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Monster mashes come back to haunt baseball

May 16, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Frankenstein is alive and living at a big league baseball stadium near you.

OK, maybe not Frank himself, but his shadow sure looms large.

Major League Baseball created a monster in 2000 to save its tarnishing reputation.

And now, seven seasons later, that same monster is an uneasy haze over the game.

It's gone from Shrek to shriek.

The monster is home run derby baseball. And right now, it is embodied by Barry Bonds and his chase of Babe Ruth's second-place standard of 714 career homers.

Bonds' behavior along with his Right Guard physique (One shot and I'm good for the whole day) had turned what would have been a momentous occasion into a swollen dark cloud that hovers over the game, just waiting to storm.

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This corner - and practically everyone who has this kind of opportunity to write - has sliced, diced and dissected Bonds in his run to leapfrog over Ruth as one of the all-time icons of the game. In the end, he will be a hero or a villain of baseball folklore, much like the character Two Face is in Batman comic books.

Back in 2000, Bonds laid in the shadows while the longball duel between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated the country and enticed fans back to the ballparks after another mind-numbing strike dulled passions for the game.

While McGwire and Sosa crossed Louisville Sluggers and fenced for the fences, Bonds was a forgotten third in the chase with 49 homers that season. He took the spotlight on his own in 2001 by rewriting McGwire's short-lived handiwork and hitting 73 home runs.

By then, the raw power of baseball was en vogue. The drama of countless pages of baseball strategy was being all erased by one swing of the bat. Rally caps were being replaced by blasting caps ... and all was good with the world

Suddenly, baseball's free ride is over. It is starting to pay at least for the perception that it looked the other way while the Genie game was being played. Certain individuals rubbed a bottle for a "poof" to grant wishes.

The steroid controversy has taken away the excitement of seeing a home run. It brings questions as to whether that player could actually hit the ball that far on his own or if he used modern science to create it all.

The Bonds-Ruth saga has droned on for more than a week now and even if it does end on Monday, it is being more like watching repeats of B.J. and the Bear than a historic event.

When Bonds hits the homer to tie Ruth - and then the one to surpass him - the question is which will be louder: The cheer, the yawn or the sigh that will go with it?

If baseball was smart, it would have signed e-Bay on as the sponsor for the Barry Bonds watch. It seems like it will cause more ruckus on the Internet's flea market than the Hall of Fame's common market.

As much as San Francisco fans continued to cheer Bonds in his quest - they are about the only fans who have remained in his corner - they didn't turn out to support him. AT&T Park didn't sell out for the Giants' six home games following Bonds' 713th homer in Philadelphia.

In fact, it was a weird following for the games. The outfield bleachers were packed while the prime box seating stayed relatively barren. It suggests that the fans who were there were playing the lottery, hoping to snag the historic ball as opposed to being there for the event itself.

Memorabilia is a much more lucrative market than golden memories.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. Baseball waited for years to have this event be a joyous celebration. Instead, it's become an embarrassment.

It's hard to say if baseball got caught with its pants down or just its sleeve rolled, but one thing is for sure: Fans and baseball purists are showing they are tired of being duped.

Like in the old horror movie, the townspeople are banding together to slay the monster that was created in a science experiment that went awry.




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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