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Winning vs. Winning 'Right'

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As the Barry Bonds rumors started to reach AN, the reactions hit swiftly: "No to Bonds!", "Bonds would make a mockery of the A's", "I will stop watching if the A's acquire Bonds", were some of the sentiments expressed.

And I understand, I do. The stories of Barry Bonds are legendary. But we're all rational baseball fans; his career numbers, even with the cloud of controversy swirling tightly around him, are ridiculous. And even in the twilight of his career, he is a better offensive option than anyone else we currently have, or could hope to pick up during this off-season of inflated numbers and years and years of contract commitments.

But still, for many, they would rather lose without someone like Bonds than win with him, for one reason or another. But what I want to know is this: Where is the line? What makes a player good enough to root for on the field, despite what happens off of it?

It is by no means a new question. From the start of organized sports, fans have found themselves having to reconcile their cognitive dissonance between on and off field activities of their favorite players, to the point where even Hall of Fame qualifications and All-Star game merit become something other than talent-driven.

Sports history is littered with controversial players; from Ty Cobb and Pete Rose to Dennis Rodman and Kobe Bryant. And for the A's; where do you start? From the Bash Brothers, to Milton Bradley, to Esteban Loaiza, what makes a player with a questionable off-field life a fan favorite on the field? Is it really as simple as, "Do they help my team win?" If that was truly the case, Barry Bonds should be welcomed with open arms.

Would you rather have an All-Star-caliber athlete on your team with a questionable off-field life (or, in Bonds' case, a tainted career), or would you rather have the all-around good guy, but with considerable less talent? And should it be a requirement for players to be 'good guys'? How about for the Hall of Fame?

And if there is a line, where do you draw it?