- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO — As Barry Bonds prepared to start last night’s All-Star Game in front of his hometown fans, baseball commissioner Bud Selig again sidestepped his potential role in Bonds‘ pursuit of the sport’s home run record.

Despite a report on SI.com earlier in the day saying Selig would be in attendance when Bonds breaks Hank Aaron’s career record of 755 homers, the commissioner insisted he has not made up his mind.

“I have made no decision yet. None, zero on the Barry Bonds situation,” Selig said during a meeting with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. “I said I’d do it at an appropriate time, and I’ll determine what the appropriate time is. And that as of yet has not been determined. There has been no change in that.”

Just as Bonds has created controversy throughout his pursuit of the home run record, Selig has come under scrutiny for his refusal to decide whether he will watch Bonds break Aaron’s record. With 751 homers, the San Francisco Giants outfielder needs five to break Aaron’s record.

Traditionally, baseball’s commissioner has been present when such milestones are achieved, but Selig has kept himself out of the conversation with Bonds, who has been extensively linked to steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball has no formal plans to commemorate the event.

Even Bonds‘ most vehement detractors seem to agree Selig should be there when he sets the record.

“I understand that I am the commissioner of baseball and this is the most hallowed record in sports,” Selig said. “I’ll do what is in the best interest of baseball.”

With Bonds universally beloved in San Francisco but reviled across the rest of the country, there has been speculation the Giants might try to sit the 42-year-old slugger. San Francisco opens the second half of the season with three games at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers, then goes on a seven-game road trip to Chicago and Milwaukee.

Selig wouldn’t go so far to say he would require Bonds to play on the road, but there is precedent for such measures. Former commissioner Bowie Kuhn forced Aaron to play in Cincinnati as he closed in on his 714th homer in 1974. Aaron did start on the road but wound up breaking Babe Ruth’s record at home in Atlanta. Kuhn was not at the game and was criticized for it.

Selig said the integrity of the major league schedule, with teams involved in pennant races, should take priority over a team trying to manufacture a milestone event in its home ballpark.

“It’s very important, and it’s very important to me,” he said. “This is easy. You play your best players.”

Among the other subjects Selig discussed during his session with the BBWAA:

c Despite continued concerns about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the game, Selig believes “we have achieved a lot” since mandatory testing was implemented three years ago. The commissioner, however, admits he’s still frustrated about the possible use of human growth hormone. To date, no test for hGH has been developed.

{bullet}Though the World Series has been pushed back to begin on a Tuesday (to help sagging TV ratings) and could possibly end Nov. 1, Selig is not in favor of expanding the first round of the playoffs from five to seven games.

{bullet}The sites for several future All-Star Games likely will be announced in the next month or two. Next year’s game will be played at Yankee Stadium, with the 2009 game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Several teams, including the Nationals, have put in requests to play host to the game. Selig said he plans to go back to alternating between National League and American League stadiums.

Polanco starts

Placido Polanco of the Detroit Tigers started at second base last night for the AL despite a back injury that threatened to keep him out of the lineup.

Polanco had to leave Saturday’s game in the eighth inning after hurting himself earlier swinging a bat. Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who is managing the AL team, said Monday he wasn’t positive Polanco would be able to play and he wouldn’t take any chances.

Polanco still might be held out of tomorrow’s second-half opener.

Froemming enjoys finale

Bruce Froemming was behind the plate for last night’s game, the final All-Star Game in his 37-year umpiring career.

No umpire has been in the majors for more consecutive seasons, and Froemming’s 5,095 career regular-season games are second only to Bill Klem’s 5,368 from 1905 to 1940.

Froemming, who will retire at season’s end, said he has no regrets.

“I’ve had a great run,” he said. “You’ve got to step away sometime, and I thought the timing was right.”

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