Before we get to your thoughts on Barry Bonds and women in baseball, allow us to relay a few letters we got in response to the story about Chad Carroll.
FAN LOYALTY ("Relief for a Royal pain," May 5, 2006)
Carroll was the Kansas City Royals fan who auctioned off his baseball loyalty on eBay. His friends won the auction because my boss was too chintzy to let me bid above $200, and the winner of their annual poker tournament gets to pick Carroll's team. Unless Carroll wins, in which case he agreed to give Yahoo! Sports readers the chance.
So far, we've gotten more than 500 emails at email@example.com, and before the poker game in late July, I hope we can get plenty more. All 30 teams were represented in the first round of emails, giving us the scoop of the century: Devil Rays fans actually exist.
Seriously, though, we'd love to hear why Chad should pick your team, with extra points going to the most passionate and funniest. Here's a sampling:
Chad, the choice is clear: You must remain a Royals fan. My friends look at me and see 180 pounds of walking irony. I was born and raised in northern New Jersey, just 20 minutes from New York City. Now 19 years old, I can get to Yankee Stadium in less than 40 minutes on any given day. My family lives and breathes the Yankees – my father has been a fan since birth, and my only brother has followed in his footsteps. I was practically born with a Yankee cap on my head. How easy it would have been to root for a franchise with a $200 million payroll and with whom I would have enjoyed four World Championships in my lifetime alone?
Instead, I chose the Royals. Now is not a bad time to be a Royals fan; it is the best time. This is the time when the true fans are separated from their fair-weather counterparts. Over the past few years, we have seen the men who proudly bleed Royal blue and we have seen the boys who cry at the sign of the first scratch. The former are the ones who will be able to stand proudly one day with the rest of us in the winner's circle. The latter are merely sheep in wolves' clothing. Today, you must choose which one you want to be. Think carefully, because if you choose the weaker of the two, you may never again call yourself a true fan. You have a golden opportunity to remain a member of this now-highly exclusive club and be a part of something that no championship or $20-million player could ever replace: true love for a team. And that, Chad, is why God created baseball.
I understand your frustration with your beloved Royals, I honestly do. Do you know how I understand? I'm from Pittsburgh, and I think that says enough.
Yes, Zac. Yes it does.
My dad was always a Cincinnati Reds fan, and by birth I became one as well. In Central Illinois this was not always the most popular of choices. My parents were divorced when I was very young, and I went nearly seven years without seeing my dad. But I still cheered on my Reds. When we met again after I was in high school, whenever we had trouble speaking, we always had the Reds to fall back on. Baseball, in its silly way, opened to us an avenue for conversation. In the 20 years since, we always were able to talk about our Reds. We survived Marge Schott, Pete Rose and a hoard of inane trades and signings. Even while we both groaned and lamented bitterly, we still remained true. Last June, my dad passed away from a heart attack. I suppose that with his passing I could be excused for no longer honoring my allegiance to the Reds, but I would never want that. It is part of what we had together and will forever be a part of my memories. (Note to the Reds' front office: This is not a license to be stupid. No more Sean Casey-for-Dave Williams trades. Brandon Phillips is making you look smarter.) Now I watch my young sons as they wear their grandpa's Reds hats and smile in remembrance.
Since this is about loyalty, I'll tell you why I became a Nationals fan after bleeding the orange and black of the Orioles for most of my sports-following life. The No. 1 reason was Peter Angelos, who steadfastly refused to allow a team in Washington, even when the proposals were to put a team in the National League, which would nullify any veto rights he'd have. Not only that, but Angelos consistently brushed aside people who were loyal to the franchise for years, such as Frank Robinson (currently the Nats' manager), Brooks Robinson, Jon Miller and many others. About the only person he didn't alienate was Cal Ripken Jr. The Royals I remember under the Kauffman family were a class organization that did things the right way. The Nats have the potential to become a franchise in the same mold. If you want immediate results, don't pick the Nats. But if you want to hang your hat in pride on a team that will be built from top to bottom as a class franchise, the Nats are your best bet.
Glenn Dale, Md.
The beautiful weather and Hollywood atmosphere are givens, as they have been well documented. I'm here to talk about what really makes being a Dodger fan so wonderful. First off, Vin Scully. Ding, one point for L.A. Secondly, Dodger Dogs. Nothing is more delicious, or American, than enjoying a dog at a baseball game. But the main factor is the atmosphere that comes with being a Dodger fan and being at a Dodger game. Here is just a smattering of first-hand experiences from Chavez Ravine:
1. I have almost gotten in three fights at Dodger Stadium. That is three more "almost fights" than the rest of my life combined. There is a certain mentality that comes over you when you walk through those gates. I can't describe it.
Danny had four more reasons, but none stacked up to the first.
About 1,000 emails later, I'm off the Barry Bonds chase. The tone of the letters was three-pronged: You're right, you're wrong or stop writing about him, please. I understand all three, and while the first two are subjective viewpoints, I'm going to try to explain the third. Like it or not, the most polarizing baseball player of the last 25 years, maybe longer, is, inch by creaking inch, approaching what stood as the sport's most hallowed record for 40 years. There are subplots of illegal drugs, lying to the government, race, class and media saturation. To not be there – to not provide a small slice of what each and every baseball fan will tell their children about, no matter their view on Bonds – would be avoiding history, as tarnished as some believe it is and as resplendent as others do.
With the Giants starting a series Monday night in Houston, reader Brian Dear has taken it upon himself to create a web site that encourages the fan who catches No. 714 to mark the ball with the equivalent of a scarlet letter:
"Years from now, when our children and grandchildren and others from around the world visit Cooperstown, our voice will be heard and our statement will be known forevermore in baseball history. Instead of seeing the baseball that tied or broke Babe Ruth's career home run number, they will see that Astros fans did not tolerate or accept the ball that did it. They will see the stain we left on that ball forever by calling the hitter what he is. Throw it back with "cheater" written on it for all to see. I will be in right field in Section 153 with my glove on and my Sharpie in my pocket. I suggest you all do the same."
Your "if everyone else jumped off a bridge argument" about Barry Bonds is too simplistic. The point is not whether he was right to take steroids. The point is, if so many other players were ostensibly taking steroids, how uneven was the playing field? If the pitchers, fielders and other batters are also juiced, doesn't that at least dilute this argument of an "unfair advantage"?
Also, this concept of the sanctity of records is absurd. There have been spitballs, emery boards, nail files, corked bats, scorekeepers with telescopes in the scoreboard, tipping pitches, uppers and even fixed games since the beginning of the sport. If you want to talk about race, what are the chances that a guy like Josh Gibson might have given the record a run for its money? He was never allowed to play in the majors at all. If he were, would his life have turned out differently? We don't know and can't know.
It's impossible to go back and root out such issues and adjust history for the sake of someone's subjective definition of "integrity." The only way to maintain the validity of the records is to leave them be and let them stand. Baseball needs to move forward and decide what to do in the future about steroid abuse. There is nothing it can do about the past.
Lots of good points, Jason. I'll try to address them one by one.
The first is the toughest: How tainted could Barry Bonds' home runs have been if they came off a pitcher on steroids? Did he really have some sort of advantage in that situation? And what about batters who didn't use steroids and hit home runs off pitchers who were? Do we revise those to 1½? It's a question we cannot answer because we do not know, and even if we did, finding a solution would take years.
Cheating in baseball is one thing. Using illegal drugs to cheat is another.
Baseball, in all likelihood, will let its records stand. If it chooses to do so, let's hope the fans are educated enough to determine the true record-holders.
Barry Bonds is reviled because he is a disgusting person. Just like Pete Rose is. When Hank Aaron was quietly, honestly, diligently going about his business, he was loved by the vast majority of true baseball fans. I remember going to Shea to cheer his home runs and the fans adored him. I wouldn't even be on Bonds' case about cheating, since if steroids were not against the rules, using them could not have been cheating. It's the self-righteous denials that are so irritating. Look at Jason Giambi. He sort of admitted his mistakes, took incredible grief from the papers and then revived his career. Americans are ready to forgive and embrace those who seek forgiveness. Mr. Bonds wants neither forgiveness nor our embrace, but to carry on with his bitter self-indulgence. His anger at being a black person in a white society has some justification. That anger, however, is why people detest him, not the fact that he is black.
Spot on. Except that every cynic wonders how Giambi suddenly regained everything he once had. And those doubts forever will chase him.
This obsession with ripping Bonds and his fans is so over the top. The fact is Bonds watched and waited for a decade as MLB turned a blind eye to steroids. He watched as two men – who were clearly juiced and clearly inferior all-around players – were hailed as saviors of the game. His trouble started because he succeeded beyond all the other hundreds (yes, hundreds) of players who've taken steroids, making him the target while those lesser juiced players can quietly stop and continue their careers unblemished. Bonds is one of hundreds of athletes who took a competitive advantage that MLB simply had to be aware of and chose to ignore. Why isn't the focus on MLB? I think it's because it's a lot easier to take down Bonds, let all the others scurry into the shadows and not hurt the game we all love. Talk about taking one for the team!
Do other baseball players still respect Bonds? I guess I am wondering why every team just doesn't walk him every single time he's at bat.
If, Sergio, by respect you mean they find him deplorable, then, yes, there is an overwhelming amount of respect. As for respecting his game, I can't fathom managers putting a player on base 100 percent of the time – or 50 percent, at that – when he has a lineup of major-league hitters surrounding him. The numbers, no matter Bonds' lack of mobility, just don't work. I do, however, understand managers walking him in spite of an average hovering around the Mendoza Line. Bonds, in many aspects of his life, deals in fear, and some managers are afraid of what he could do. They don't want to be the one against whom Bonds breaks his slump.
Obviously you don't get it and the "myopic Bonds devotees" do. Barry is an accomplished vet adored by Giants fans for being exactly who he is and what he's done for baseball in the city of San Francisco. Unconditional love might be a difficult concept for you to grasp. Someone making the decision not to jump through pre-established media hoops – knowing all the time how difficult it will be – might be impossible for you to wrap your mind around, too. But from reading your endless stream of verbal sewage about Bonds, you seem like the kind of guy that would beat up a kid for wearing the wrong sneakers in the 10th grade anyway (and possibly still do).
Actually, from the portrait painted in "Game of Shadows" and "Love Me, Hate Me," the two books centering around Bonds, he'd be the kind of person to do the bullying.
If you're going to note that fans loathe Barry Bonds, you need to put an asterisk behind that, noting that the above doesn't apply in and around San Francisco.
I'd like to put an asterisk somewhere, all right …
You and all the rest of your like-minded colleagues are a total bore with this continual obsession with Barry Bonds and steroids. I was offered steroids in 1977 at a Division II non-scholarship university and that was certainly only the tip of the iceberg so far as their use was concerned. If you guys weren't aware of extensive 'roid use prior to Bonds' involvement, then you're ignorant, stupid or raving hypocrites. The last is the most likely, though the intelligence level of some of you guys is certainly not to be overestimated. So Bonds used steroids. No duh, Sherlock. Now what's your real point? I'm sure if you were around during Hank Aaron's chase of Babe Ruth you would have been one of those guys who pointed out that Babe Ruth achieved his mark with far fewer at-bats, etc., etc. Give it a rest.
Well, Ruth did average a homer every 11.76 at-bats, compared to Bonds' 12.94 and Aaron's 16.38. Though, as many readers noted, Ruth played during segregation, which, assuredly, diluted the talent pool.
I can't wait to see what you have to say about Adam LaRoche. I'm positive I don't have to point out the error of his ways on Sunday afternoon and how much damage it caused to his team. I am positive I won't have to worry about you writing something about how disrespectful it was to the game. I wonder if you're just finding something about Barry or are you just reporting things in baseball, because if it's the latter, you should be licking your chops to put LaRoche on the grill, like you did Barry.
Long Beach, Calif.
Consider LaRoche slathered in marinade. For those who didn't see, LaRoche, the Atlanta Braves' first baseman, fielded a ground ball and lazily trotted to first base. A hustling Nick Johnson beat him there, and Washington blew out Atlanta. It's inconceivable that someone hitting .221 would try to pull something like that. It's even crazier that Bobby Cox didn't yank LaRoche immediately. At least Bonds has an excuse with his bone-on-bone knees. LaRoche, 26 and healthy, was just a sloth.
This is not a question but a comment from someone who played ball against Bobby Bonds, who knew Bobby (and Rosie, Bobby's sister) for many years. I played catch with Barry when he was 10 or 12 years old at charity baseball events. He showed me his curveball and slider. I showed him my palmball and knuckleball. Barry had, even at that age, a great eye for what was coming at him. Steroids don't give you that.
I think the Bonds family is comparable to the Kennedy family. They are all people of tremendous ability and charisma. They all have flaws that cause their supporters to mourn what they have to endure. They both are spectacularly dysfunctional in one way or another. They are driven to succeed.
I prefer to think of Barry as that young boy who drove himself to succeed. I hope, dearly, that he doesn't end his career as his godfather Willie Mays (arguably the greatest baseball player in the history of the game) did, stumbling around the outfield that he used to know as his own.
Let's hope that Albert Pujols stays healthy for the next 20 years. Hopefully the single-season and the career home run marks will belong to him, and all this other junk will be in the past.
Whether it's Pujols or, more likely, Alex Rodriguez, let's also hope the player who passes Hank Aaron stays clean so we don't have to repeat this charade.
WOMEN IN BASEBALL ("Baseball's other barrier," May 9, 2006)
Lots of response to the story about women in baseball and the barriers they face. Lots of it went against convention, too.
I am a woman, in fact a black woman. Women have their own league and play softball. Why do they think they must be allowed in everything because how dare they have no women in this club or this organization or this event? I don't see men doing the same thing with women issues. But we must be represented in everything that they feel is a man's world. I guess this is part of the "we are just like them" mentality. I am female. I am very different from a man and don't want to be part of everything a man does or has.
I reject the idea that the lack of women in baseball management or in other sports is the result of sexism. Certainly you made your point that there are some sexist Neanderthals. The No. 1 reason for a lack of women in management is that a much higher number of men pursue those positions. If 1 million men want to work in men's sports and only 10,000 women seek these jobs, then even if everyone from both genders are equally qualified, 99 percent of the positions will be filled by men. Not only that, many men have the advantage of having been involved with the sport or individual organization as players. The insight derived from having been a professional athlete is difficult to make up with intelligence and study. Frankly, given the numbers and experiential disadvantages, it surprises me that there are any women in significant management positions. These days for every management moron who keeps a good woman down, there is another moron who shows off his token female as evidence that he is enlightened. I'm sure that Kim Ng is an incredibly able executive, but I can't see that her story is evidence for or against your case of rampant sexism.
I think what I liked best about what Ms. Ng said is that if she got mad at everything, she'd just be driving herself crazy. That's the problem with women and sports – if we are too aggressive and demand to be taken seriously, there will be backlash. If we just sit there and let things happen, we're too demure to be in this business. I think Ms. Ng is handling this in probably the best way possible. Anyway, the real reason I wanted to email you was to just to let you know, in case you didn't already, that the entire in-house counsel office of the Boston Red Sox is female. As a graduating law student who dreams of working in sports and entertainment, this gives me hope.
Part of the reason such a dearth of women apply for jobs in baseball is the notion that they won't get it. It starts a miserable cycle: Few women hold these jobs, ones that might be interested get discouraged as such, there is a shortage of female applicants, few women get these jobs.
Good luck, Carrie. It's an uphill climb.
Thanks for giving Keith Hernandez the sort of response he deserves. I half expect the cast of "Seinfeld" to reunite and do at least one more episode featuring him and his stupidity.
Baseball has always been a game by men for men directed by men for men. I don't need Ph.D.'s, Doctorates, etc. I need a baseball man to tell me if in six years this particular prospect can get a hit or get the big out. Mrs. Ng is probably a fine woman with upstanding moral values and a high intellect level. That doesn't mean she could run the daily operations of the Dodgers or any other major league team.
Thank you for your fine article on "baseball's other barrier." Womyn belong everywhere, just as men don't. Womyn belong not only in the dugout but in the locker room, the steam room, the duck blind, the infantryman's foxhole, the NASCAR pit stop and anywhere else two or more men may gather in the name of sports, fun, duty, competition or camaraderie. Men need to learn their proper place in today's feminized society, and that is last. Especially the white heterosexual ones. I look forward to the day when it's illegal for two or more men to go on a fishing trip without a female being present. A fishing boat is a Petri dish for testosterone, and we all know how sinister that can be.
OK, that was pretty funny.
Last word goes to Blake, who sees a different kind of bias in baseball that receives even less attention:
You contrast the slap on the hand that Hernandez received for his chauvinistic comments with the much harsher response he would no doubt have received for racist comments. Do you think he would even have received a slap on the hand had his comments been homophobic? I'm thinking of a number of players or managers who have made homophobic comments in recent years (Ozzie Guillen, Carl Everett, Todd Jones, etc.)
Without so much as a reprimand, even if their clubs nervously tried to distance themselves from the comments. I seriously doubt John Rocker would have been suspended and become so vilified had his comments only dealt with homosexuality and not race. Far be it from me to minimize the struggles and courage of women like Kim Ng or Kelly Calabrese, who deserve high praise for their work to break the gender barrier in baseball. Along with women, however, there are no doubt a number of gays in baseball dugouts who live in constant fear that their "secret" will become public. You rightly observe that it will take time to overcome the chauvinism that plagues baseball, but at least the wheels are in motion. I have much less hope of ever seeing homophobia eradicated from the sport that, as a gay man, I sometimes wonder why I love as much as I do.