Beyond his alleged steroid use, Barry Bonds is guilty of the use of something that confers extraordinarily unfair mechanical advantage: the "armor" that he wears on his right elbow. Amid the press frenzy over Bonds’ unnatural bulk, the true role of the object on his right arm has simply gone unnoticed.Others complain that Bonds uses a black maple bat, while baseball players have traditionally used ash bats.
This is unfortunate, because by my estimate, Bonds' front arm "armor" may have contributed no fewer than 75 to 100 home runs to his already steroid-questionable total.
All this is supposed to help explain the seemingly improbably fact that Bonds had his best hitting year at age 37. But is that even so improbable? By one well-regarded measure, Ted Williams had the 9th best year anyone that anyone ever had at age 38, and Hank Aaron had his best year at age 37.
I think that Bonds just outsmarted everyone. When he was younger, he was a golden glove fielder and a base-stealing champ. As he slowed down, he decided to concentrate on power hitting. He lifted weights in the gym for four hours every day. He gained about 50 pounds. He stopped trying to hit to the opposite field. He used the BALCO drugs (the cream and the clear) at a time when they were not banned. He testified that he didn't know that they were steroids, and that ought to be defensible because no one else knew that they were steroids either. He used a maple bat and a bulky elbow guard.
Bonds is the greatest home run hitter ever. He is far greater than Aaron. He is breaking the career record in the face of more adverse public pressure than any athlete I can think of. If his performance was helped by his own ingenuity, so much the better for him.