Thursday, August 2, 2007

Why We Love and Hate Who We Love and Hate

Ron Kantowski of the Las Vegas Sun points out the bleedin' obvious:

Anyway, the point is that although my dad thought Ted Williams was the greatest player who ever walked the planet, and for that matter, Venus and Mars, I would probably go with Roberto Clemente. This is because by the time I fell in love with baseball, Mickey Mantle's knees were shot and Willie Mays was on his way to becoming a Met while Clemente still was flying around the bases for triples and gunning down lead-footed Cubs who dared to go where no man had gone before - i.e., from first to third on a single to right.

So with all due respect to Bob Costas, Peter Gammons, Bill James and other experts of baseball, be they of its abstract or purest forms, this is why I don't get all worked up over how many times Barry Bonds hits the ball over the fence; how much flaxseed oil he sprinkles on his Wheaties; how many times he disses sportswriters, wives, mistresses or Jeff Kent.

I will always admire Hank Aaron more. I admire Aaron because of the class and dignity he displayed both as a ballplayer and a human being and yes, because his head was more the size of a cantaloupe than a giant pumpkin.

But it's mostly because in 1969, when The Hammer hit .300 with 44 homers and 97 RBIs, I was 12.

Looking past the unnecessary shot at the size of Barry's head, Kantowski seems right on target. While there is an entire cottage industry devoted to exploring the biases of the media at large, sportswriters are rarely called out on their own biases. Is it any coincidence that the discomfort about the offensive explosion in the past 14 years in general and Barry Bonds in particular is being voiced, for the most part, by guys that came of age during the lowest offensive environment since the Dead Ball Era? By guys for whom the very dictionary definition of a home run hitter was Roger Maris or Hank Aaron?

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