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Archive for Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Commentary: Baseball will survive unpopular HR king

August 8, 2007

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San Francisco's Barry Bonds hits his 756th career home run off Washington's Mike Bacsik. Looking on are home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck and Nationals catcher Brian Schneider. The ball can be seen flying out just to the left of the light tower on the right side Tuesday night in San Francisco.

San Francisco's Barry Bonds hits his 756th career home run off Washington's Mike Bacsik. Looking on are home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck and Nationals catcher Brian Schneider. The ball can be seen flying out just to the left of the light tower on the right side Tuesday night in San Francisco.

Barry Bonds. Yawn.

Baseball will go on.

This is not a tragedy, this ornery rapscallion replacing the gentlemanly Hank Aaron atop the career home run list Tuesday night.

Major League Baseball will survive this temporary blot in its record book and move ahead much as it has since 1871. Players will accomplish feats that thrill fans, and memories of this pampered pariah will recede. As Annie sang, "The sun'll come out tomorrow."

Bonds has been endured more than cherished. While Babe Ruth was viewed as a deity and Aaron as a king, this feels more like an epaulet-shouldered generalissimo staging a coup d'etat - an unwanted occupant holding the top spot while a more legitimate leader is awaited.

There's a chance Bonds will be denied entry to the Hall of Fame by discerning voters among the baseball writers - many are convinced his performance was chemically boosted; others believe any group he joins is lessened by his presence. Some would rather consign him to a lower circle of the Inferno (perhaps the Eighth, where the fraudulent toil?) than reward him with a plaque in the pantheon of greats.

Far more has been written of Bonds and his joyless pursuit than the surly slugger deserves. Although it has not been proven what he did or did not inject, his contempt for those around him - teammates, management, reporters - is well recorded. He had a big head even before he had a big head.

He spoke of focusing on team success during this home-run chase even as he demanded prima donna treatment, making his message to America as muddled as his blood stream is alleged to be. He mocked questioners, alternating sarcasm, scorn and insincerity with the ease of a pitcher mixing fastballs, curves and changeups.

Players, as they are inclined to do, praise his skills, most deflecting accusations of misdeeds as unproven and immaterial. Many forgive his public pouting, uncomfortable themselves with the heightened scrutiny that falls upon them in an age of athlete as gossip-page celebrity.

Bud Selig wants it both ways. The commissioner was on hand in San Diego when the tying homer was hit Saturday, his dour expression revealing it was out of duty, not desire. He skipped No. 756 in San Francisco and has limited his comments to vacuous stock phrases that would make a politician proud.

More important than Bonds' fate is any message this sends to the aspiring baseball players toddling around backyards of the world. Only condemnation can discourage conduct such as his and persuade stars of the future not to emulate his self-idolizing pursuit of glory. They should keep in mind the ultimate goal.

For the first time since Ruth surpassed 19th-century star Roger Connor in 1921, baseball has a home-run king who has never won a World Series. This seems so fitting. It was clear long ago that Bonds is a loser.

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