Barry Bonds' numbers in 1998 (.303, 37 homers, 122 RBIs) were stellar, but they went largely ignored as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased Roger Maris' home run record.
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But as the 1998 season ended, Bonds's elite status had slipped a notch. The game and its fans were less interested in the complete player who could hit for average and power and who had great speed and an excellent glove. The emphasis was shifting to pure slugging. As McGwire was celebrated as the best slugger of the modern era and perhaps the greatest who had ever lived, Bonds became more jealous than people who knew him well had ever seen.
To Bonds it was a joke. He had been around enough gyms to recognize that McGwire was a juicer. Bonds himself had never used a performance enhancer more potent than a protein shake from the health-food store. But as the 1998 season unfolded and, as he watched Mark McGwire take over the game -- his game -- Barry Bonds decided that he, too, would begin using what he called "the s---."
He began working out with a real gym rat, a trainer who spent 12 hours a day pumping iron in a gym on the San Francisco peninsula. Bonds's new workout partner called himself the Weight Guru, and he had a sophisticated approach to training. He prescribed specific, intense workouts for individual muscle groups, and he tailored the program for baseball to maximize hitting power while maintaining agility. He could talk about nutrition and blood tests and body-fat percentages with such authority that you might mistake him for a doctor.
Not incidentally, the Weight Guru was a longtime steroid user and dealer. He had expertise with drugs ranging from old reliables like Deca-Durabolin and Winstrol to more exotic substances like human growth hormone. The drugs could quicken recovery after workouts, build stamina, add muscle. They could eliminate that slump in August, when the minor injuries and fatigue of the long season would otherwise wear a ballplayer down. Beyond that, for a player with the natural ability of Bonds, the sky was the limit as far as what the drugs might do. The Weight Guru told Bonds all of this, and Bonds decided to go for it. The Weight Guru's name was Greg Anderson.
Anderson was an unlikely agent for the transformation of Barry Bonds into the greatest hitter who ever lived: A muscular, spike-haired man, Anderson was at once unknown, unlucky and financially strapped. In 1998 he was working as a personal trainer at the World Gym in Burlingame, a place where the gym rats sold steroids out of the trunks of their cars. Anderson wore a long-sleeved sweatshirt that covered his heavily tattooed arms and concealed just how much muscle he had packed onto his 5'10", 225-pound frame.
Like Bonds, Anderson grew up on the San Francisco peninsula, in San Carlos. As a shortstop at Fort Hays State University, in Kansas, Anderson had begun using steroids to boost his weight training. Over time he had become extraordinarily knowledgeable about performance-enhancing drugs, as a secret recording made years later would prove. An old friend from San Mateo hooked Anderson up with Bonds. Anderson offered to put together a baseball-oriented strength program for him. He would tend to Bonds's weight training and nutritional needs. Bonds agreed, and before the 1999 season began, Anderson was hired to supervise Bonds's strength conditioning.