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Schmidt: Aaron's reign will never end

July 08, 2007|Mike Schmidt | For the Associated Press

Editor's note: Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt hit 548 home runs and was a 12-time All-Star before retiring in 1989. A three-time NL MVP, the third baseman was MVP of the 1980 World Series when the Phillies won their only championship.

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This Barry Bonds thing has me confused.

I can't make a decision. I get several interview requests each week and questions everywhere I go.

"What do you think about Barry Bonds?"

I'm sure all of the guys in the 500 Club are going through the same thing. Most of the older hard-liners believe he cheated, broke the law, is beating the system, and want nothing to do with him. Apparently Hank Aaron is in that group.

Those guys feel the same way about Pete Rose too.

The current generation, however, seems to be a little more tolerant. They're willing to accept his achievements as a product of a commitment to fitness, unique hand-eye ability, size and strength, longevity, and whatever is -- or was -- accepted as normal 10 years ago.

The controversial issue is whether he added size and strength with illegal supplemental help, allowing him not only to do extraordinary things as a hitter, but allowing him to extend his years to the point of challenging the game's most coveted record.

I've gone on record saying if I had played in the 1990s I would have found it hard not to fall to the same temptation, especially when there was no testing and a lax attitude by those in charge. Back then, the game and its players were thriving on the power surge.

Knowing the repercussions as I know them now would have made that decision easy. But being a young player trying to make my mark, be the best I could be, make the most money I could make, get to the top, I'm not sure I would have said no. More power to those who did, and most think Barry was not one of them.

So fans, and some current and former major leaguers, find it hard to give Bonds the respect that should follow this achievement. It is directly related to the issue above, but there are other reasons.

There is the picture painted by the media, and supported through reading Bonds' quotes, that he has a surly "I'm Barry Bonds" attitude and has a different set of rules that those around him must accept.

Quite simply, he appears to have a very arrogant and self-centered existence and, as he approaches the record, he revels in his celebrity with little concern for his image. It seems there is little that would, or could, endear him to all of us in his actions.

Hey, who am I to talk? I was a little self-centered in my day as well. A certain amount of it, I'm sure, comes with the territory.

In general, the perception that today's players have risen to a level of stardom where they have lost touch with the real world seems strong. Television does it. These guys see themselves as rock stars, as entertainers. Maybe they are.

Big Papi is a household name. He's on TV more in one month than Hank Aaron was in his career. These are the times we are in, true. But it creates resentment and jealousy from players of the past who played in relative obscurity.

I see ESPN is televising the arrival of the players at the All-Star game this year. Wow! We can see Manny getting out of his limo! Maybe he'll wink at the camera. Somebody must be watching this stuff.

Oh yes, we get to see the Home Run Derby, where 10 players get to blast golf balls over the fence 340 feet away with maple bats while their peers sit around and act interested. I'm sorry, excuse me, just the old chip on the shoulder. If only they had the money and interest for this stuff when I played.

I had a long paragraph written on the differences in today's game compared with Aaron's era, but I'll not push that issue. But I must ask: Do you think most fans believe the Home Run King should come from that era, when it was much tougher?

Not my era, mind you. Aaron's era. That's the hard thing to accept, that records set pre-1990 are falling like crazy. I was seventh on the all-time home run list just over 15 years ago, now I'm 12th.

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