Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Barry Bonds: Home Run King

Like much of the country, I missed the 'Yawn Heard 'round the World' last night, as Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run. He did it on a 3-2 pitch off the Washington Nationals' Mike Bacsik in the fifth inning. To Bacsik's credit, he gloated afterward about how now he can go around to card-show signings with Al Downing, the hurler who gave up No. 715 to Hank Aaron.

I'm not sure how I feel about it. I thought for a long time I hated Bonds and was saddened that he would get the record. But I think I came to grips with this eventuality after Bud Selig and MLB failed to suspend him at the start of the year. I thought at the time that the federal investigation would give MLB just the excuse it needed to sit him down. Then there was the chatter that he may have purjored himself. Still nothing.

Now, as we wait for Bonds to wind down his career so we can gauge exactly how many Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols need to hit to surpass him, I actually find myself feeling sorry for Bonds.

I never thought I'd say that, much less think it, but what if we're all wrong about Bonds? I know there's a whole book out - Game of Shadows - chronicling his use of game-enhancers, and that he's never tested positive for 'roids (there IS no test for the Human Growth Hormone that has supposedly run him through a second puberty). But how much of this is self-perpetuating? How many reporters has he run off because of reporters who've rubbed him the wrong way over the years? Members of the media pay for the sins of others all the time. Even in my days as a sportswriter, I can't tell you how many phone calls I'd get from people all pissed off at ME because they didn't get their paper.

And maybe Bonds is a jerk. I don't know. I kind of assume that most pro athletes are jagoffs, to varying degrees. Ninety-five percent of them have lived a life of privilege and will retire by their mid-30s with a fair amount of coin in the bank. In 1999, I covered a Giants-Brewers game at County Stadium and stood in the Giants' clubhouse just a few feet from Bonds. I didn't try talking to him because he'd gone 0-for-whatever that day and was a non-factor. Thus, no reason to talk to him. A very professional approach, as too many sportswriters double as part-time jocksniffers, but I did deprive myself of the opportunity to get blown off by one of the all-time greats.

But I think I feel sorry for Bonds not because he's made his bed about being a tool, but because ... what if he DIDN'T actually take enhancers? He'll never be able to prove that negative. Hell, if he hasn't taken 'roids, he MIGHT AS WELL START, and we'll see if he can get to 800 dingers before his head explodes and his feet burst from his spikes like the Incredible Hulk.

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