When Barry Bonds sent his 600th homer into the bleachers at his home field in San Francisco last Friday, he joined Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays on one of baseball's most rarefied perches. And if Major League Baseball is able to avoid a strike this year and Bonds is able to keep healthy, he could pass Mays, his godfather, on his way to the top. But he'll need longevity and luck to pass Aaron's 755.
That may be an understatement.
Two years ago, after Mark McGwire made history with his record-breaking 70th home run, we wrote that since the St. Louis Cardinal slugger expected to be in baseball for another four or five years, he'd "only" need 50 four-baggers a season to put him well past Hank Aaron's 755.
But in 2001, Bonds broke McGwire's record and the Cardinal first baseman retired explaining that his "mind and body are worn out." Old age -- which for McGwire meant 38 -- has a way of sneaking up on you. Bonds celebrated his own 38th birthday last month -- which may not give him that much time to ward off an athlete's typical aches and pains and to overcome the high number of intentional walks he has been given by his opponents.
Baseball's questionable future
The other potential fly in Barry Bonds' ointment is the future of baseball itself.
With players and owners still talking, but not reaching agreement, Bonds' season may be cut short through no fault of his own. And if a strike is called, as it was in 1994 -- resulting in the cancellation of the league play-offs and the World Series -- no one can say with surety that the game that emerges post-strike will be the same as it was before a work stoppage.
With sports fans having so many other options vying for their money and their time, the nation's pastime could find itself past its time.
We would hate to see someone as good as Bonds consigned to the slag heap of history, his name relegated to an answer on Jeopardy. But baseball can't go on forever if wealthy owners and wealthy players can't see through their big-bucks blinded eyes.
When Enron went down, so did the hopes and bank accounts of thousands of Americans whose discretionary income evaporated like so much spit in the dug-out on a hot day. That's a lesson professional baseball should keep in mind.