Although Matt is wrong about baseball he is right about Bonds. I’ve avoided writing about steroids because my position is “who gives a shit?” Even leaving aside the fact that nobody knows how much they improve performance in a complex, multi-dimensional sport in which skill and craft are more relevant than brute endurance (especially since pitchers can also use them), they’re a condition of the time, like improved training, nutrition, video technology, etc. etc. Claims that he’s a “cheater” are transparently specious given that to be “cheating” you have to, you know, be violating actual rules of baseball. (And if the argument is that he was violating non-baseball laws, I’ll listen to this as soon as the arguer advocates kicking Mickey Mantle and every other player who took amphetamines out of the Hall of Fame.) And it seems worth noting that even before he was accused of using steroids Bonds was a better player than Aaron was.
Once one boils off the moralism — whether motivated by a strange idea of “natural” athleticism that is obviously inappropriate to modern sports, an obsession with the Potemkin “amateurism” of the Olympics, or whatever — steroids are a straightforward question of collective action. If baseball players, or athletes in other sports, decide that they don’t want to take the health risks associated with steroids, it’s fine to ban them so users don’t get an unfair advantage. If they don’t care, neither do I; it’s their bodies and careers. There’s really nothing else to it.
…Rob Neyer is correct that Ruth remains the greatest of all time, however.