2006-03-24 / Sports

Bonds Can't Hide From Steroid Denial Anymore

By Michael Avallone Sports Columnist

By Michael Avallone
Sports Columnist

Barry Bonds 
Barry Bonds The only way out now for Barry Bonds would be to die young, and even that might not do it. Bonds will not only linger like Pete Rose, some sort of illegitimate public boil, but will continue to play baseball.

If tomorrow Bonds were to confess all, announce he is retiring to contemplate his sins, if he were to suddenly turn into Sweet Barry the Gentle Friend, provide a list of which home runs were chemical and which ones were natural, self- adjust the sacred total to keep from skewering the long march of baseball glory, all of that, well, maybe then.

But now there is more. With the release of Game of Shadows by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, the cat is not only out of the bag - which it's been already - but out of the house and for that matter, hitchhiking down the interstate.

Simply put, Bonds will forever be defined as the greatest cheat in the greatest game and nothing he ever does will change that.

Never mind that there were no rules against cheating the way Bonds cheated, not baseball rules. Long ago Bonds moved beyond legality into morality, into the judgment of strangers.

Odd it is to think that if Bonds had been a lesser talent, he would only have succeeded and not exceeded. It is the excess that made the difference. Somewhere I suppose Mark McGwire is grateful because he is now just another wanted poster, covered by Bonds, like those faded handbills on a post office wall. Sammy Sosa, too. And Rafael Palmeiro.

All of these will be dealt with as their turn might come, but always, in larger type with the bigger picture will be Bonds, Barry Bonds.

Whether Bonds cares about all of this is unknown, but a journalistic guess - like those in the new book that can see inside Bonds' head - is that he does. It was ego (his) and indifference (ours) that is supposed to have caused all of this, keeping up with Whitey, or McGwire, as the new book would have it.

The commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, swears he will read it all very closely, as he should since he is the man who should have been writing the book in the first place.

Unlike the commissioners' ordered exposure of Rose, or the high-handed decree that exiled the Black Sox, the dribble, dribble of Bonds' shame has come from old-fashioned newspaper reporting and is now collected in one pile too tall to be ignored.

Baseball is the cart here, not the horse, as it has been in this whole steroid business, not that it is going to be holding testimonials to Jose Canseco, the great accuser, nor memorials for Ken Caminiti, the first confessor.

If Bonds cared only about being the best player in baseball, which he was, and not about that old TV spot that swore that chicks dig the long ball, then maybe none of this happens, at least not to him and not to us.

We could root him on to wherever it is he might have gone, mostly likely by now to the Hall of Fame. Had Bonds finished when his father Bobby did, at age 35, he would have done enough.

Supposedly Bonds missed the attention he consistently disdained, and if that seems unreasonably screwy, well, sidewalk psychiatry is cheaper than the drugs and ointments that Bonds used. From here, all that matters really is if we care, and we will for a while. We will care more when Bonds passes Babe Ruth, an iconic figure who not only got to his home run total without enhancement but got there doing stuff that made it harder to get there.

We will care if Bonds passes Henry Aaron, the most noble of recent heroes, who grows in eminence as the years pass, a man of true dignity in the middle between Ruth the dissolute and Bonds the screaming jerk.

Those others who he has already passed, his godfather Willie Mays and Frank Robinson and Harmon Killebrew and Mike Schmidt and the rest, they should at least be allowed to slap his face or key his car or something.

Eventually, Bonds will settle into the liquid of history, floating lower than he could have and higher than he should.

He has defenders already, those who blame baseball for looking away, the media for glorifying the home run, the fans for coming back to baseball after it had chewed off its own foot, as if Bonds had no control over his own values and his own wishes.

Bonds did what he did, and we will do what we will, think worse of him than we already do. I suppose that is possible.

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