As the agonizing home run march of Barry Bonds moves toward its inevitability, the discomfort of baseball sadly plods on.
Whether we care what Bonds does, how he behaves, how he runs from the truth, how many home runs he hits, has almost become irrelevant in the stain that he and others have left on baseball.
We don't know what to think anymore of what we've seen with our own eyes. We don't know what to make of the numbers we've read. This is what happens when you've been duped by others who were doped.
Baseball has forever been about conversation and debate -- era versus era; pitcher versus pitcher; hitter versus hitter; which numbers in a world so full of numbers meant more than any other?
This is all bigger and sadder than Barry Bonds. It isn't really about Babe Ruth. It isn't really about Henry Aaron. It isn't about records broken or fans confused.
It's about deception.
It's about a trust lost.
And so much of it is about establishing context.
The top six home run seasons in baseball history were orchestrated by Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, all of whom have since been tainted in one way or another. The detail of Bonds' usage of performance enhancing drugs has been meticulously reported in both book and newspaper form.
Sosa, not so far removed from being the sport's most- beloved figure, is not active or retired. He is nowhere. He isn't playing and hasn't announced he won't anymore.
As people await word on Steve Yzerman's impending announcement, Sammy Sosa disappears and there is no need for any search party.
There was one offer for his services this season, an offer from the Washington Nationals without a guarantee of salary or playing time. It was so terrible an offer that even the disgraced Sosa, who pretended before the U.S. Congress that he couldn't converse in English well enough to be understood, refused to accept it.
Sosa deferred to his lawyer before Congress. McGwire should have considered a similar approach. Instead, he spoke, said nothing, answered no questions, showed no remorse, and played a part in shattering his own reputation as a big league player all in one afternoon.
In fact, as Bonds creeps past Ruth and toward Aaron -- and yes, creeps is the correct term -- there is a need to take stock and try to comprehend what it all means. Among the top nine home run hitters in history, there are Bonds and Sosa and McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro.
Two proven steroid users. Two suspected steroid users.
Two players -- Sosa and Palmeiro -- who didn't quit and didn't play, odd footnotes at this most disagreeable time.
Bonds and McGwire, Sosa and Palmeiro are surrounded by Aaron and Ruth and Willie Mays and Frank Robinson and Harmon Killebrew. And a game where records meant everything now finds the greatest of records eventually may mean nothing.
There is something almost perverse about the scene around Barry Bonds this season and this spring. He despises it but he seems to feed off of it. He wants no attention, but has agreed to a reality show that is filmed around him. In the least time-like of all team sports, he is nothing more than individual, isolated from those he plays with, tolerated because the San Francisco Giants made a determination that he somehow matters.
Other athletes, weaker men, less stubborn men might disappear the way Palmeiro and Sosa have, though their diminishing skills played into their disappearance. Defiant and self-obsessed, Bonds never would give baseball the satisfaction of quietly disappearing.
If he is going to be afflicted, it's almost as though he wants baseball to suffer right along with him. Really, we should close our eyes, turn the page, hold our noses.
Barry Bonds shouldn't matter anymore, no matter where the numbers end up, no matter if he's taken down for perjury or tax evasion or steroid abuse. They will get him. What they can't do is make him disappear.
RICKY THE ARGO?
This Toronto-Miami football connection really is nothing new. Back in 1975, a Toronto WFL team signed Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield away from the Dolphins. A few years earlier, the Argos signed Miami pick Joe Theismann. Now, the Argos are hoping for clearance with Ricky Williams. This time around, they require approval.
Paul Maurice wants a three- or four-year contract to coach the Maple Leafs. General manager John Ferguson, on the final year of his deal, isn't getting an extension, according to CEO/president Richard Peddie. Which means the coach will have more security than the GM. Why the Maple Leafs insist on doing things backward truly is inexplicable.
Dave Lewis was not retained as coach of the Red Wings in 2005, ostensibly because his team couldn't win big in the playoffs; it couldn't score. So what happens without Lewis? The Wings lose in the first round this year and their big offensive players contribute little. Detroit wound up sacrificing a good man and a good coach and nothing changed.