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Fans mystify with Bonds pick, get it right with Junior

Posted: Sunday July 1, 2007 11:43PM; Updated: Monday July 2, 2007 12:05PM
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Barry Bonds overcame a 119,000-vote deficit to finish ahead of Alfonso Soriano in the NL outfield balloting.
Barry Bonds overcame a 119,000-vote deficit to finish ahead of Alfonso Soriano in the NL outfield balloting.
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Nobody in baseball today gets the vitriol flowing and the veins popping quite like Barry Bonds. Nobody makes you choose a side like he does. Believe him, and believe in what he does, or don't. It's that simple, really. Take a side. Step aside.

Sunday, we saw the result of baseball fans around the country lining up strongly behind Bonds. More than a million of them, voting in ballparks and filling out online ballots over the past several weeks, decided that Bonds should start in this year's All-Star Game in San Francisco. The whole maelstrom that has engulfed him for years, the one that will come to a head in the days and weeks ahead -- you know, the whole steroids thing -- simply did not matter to the voting fans. Or, at the least, it didn't matter enough to keep Bonds out of the starting lineup.

It's a strange decision by fans, this one is. You can't see it any other way. It's stunning. It's fascinating. It's maddening, I'm sure, to some. It's sweet redemption, I'd guess, to anyone who has believed in Bonds all these years.

But remember, the All-Star Game is, and should be, a game for fans. They're allowed to pick whomever they want to see. And, evidently, they want to see Bonds in San Francisco.

What's strange, though, is that a lot of different polls -- ESPN/ABC, CBS News, USA Today, the Associated Press, CNN and many others -- have indicated that most fans don't believe Bonds when he claims he's never used performance-enhancers. A good chunk of fans, the polls say, don't want him to break Hank Aaron's career home run record. (He's now only five away from tying it.) When he finally pushes past Aaron's mark, many fans told the pollsters that they won't consider it a genuine record. Many polls show that fans, simply put, just don't like the guy.

So either those polls are way off, or the ballot boxes were stuffed, or fans changed their minds, or they simply don't care about any of that stuff anymore, or they don't think any of that should apply to an All-Star Game, or they don't think any of it should apply to this particular All-Star Game, or ... something.

It's bizarre. Honestly, I don't get it. The lesson here: Don't try to figure out the voters. They'll change course on you every time.

This whole decision by fans is going to make for a palpably schizophrenic All-Star week in Bonds' backyard. The most vilified player in any sport -- read the message boards, read the blogs, read Game of Shadows, or Jeff Pearlman's Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero or check out some of my e-mail -- is likely to be held up by the home crowd as some conquering hero at AT&T Park next week while the media pulls out its collective hair and many fans around the country cringe.

Think about it. If Bonds enters the Home Run Derby on Monday night, fans in San Francisco will cheer him wildly. When he's introduced Tuesday for the game itself, AT&T will go nutso again. If he dunks one into McCovey Cove in the game, it'll mark the biggest splashdown since Apollo 11. And if all of this were to happen in any other park, anywhere in the nation, at any other time, there'd be cardboard syringes in the stands, choruses of "Cheater! Cheater!" rising from the bleachers and approximately 756 posterboard asterisks all over the stadium.

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