Andrew Sullivan posts a comment from a reader who compares the McCrystal episode to the Barry Bonds story:
Bonds spent years cheating but very few sports reporters would report the truth because they feared losing their access to the locker room. Bonds would quite bluntly threaten that access, as I remember. His hitting performance, due to the cheating, was making him a big draw for reporters. But if they asked about the cheating, they lost access. Eventually it took two investigative reporters from SF to expose the cheating. Those reporters, who were not covering sports, did not value access to the locker room, so could not be manipulated by Bonds.The point about reporters in general may or may not be correct, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Barry Bonds story. Reporters never liked Bonds, and never hesitated to report anything negative they came up with on him (and, as far as I can tell, Bonds never liked reporters and generally treated them like dirt -- I believe that it goes back to the treatment he believed his dad, the great Bobby Bonds, received from the press). When Bonds began his amazing late-career surge, it took approximately no time at all for steroids accusations to start. What the "two investigative reporters" uncovered was testimony from the grand jury investigating the steroids lab that (allegedly) supplied Bonds and others -- which was, I suppose, good reporting, but I don't think it constitutes "expose the cheating." What it did expose was the court proceedings, which I continue to believe have been mainly a farce.
Moreover, while it's very likely (but still, at this late date, not really proven) that Bonds used steroids, the other stuff is not as clear. Since steroids were not banned within baseball when Bonds (presumably) used them, it's not clear why that was "cheating" -- and if it was, then (1) dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of others were cheating in similar ways, and (2) virtually everyone with the likely exception of, oh, Dale Murphy had been cheating by using amphetamines for decades. Including such "clean" players as Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, and...well, pretty much everyone. Pete Rose, to name someone who actually broke baseball rules. As far as I'm concerned, I don't think there's been very much definitive evidence on a lot of this. We know for sure that a lot of players used things that now are banned. We know that some of those things almost certainly helped players bulk up...but we also know that a far bigger factor was the end of the old superstitions about conditioning and baseball (it was long believed that "musclebound" players were at a disadvantage. No, really; Brian Downing, who played in the 1970s and 1980s, was considered something of a freak because he did weight training. There are a number of players who have claimed they used steroids; I believe them. Beyond that, it's all speculation, for Bonds and everyone else..
As for Bonds...as far as I'm concerned, Barry Bonds could have never used anything now banned and gained all his late-career bulk from his fanatical workout regime; he could have used steroids without realizing what they were; or, for all I know, he may have used steroids throughout his career. I'm sure he drank the special coffee his entire career, and that was (as far as I'm concerned) absolutely no different, so in my book he's equally "guilty" of whatever he's guilty of regardless of the details surrounding his late-career surge. But as far as that goes, if the story that Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams is correct, then we still have pretty much no idea how much (if at all) the steroids contributed to his record seasons, how much (if at all) his (well-documented) fanatical new workout regime contributed, how much changes in technique that had nothing to do with physical changes contributed, and how much those factors interacted. Nor do we know how many pitchers that Bonds faced were aided by various now-banned stuff (and if so how much it helped him), nor about most of the other hitters from his era.
Barry Bonds wasn't protected by the press. Barry Bonds, almost certainly because he didn't cooperate with the press, was singled out by the press and turned into a symbol for all that ails baseball. Given that by all accounts his trouble with reporters was at least in large part his own fault -- and that he was well-paid, to say the least, for the stuff he had to put up with, I don't particularly feel bad for him (except for the legal stuff, which is outrageous). But as a baseball fan, I feel bad for myself and other fans because we have to read about this stuff, instead of, you know, baseball. Not to mention that we were robbed of the declining year or two of the greatest player alive when he was hounded out of the game. That's a shame, and something that no one involved -- not the press, not the prosecutors, and not the embarrassment of a commissioner of baseball -- has any right to be proud of themselves for.