Don't Expect Bonds to Do Right Thing

Newsday

He should respectfully quit right now, if not in the name of baseball, then in the name of Hank Aaron.

He won't, of course. If Barry Bonds did that, he'd be thinking of others. And everyone knows Bonds -- defiant, combative, protective -- only thinks of himself.

Yes, it's true we still lack the smoking gun, or hypodermic needle in this case, to convict him. Agreed. And although the upcoming book on Bonds is crammed with enough strong circumstantial evidence to suggest he used steroids, we still don't absolutely know The Truth.

Agreed. And Bonds continues to deny, deny, deny, somehow with a face straighter than his 425-foot home runs. Agreed.

And Bonds wouldn't be the first, nor the last, to build a record-breaking career based partly on performance-enhancing drugs (Mark McGwire, please step forward). Agreed.

But he is the first to threaten the most hallowed record in sports and erase the name of an honorable man who cleanly compiled 755 homers. That's what separates Bonds from the others. That's what this is all about, the idea of a suspected cheat taking the place of Aaron, certainly not in our hearts but definitely in our baseball Bible. And that, if it happens, will feel so wrong.

Aside from his immediate retirement, the best thing for everybody is if Bonds' body, the same one that helped him crush baseballs at an unbelievable pace, begins to crumble from years of alleged abuse.

Maybe, at age 41, it will start acting the way 41-year-old bodies are supposed to act and home runs will regress into lazy fly balls. It would be best if Bonds begins to tweak several of his overstressed muscles and spends more time on the bench than in the box. It would be downright hilarious if Bonds can't even get the seven homers he needs to pass Babe Ruth, much less Aaron. That would be poetic justice, and Bonds would finally get his.

However, there's also the realistic possibility that he'll still give opposing pitchers a reason to feel Barry, Barry afraid of putting anything over the plate, that he'll still hit homers in bunches and pad his bogus total, that with 48 homers to go he'll bear down on the all-time record by late summer. And the closer he gets to Aaron, the sadder this entire episode will get. It will anger any purist who believes in fair play and a level playing field. It will put Major League Baseball in the uncomfortable position of honoring a fraud. It will mock an all-time feat that was done through hard work, dedication, love of the game and as we sadly discovered later, done while sorting through racist hate mail. It will send the wrong message to kids everywhere: Cheaters sometimes win.

Thankfully, here's what it won't do: Get Aaron to cooperate.

The loudest silence Wednesday wasn't from Bonds, who refuses to discuss the book or the rock-solid details, but from Aaron. The home run king has been fairly consistent the last few years with regard to Bonds: He doesn't really address the player or the issue. And someone who knows Aaron told me not to expect the Hammer to hopscotch around the country to follow Bonds, should Bonds creep closer to the record.

That silence from Aaron sounds strangely similar to the silence coming from the children of Roger Maris when you ask them about McGwire taking their dad's single-season home-run record.

McGwire escaped the Bonds-like scrutiny only for this reason: We didn't know enough about him back in 1998, when he and Sammy Sosa engaged in their homer chase. Not until last year's Congressional hearings, when McGwire cried like a wimp and Sosa suddenly forgot how to speak English, did we discover how these frauds pulled a fast one on the country and baseball. Also, they're both gone now. Bonds is still playing, he's still homering, and meanwhile the evidence is still mounting and getting thicker than Bonds' neck.

As the new season approaches, the picture of Bonds moving past Ruth and chasing Aaron looks strange and ugly, as Bonds did last week when he wore a dress and a wig while spoofing "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul. Speaking of drag, that's what it'll be if he ever hits No. 756.

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