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Barry Bonds and Trump: A case study in media vindictiveness

By Matthew Delaney

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV. 

You better pucker up and kiss the media’s ring — or else you’ll be dealt the same fate as Barry Bonds. 

The journalist gatekeepers outside of Baseball’s Hall of Fame will point to one reason why they’re locking out the sports’ most prolific home run hitter; the steroid use that juiced him past Hank Aaron’s legendary 755 marker violated the hall’s “character” criteria. 

Yeah, right. That same standard didn’t stop David Ortiz from becoming a first balloter this year, despite his own performance-enhancing question marks. Bonds is out because he broke that other “unwritten rule” of baseball — don’t destroy the media’s fantasy about the sport. 

Sound familiar? 

Journalists derided our “favorite president” for roughhousing them too much over those four years. In both cases, journalists made sure to have the last laugh, even if it will cost them in the long run. 

Now, to be fair, both Donald Trump and Bonds brought this on themselves. Bashing the media was the one constant of Trump’s candidacy and presidency. He labeled them as the “enemy of the people” more than once and called them Fake News. He was throwing Haymakers. 

Bonds, meanwhile, just never warmed to the media…or team staffers…or even fans for that matter. 

Back when he was a columnist, Skip Bayless mentioned how Bonds’ dad, Bobby, wanted Barry to talk with the widow and children of a 9/11 victim before a game. Barry, however, wouldn’t sacrifice his pregame routine for anyone. 

“I said, ‘Son, this is important’,” Bobby said. “And Barry said, ‘No.’ That’s just who Barry is and always has been. He doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him. He’s going to do it his way. He won’t even listen to me, and I’m his father.” 

Those things stick. Just like they stick when Trump tells congresswomen to go back to where they came from and that he doesn’t want people from “shithole countries” coming here. But our media is tasked with giving us reviews on the merits, not on their feelings about a guy, especially when it comes to how they affected our lives. On the merits, these two were legendary. 

Bonds holds the single-season home run record with 73 dingers. More granularly, he holds the top three spots for most walks in a single season, along with four of the top six slugging percentages since 1960. He also holds the top four on-base percentages and the top four on-base-plus-slugging percentages. He’s right up there with all-timers like Ted Williams and Babe Ruth – and he did it in a far more competitive era. 

Similarly, Trump’s accomplishments extend far beyond the average president. He wiped out parts of ISIS and killed top terrorists while avoiding foreign wars. He had record unemployment for black and Latino Americans. Maybe most of all, his Operation Warp Speed produced a Covid-19 vaccine that’s saved thousands, if not millions, of lives. 

If you don’t think that’s an impressive feat because of how it supported Big Pharma or other Deep State forces, just ask the Democrats who have centered their entire political identity around something they didn’t even create. 

But ultimately, journalists couldn’t look past their hearts with these guys because they’re scorned lovers. 

When the home run race was in full swing during the late 1990s, Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly gushed that “the home run race is as American as a corvette,” “the whole nation was brought together by a giant playing a kids game,” and finally, “our games were as pure and shiny as I’d ever seen them.” 

Journalists could hardly keep their pants on for how much excitement was being injected into a sport that had lost so much capital with fans after their 1994 lockout that ended the World Series. 

During Trump’s 2016 campaign, then-CBS head Les Moonves famously said that televising the schoolyard fights that were Republican primary debates “…may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough had Trump on over 20 times so audiences could laugh at his clown-show candidacy. 

That was until Trump put the dunce cap back on the media by becoming president and tormenting them for four years. You could say that it was mutual – Trump and journalists were both playing their part in a new-age reality TV show – but that wouldn’t explain why the media smothered the Hunter Biden laptop story three weeks before the 2020 election. They were hurt that Trump launched them into a hole popularity-wise. They were mad he lost their influence. 

The writers who documented “America’s pastime” in modern times could never get over Bonds insulting the purity of the game by taking steroids. The sport that he helped revive along with McGwire and Sosa had turned out to be a freak show competition, not the salt-of-the-earth lore that writers decided baseball was. Bonds’s cold demeanor with the media was one thing when he was legitimately great, but the fact that his greatness was unnatural – and petty, according to some – made him irredeemable. 

The irony in all this is that the media’s righteousness will cost them their relevance. Without Trump, their ratings have tanked. Without Bonds, baseball has been on a slow decline of turning into background noise. 

So, good for journalists. They got their win. They showed those guys. I just hope they can also say it was worth it.

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Matthew Delaney


Matthew Delaney is a local journalist based in Washington, D.C. When he’s not questioning why he joined the media, he’s doing his part to restore some of its credibility with quality work

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