’mon, that’s friggin’ beautiful. Bonds cheated the game and cheated its fans, and now that he’s been exposed, the baseball world has discarded him like an old battery that’s run out of juice.

And yes, that pun was most certainly intended. Think it’s a coincidence that Bonds’ numbers have turned south since baseball started testing for steroids? Look at Big Bad Barry’s stat line this year: .254, 7 HR, 20 RBI through 43 games. Premier sluggers like Ty Wigginton, Bill Hall, Brandon Inge, Lyle Overbay and Marcus Thames have more homers. Nick Swisher (16) is lapping Bonds. Albert Pujols (25) has nearly four times as many bombs. It’s always painful to watch all-time greats like Rickey Henderson or Jerry Rice hang around for too long, trying to prove that they’ve still got it when they obviously lost it several years earlier. Not so with Bonds. I enjoy watching his legacy swirl the drain as he hangs on to inflate numbers that most people have since dismissed. Nobody needs to place an asterisk next to his numbers; most fans have already done that anyway.

Some people like to defend Bonds by saying, “The man made a mistake. Haven’t you ever made a mistake before?” Barry himself said something similar to reporters last year: “When your closet’s clean, then come clean somebody else’s, but clean yours first.” Then there are people like ESPN’s Gary Gillette, who recently defended Bonds by writing:

The outcry against Bonds and his records should seem just plain silly when viewed in the context of baseball history. Bonds’ “record” is no more “tainted” than many — if not most — of the great records in baseball history. And while Bonds enjoyed several significant advantages on the way to 715, so did every other great home run hitter.

Babe Ruth had the incalculable advantage of playing his whole career during a segregated era, when he and every other white hitter didn’t have to face great black pitchers such as Smokey Joe Williams, Bullet Joe Rogan and Satchel Paige. Nor have their batting statistics compared to legendary blackball sluggers such as Josh Gibson, who many feel might have broken Ruth’s single-season home run record. Ruth also enjoyed playing all of his games during the daytime while having to travel no further west than St. Louis and no further south than Washington, D.C. Furthermore, Ruth didn’t have to face the fresh arms and blazing fastballs of the great relief pitchers who would intimidate so many hitters decades later.

Hank Aaron benefited from hitting in the many cozy neighborhood ballparks still in use in the 1950s and 1960s, just like contemporary sluggers have benefited from playing in the retro ballparks. Though Aaron’s home parks in Milwaukee and Atlanta were not neighborhood parks, he did play in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium when it was known as the “Launching Pad,” giving him an overall home-park advantage for his career. Aaron took advantage of the newly implemented designated hitter rule at the end of his career, adding 22 home runs to the lead he had over Ruth.

What Gillette and other Bonds apologists who throw out this weak comparison don’t seem to understand is, while Ruth, Aaron and many other players scattered throughout baseball’s record books had certain advantages (the “dead ball era,” lower pitchers mounds, higher mounds, etc.), those players didn’t cause those changes for their own personal benefit and selfish intentions. Sure, they took advantage of their circumstances, but Babe Ruth didn’t keep Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson in the Negro Leagues, and I’m pretty sure Hank Aaron didn’t design and build Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, nor did he institute the DH rule in 1973.

Bonds, on the other hand, built himself into the most lethal hitter in baseball, and he did so illegally. Maybe what he did wasn’t illegal by MLB’s feeble standards, but it certainly was illegal by federal standards. Ruth and Aaron didn’t cheat to gain their advantages; instead, their numbers were a product of the eras in which they played, and while Barry’s numbers are also a product of the era in which he played (the Steroid Era, of course), he made a choice to alter the playing field and, ultimately, the history books through artificial means.

This is a matter of intention, not circumstance, and that’s why Barry Bonds deserves everything that’s coming to him. He chose this path. And while I’m all for forgiving someone who made a mistake, Bonds made his mistake repeatedly, did so knowing he was cheating, did so to help him break records that, turns out, weren’t really his to break. (In fact, Roger Maris’ 61* seems more authentic each day.) It’s not like he slathered on his flaxseed oil for a year or two. No, he hurdled Babe Ruth, Maris, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire…and then he kept right on cheating. Meanwhile, many writers, coaches, players and fans started calling him the greatest hitter of all time, watching his Hall of Fame career mutate, much like Bonds himself did, into one of legend.

If he had juiced for one year, in this era of rampant steroid use, then I could see a case for forgiveness. Or if he got caught corking his bat once, fine. What Bonds did was premeditated and relentless, with a goal of rising above everyone who’d ever played the game before. And I just can’t forgive that.

(By the way, how does Sosa look now? “Assuming” he used steroids, that makes his corked bat look even more pathetic. Apparently, crapping on baseball once wasn’t enough for Slammin’ Sammy.)

The absolute best part about all of this is, most fans won’t remember Bonds as one of the greatest players of all time, as one of the game’s most feared sluggers, or even as a seven-time MVP. Bonds will go down as a cheater, as someone who thought he was more important than the game. Fifty years from now, when someone mentions the name “Barry Bonds,” most people will think, “steroids.” And he’s got nobody to blame but himself.

Talk about poetic justice.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Detroit survives to fight another day

Detroit 91, Miami 78 (Heat lead series, 3-2)
They are called “free throws” for a reason. There you stand, fifteen feet from the basket, and you get to take an uncontested shot that’s worth one point. It’s not that complicated. The Heat lost this game because they went 6-20 (30%) from the charity stripe. And it wasn’t just Shaquille O’Neal (1-5) throwing up bricks. Dwayne Wade, Udonis Haslem and Gary Payton, who all shoot over 78% from the line, went a combined 1-8 from the line. Tayshaun Prince led the Pistons with 29 points, while Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton chipped in with 17 and 16, respectively. Wade led the Heat with 23 points while Shaquille O’Neal added 19 despite only playing 31 minutes due to foul trouble in the first half. This was the Pistons’ third elimination game in these playoffs and they must win two more to get to the Finals. Game 6 becomes a game that Miami needs to win, because they don’t want to go back to Detroit with the series on the line. With pressure on both teams, it should be a good one.

Offseason Blueprint: Minnesota Timberwolves

Cap Situation

Minnesota is on the books for over $51 M for the next three years, headlined by Kevin Garnett’s contract, which still has three years/$66 M remaining. While this seems like an incredible amount, a closer look at the numbers reveals that Garnett’s contract is reasonable given his production. Garnett is the league’s most efficient player at 30.3 per game and .778 per minute. At a salary of $18 M for last season, his $/EFF of $7,816 wasn’t far off the league average of $7,070.

Ricky Davis is signed for two more years at an average of $6.6 M per. The team would be hard-pressed to replace his 19 points, five rebounds and five assists at a cheaper price – his EPM is a mediocre .425, probably because he plays so many minutes (41.2 per game). However, the team’s VP of basketball operations – Kevin McHale – said in April that he was “very disappointed” with Davis’ defense this season, and this is an area that Davis will need to improve if the Timberwolves hope to return to the playoffs.

Mark Blount (4 years/$28.2 M) isn’t especially productive, but he did put up 10 points and five boards for Minnesota. Five boards a game isn’t very many for a center, but there aren’t that many rebounds to be had when Garnett is clearing 13 per game.

The Timberwolves’ guard situation is in flux. Their best guard, Marcus Banks, who averaged 12 points and five assists after the Davis/Wally Szczerbiak trade brought him to Minnesota, is a free agent and the team needs to re-sign him or find a suitable replacement in the draft or free agency. After trading away Sam Cassell (and a protected first round pick) to the Clippers for Marko Jaric, the team basically gave up on him as a starter. Jaric wants to play point guard, but at 6’7” is more suited for the off-guard role. The team owes him $32.8 M over the next five years.

Of all the Timberwolves’ contracts, Troy Hudson’s is the worst. He is signed for four more years at the tune of $24.6 M. This is a guy who averaged 10 points and three assists, while shooting a miserable 38% from the field.

Offseason Blueprint

Garnett is 30 so the window is slowly closing on his opportunity for a title. The team has gone backwards over the last three years; after a 58-win season in 2004, the team won 44 games in 2005 and just 33 in 2006. This is cause for serious concern.

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Read the rest after the jump...

Guess who’s back…back again

In what certainly qualifies as one of the least surprising news stories of the season, Roger Clemens has agreed to a one-year (er, four-month) deal with the Houston Astros.

The seven-time Cy Young Award winner ended his seven-month retirement by accepting a deal that will pay him approximately $14 million — the pro-rated value of a $21 million seasonal contract — to pitch for the Astros for the balance of the current season.

The decision came after months of soul searching by Clemens and weeks of waiting by the Astros, Yankees and Red Sox, who had tendered offers to the right-hander in recent weeks. The Rangers were also in the hunt until they were informed on Friday that they were no longer in the running for Clemens.

Now that Brett Favre has decided to come back, Ricky Williams’ latest suspension has been upheld, and Clemens’ latest unretirement is official, we can all, thankfully, get on with our lives.

What does this mean for the Astros? Well, at 27-26, they’re only 6.5 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central, and there’s still plenty of baseball to be played. Clemens, who went 13-8 last year despite an MLB-best 1.87 ERA, rejoins a rotation that includes former 20-game winners Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte, and Astros fans are no doubt hoping Clemens’ return will take some pressure off of Pettitte, who is currently struggling with a 5.65 ERA in 12 starts. Clemens will reportedly make a few minor-league appearances before taking the mound for Houston on June 22 against the Twins.

Gee, what story is going to lead off SportsCenter on June 23?

Toronto trading down?

It looks like the Toronto Raptors would like to exchange their #1 overall pick for a pick in the #5-#10 range along with another pick or a dependable veteran.

Two players that the Raptors will target in that area are UConn PG Marcus Williams and Washington SG Brandon Roy.

With the team’s strength in the front court with Chris Bosh and Charlie Villanueva, a bigman such as Lamarcus Aldridge or Italian Andrea Bargnani make less sense. Also factoring into the equation is the fact that this is not a great draft to have the top overall selection, so a team such as Toronto could add a talented piece (veteran player) through trade and pick up a player in the mid lotto area who could end up just as good as the top pick in the long run.

I get the feeling that Mike James won’t be playing for the Raptors next season.

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