If Bonds gets to No. 756, the record is his. No asterisk, perhaps little or no glory. In the real world, the record will not be about the romance of the game or fathers playing catch with their sons. It will be about greed, avarice, the hundred-something million Bonds made and the millions upon millions he made for the Giants, which includes his lasting legacy -- the best stadium in sports, which he built. In time, his legacy may stabilize, but at the present he has fanned the hysterical flames of the angry white faction in a sport whose (amateur) infrastructure has essentially closed the doors to African-Americans.
One can forever argue Bonds' place in baseball history. Yes, for nine years (1990-98) he was the best player in the game. Period. In an era when hundreds of hitters and pitchers were juiced, he was the best player.
But the public may never accept that, which raises the question: Who was the dominant figure of this era? Cases can be made for Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux (with Pedro Martinez not far behind), who in the five-man rotation, offensive era will be seventh and 10th all-time in wins -- presuming Maddux wins 12 more games.
Or one can make the argument for the most important Yankee of this glorious decade of four world championships, six pennants and nine first-place finishes, Mariano Rivera. In what is too often a slothful sports world, Rivera is the essence of elegance, like Sandy Koufax. He is always accountable. Modest. And, most of all, the model of reliability in a position that is the most difficult in terms of remaining reliable.
There is no question Rivera is the greatest reliever in the history of the sport, and what makes his 10-year record even greater is that, beginning as a rookie in 1995, he has pitched in 11 consecutive Octobers. Considering the most intense six-out work is always in September and October, to do what he has done is even more remarkable. In 1996, he was arguably the MVP setting up John Wetteland -- 107 2/3 IP, 73 H, 34 BB, 130 K. In the last nine seasons he has 374 saves. His postseason ERA is 0.81.
Consider the volatility of the closer role. At this time last year, the White Sox had no idea Bobby Jenks would close out three October series and they have no idea today what he'll do this season. Eric Gagne became a dominant figure overnight, but the Dodgers don't know he'll be that good again.
Rivera is the definition of reliability in an unreliable role, the model of stability in a volatile era, the picture of modest distinction in an exhibitionist era and the most important player on the dominant team of the era.
He, not Bonds or any other slugger, deserves serious consideration as the poster boy of this era.
I may be a day late posting this, but as we Yankee fans know, Gammons is about 3 or 4 years late on realizing what he wrote...