Now that Sammy Sosa has reportedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, who should be considered the true home run king of the steroid era?
Should it be Barry Bonds, who still holds the home run record? Should it be Ken Griffey Jr., who has never been linked to performance-enhancing drugs? Should it be no one from the era because a dark cloud of suspicion has been cast over the entire group? Some of ESPN's baseball writers and analysts offered their opinions.
Bonds is the home run king. Baseball enabled this decade to take the course it did. The clean players protected the dirty with their silence. Everyone must live with the consequences. At the same time, everybody got rich.
I consider Barry Bonds the king because he, duh, hit more home runs than anyone else. If baseball allowed him on the field then I recognize his stats. And just because someone has never been linked to steroids doesn't mean that player was necessarily clean. All I can know for sure is the numbers and the numbers say Bonds.
It's Barry Bonds. If you're going to have a true home run king of the steroid era, shouldn't it be a player who truly used steroids? Why be hypocritical and paper things over with a Junior Griffey smile? It's only fitting that the guy who represents the era was bulked-up, surly, antisocial and defiant, wore a Size 8 cap and is essentially regarded as a walking asterisk.
In his era, Barry Bonds was the greatest home run hitter -- the best hitter, period. He was the best player before 1999, and because we really do not know enough about the steroid era to argue or to judge, all we really know is that Bonds has hit more homers than any man who has played in the major leagues. But if Bonds cannot lift the clouds of suspicion that now have opened on Sammy Sosa, then if most fans were to line up the greatest home run hitters of all time, they would choose Ken Griffey Jr. as the legitimate king of this era. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we don't know whether Griffey grew up on Pez, not PEDs, but 99 percent of the fans believe he's clean. He aged just like a human. He broke down just like a human. He made outs just like a human. But he always played like a little boy and hit 617 home runs. We believe Junior Griffey. Right now, that stands for more than numbers.
Bonds. Because we still have no idea what effects steroids or other PEDs have on baseball performance, arbitrary adjustments and exclusions are a waste of time. I'm sure that won't stop anyone, though.
I would rather not settle on a true king, because true kings are so difficult to remove from power. Let's instead elect a home run president, and I'm throwing my support behind Junior Griffey, who everyone thinks has been clean throughout his long career. And if it turns out that everyone was wrong, we can begin the impeachment proceedings.
Barry Bonds is the home run king of the steroid era. The institution of baseball fostered the steroid culture, nurtured it by refusing to deal with it and cashed in on it. For all those reasons, it cannot retroactively run from the steroid era and pretend it didn't exist any more than Sammy Sosa could try to distance himself from the corked bat suspension. Choices were made, and the institution of baseball must live with the ramifications and learn from them.