Steroid-Powered Rocket to Rescue of Barry Bonds?

The Mitchell Report, detailing widespread steroid use by Major League Baseball players, may carry a silver lining for Barry Bonds. In addition to the obvious juicers---sluggers like Bonds, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Sammy Sosa---the report names, indeed headlines with, pitcher Roger Clemens. It also names pitchers Andy Petttite, Jason Grimsley, Steve Bechler (who died in spring training in 2003), Ron Villone and others as users of performance-enhancing substances.

The report (and I confess to not having read all 311 pages plus appendices) suggests at one point that pitchers started taking performance-enhancing drugs in earnest once it became apparent that juiced hitters had gotten the advantage. And for some players, at least, the drugs pretty clearly worked. For example, the report indicates that Clemens had his best seasons while on the 'roids.

So how does this report help Barry Bonds? Well, not at all in his perjury case. The fact that "everybody was doing steroids" is not a defense to a charge of lying about his own use. But in terms of his legacy, it is now open to Bonds and his supporters (if he has any) to say: 1) There is no reason (other than that you don't like Barry Bonds as a person) to single Bonds out as having gained unfair advantages over other hitters in his era because so many of them were doing the same thing; and 2) Relative to batters of earlier eras, it's true that Bonds had the advantage of a juiced body (not to mention his head and neck) but he had the disadvantage of having to face juiced pitchers. So, all in all, a terrible day for baseball's public image, but not so bad a day for Barry Bonds.

Posted by Mike Dorf