- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens keel over on their keisters this season and stay there.

By the time people reach their 40s, they’re supposed to have learned that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Apparently, though, Bonds, 42, and Clemens, 44, managed to miss this lesson — probably while preening themselves in front of the nearest mirror.

As he closes in on Henry Aaron’s career record of 755 home runs (he’s 10 shy at this early season juncture), Bonds remains alternately aloof and nasty to anyone not wearing a Giants uniform. This guy has all the charm and tact of a rattlesnake bulked up on steroids.

When Aaron approached Babe Ruth’s hallowed record of 714 dingers in 1973 and early 1974, there was much teeth-gnashing and garment-rending by dolts who hated the idea of a black man surpassing the Bambino. This time there are similar sentiments among those of us who hate the perception of a bad guy outdoing a good guy.

Of course, no one is totally good or totally evil. Yet Bonds’ lack of appreciation for the game and its fans stands in sharp contrast to the enduring image of Aaron as a player who cherished both and conducted himself accordingly on and off the field.

I’m sorry, but I have no patience with anyone who acts as if he is the be-all and end-all of his sport.

Back when the Orioles were the team of choice for many in the Washington area — meaning, of course, before the Nationals and Peter Angelos — there was a definite difference between their two stars. Cal Ripken was courteous to one and all, while Eddie Murray treated most outsiders with disdain, to put it mildly. In his Hall of Fame induction speech a few years ago, Murray said something to the effect that he had to be that way to succeed. Balderdash, to put that mildly.

When Bonds is inducted, assuming the steroids issue doesn’t disqualify him, he’ll probably insist that the ceremony be held at his home rather than Cooperstown. Actually, his backyard might be big enough to accommodate his friends and admirers.

As far as Clemens is concerned, his pitching feats (348 victories, seven Cy Youngs) deserve applause, but not much else does. His personal in-season auctions of recent years make a mockery of the game. Instead of giving him about $18.5 million for four months’ work, the Yankees should have told him to keep his carcass in Texas and then some.

Of course, George Steinbrenner loves to make a big splash with big bucks, and never mind what it does to the morale of his players who have been laboring since mid-February and are in the process of recovering from that 9-14 start.

To many fans with a knowledge of horsehide history, the dying Lou Gehrig’s poignant farewell on July 4, 1939, (“today, I consider myself the luckiest man,” etc.) remains the most electric moment ever at Yankee Stadium. And if we’re looking for the most ludicrous, how about May 6, 2007, when Clemens’ signing was announced in midgame and he addressed the adoring throng thusly from the owner’s box, “Well, they came and got me out of Texas, and I can tell you it’s a privilege to be back. I’ll be talking to y’all soon.”

Eighteen and a half mil or approximately $8,900 a pitch during his truncated season? I guess it is indeed “a privilege to be back.”

And what does “I’ll be talking to y’all soon” mean? Does Rapid Roger plan to replace PA announcer Bob Sheppard or incompetent radio play-by-play man Jon Sterling when his pitching days are finally done?

We should remember that ballplayers in their 40s tend to lose it all of a sudden rather than gradually. I’d like to see Bonds hit five or six more homers and bat .220 before hanging up his growls and grumbles. And I wouldn’t mind if Clemens finished his season with, say, a 3-10 record and an ERA of 5.80.

Baseball, which has enough problems already, doesn’t need head cases like these two. After all, it’s supposed to be a team game.

Humility, anyone? And maybe a touch of common sense all around.



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