- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Barry Bonds's pursuit of the alltime home run record will occur while he is under investigation and--to read the writing literally on the wall on Opening Day--under siege. When Bonds jogged out to leftfield on Monday night in San Diego's Petco Park, he was greeted by four derogatory signs held up against the netting in left, one of which referred to the size of his head and, in a double entendre, his genitalia. No, the chase of one of sport's most hallowed records will not be a feel-good story.
Bonds began the
season 47 homers shy of Hank Aaron's record of 755. But so tainted is Bonds by
allegations of extensive steroid use that Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully,
who called the home run in 1974 when Aaron eclipsed Babe Ruth's record of 714,
told the Los Angeles Times that he'd rather not have to call what he termed
"an awkward moment" when Bonds hit No. 756. Padres fans--history be
damned--shared that sentiment, booing Bonds repeatedly and raising several
signs that referenced an asterisk or steroids, including one that edited
GREATEST HITTER OF THE ERA to read GREATEST CHEATER OF THE ERA.
"None of it detracts from his performance," Giants owner Peter Magowan said before the game, anticipating the hostility that awaits Bonds this year. "There's something about him that allows him to rise to the occasion. It's like, Me against the world." Score the opener in favor of the world. Bonds did lace a ground-rule double with his first swing, but popped out, flied out and grounded out in his other plate appearances as San Diego won 6--1.
" Barry Bonds is not deteriorating," said Giants manager Felipe Alou, who planned to rest the 41-year-old Bonds in San Francisco's second game because of his troublesome knees. "The power is still there. The guy is not damaged physically, except for what it takes to run."
Asked after the game if he had noticed the fans' signs, Bonds cracked, "I can't read anyway. It doesn't matter." As he jogged off the field following the eighth inning, Bonds bent down and with his glove scooped up a large syringe that had been thrown from the stands. "If that's what they want to do, embarrass themselves...," he later said of the fans, his voice trailing off. As for the outpouring of negativity in one of the major leagues' more laid-back venues, Bonds said, "I don't judge those things. I have to concentrate on baseball."
Only four days before Sunday's season-opener between the Indians and the White Sox, commissioner Bud Selig announced that he had ordered a steroid investigation that clearly had Bonds as one of the players in its crosshairs. While announcing the appointment of former senator George Mitchell to lead that investigation, Selig repeatedly mentioned BALCO--the focus of the recent book Game of Shadows (SI, March 13)--as a major impetus for the investigation.
Said one high-ranking major league source, "Bud had no choice but to do this [investigation], because if he didn't, Congress would have stepped in and ruined reputations. They would have been out for blood." The source added that Mitchell's team would probably need until at least November to complete the investigation. In the meantime, if Opening Day is an indication, every day on the road for Bonds will be judgment day.