Turk is short for "Turkey"

Turk Wendell likes to fly off the mouth sometimes and this time he accuses Bonds of taking steroids. Methinks he's gobbling too much again.

The BALCO steroids scandal has put a stain on the athletes that have had any association with the lab, merely by association, but no one has been stained as much as Barry Bonds. Barry just happens to be very good friends with one of the principals in the scandal, Greg Anderson, a boyhood friend of Bonds. And Barry has endorsed one of BALCO's products in the past. It would have been near-impossible for Barry to avoid the wake of this scandal when he has been so closely associated with them. But that doesn't mean that he did anything wrong.

The latest blockbuster news to come from that is that Anderson admitted to providing steroids to baseball players. Understandably, since Anderson is Barry's personal trainer, most people are probably assuming the worse. On February 25, Turk Wendell became the first baseball player to voice what others have speculated on privately: that Barry Bonds takes steroids. I thought I would give my take on this controversy.

Strike One

I will have to admit that it doesn't look good for Barry. As Turk said, if my personal trainer was indicted for supplying then I would be suspected. But that's true only at first glance and without much thought into what this would mean.

To me, it still doesn't make sense to me that a son like Barry who watched his father waste his god-given gifts via alcoholism would take drugs at such a late age in life. One would think that he would have succumbed to some addiction early in his career and been another small footnote to baseball history, another baseball player's son who didn't quite measure up to his superstar dad. But he has surpassed his dad and is now mentioned in the same breadth as the greatness there ever was in baseball history.

Of course, there are still those who are willing to take short cuts despite what they have seen and learned, just to be the top in their field, in spite of the consequences. But if that is true of Barry, then why didn't Barry start taking it when he was younger? That attitude would have encouraged usage early in his career, not near the end.

I've seen some argue that he was jealous of the fame that others got for hitting homers, like McGwire and Sosa. But he knew what type of fame home run hitters get, he was Willie Mays godson, for gosh's sake. So why wouldn't he start taking it earlier, especially since he couldn't crack 30 homeruns until he was 25 years old, his fifth season as a major leaguer. Bobby hit 32 homer and had his first 30-30 when he was 23 year old. Mays hit 41 when he was 23 and 51 when he was 24. Barry should have known those milestones and felt the pressure to match them and he was already way behind at 23 years old.

Strike Two

In addition, steroids adds a lot of bulk that's not conducive for baseball. This is fine probably for a player playing firstbase or DH, but for a player like Barry who did not have his father's strong arm but who, nonetheless built up his defensive skills to win the Gold Glove multiple times, one would think that with the pride and ego involved in willing himself to be so good defensively would not take the easy, lazy way out by taking steroids.

I think lazy attitude like that does not slip in as you age, it is something core to your personality, whereas Barry has always had a professional approach to baseball. And a lazy attitude like that would encourage defensive buffoonery a la Jose Canseco out in the outfield and a general decline in your statistics to Dave Kingman status, hitting for power and not average or showing any plate discipline. Bonds has hit for a high average most of his career and has even cranked it up a notch the past few years and has kept the same plate discipline, in terms of strikeouts per AB, over his career.

Strike Three

Steriods adds bulk to a player's body but so does age. Hank Aaron was as svelte as Bonds when he broke in and he also packed on extra pounds when he was in his late 30's also. The only difference is athletes today know how to convert that extra bulk to muscles. For if adding weight on and having a fatter head in your 30's is a sign of steriods usage, there are a lot of us who will look guilty of it relative to how we looked when we were 21 years old, Barry's age when he broke in.

Plus, how many of these people who look at his picture today saw his face regularly throughout his career and could see that the changes? They probably remember his face when he was in his early 20's then, viola, see his face in his mid-30's and proclaim him a user. Most people's features change over a period of ten years, just take a look at someone you know who is middle-aged today then versus a picture from when they were in their 20's. I'll bet they look much bigger too.

Weight only affects power, which should show up in extra homers and higher SLG. Bonds also improved his batting average during that time as well, his average was .344 for his late 30's versus .288 for his career previously. This is a strong indication that his improvement in home run hitting can be attributed to an improvement in his overall hitting approach and not just to additional strength.

After all, his record breaking home run total in 2001 was not the first time he was headed towards record territory for home runs. There were other periods earlier in his career where he was on pace to threaten Maris' record. He just finally put it all together in one season.

In addition, Barry's putting all together in terms of average and power and strikezone discipline should lead to more homeruns being hit. Ted Williams theory on the strike zone is that there are bands like an archery target wherein hitting in one area of the strike zone will yield you a high batting average whereas hitting in another area would yield you a low batting average. I don't recall if he ever discussed the power aspect of this but it makes perfect sense to me that if you can hit for a higher average in a certain part of the strike zone, that will result in more power as well. Obviously, it worked for Ted, one of the best home run hitters in history.

Lastly, Barry's home run rate per AB was very close, not much higher than Williams' rate, until his record breaking 73 home run year. There have been plenty of players in history who suddenly hit more home runs in a season than he had ever had. Brady Anderson is an extreme example of this, as well as Luis Gonzalez, for a more recent example. Even Rich Aurilia had a season like that the same season, hitting 37 homers when his previous high was 22. That's 68 percent higher; Bonds was at 49 percent. Anderson did even more, hitting 50 when 21 was his previous high and Gonzalez hit 57 when 26 was his previous high. People have blips, it was just that Bonds was already a big time home run hitter previously so his peak was higher than others.

Slow Walk to the Dugout

Do I know for certain that Bonds did not take steroids? No. But the things that I've listed above that others have used as "evidence" so far is circumstantial and either explainable or doesn't make sense, at least from my view. I can understand that casual fans would speculate about something like this in private, it is only natural. Especially with the preponderance of circumstantial evidence that points at Bonds being a user. It takes someone a bit more detail oriented to see beyond the superficialities.

But for a baseball player, a pitcher no less, to accuse another player of it, especially one that he has never been a teammate of, I would think that there would have to be more evidence for someone to shoot his mouth off like Turk did. Oh yeah, I forgot, it's Turk Wendell. He is prone to "foot-in-mouth" disease. Happens to the best of us.

Barry will certainly relish at bats against Turk this year. I'm just not sure if it will be for home runs or lasers up the middle. Either way, I expect Barry to make him pay for his statement.



Martin Lee writes 'A Biased Giant's Fanatic's View' for SFDugout.com when the mood and muse strikes him. He wants to teach and share his love of baseball and, in particular, his love for the San Francisco Giants. He will believe to his dying days that Bobby Bonds was robbed of being the first 40-40 player and should be in Cooperstown. Please feel free to e-mail him at BiasedGiantsFanatic@nospam.yahoo.com (remove the "nospam." if you wish to e-mail me) if you have a question or comment.

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