- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2006

Sammy Sosa has turned down the modest offer of the Nationals, which is just as well.

There is a noticeable stench emanating from his 588 career home runs, just as there is with the numbers of Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire.

The three are forever linked because of their eclipsing Roger Maris, who lost several heads’ worth of hair because of the stress associated with his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record. Or so it goes with each retelling.

We only can imagine the potential physical damage to the three hulks who transformed their upper bodies with suspicious efficiency.

Both Sosa and McGwire testified before Congress last spring, if testify is the correct word. Sosa delivered an opening statement crafted by his lawyers, and McGwire stuck to his strained but convenient position of not discussing the past on Capitol Hill.

The seam heads are destined to have a long summer with the ethically challenged march of Bonds, who merely has a big head. His before/after hat size remains one of the amusing asides to his quest.

Sosa could have made the attempt to reach the 600-homer milestone. Being 12 shy of the mark, he was in a favorable position. And he might have given it the old has-been try if the Nationals could have come up with more than $500,000 and if the thick air around RFK Stadium did not turn so many well-hit balls into long fly outs.

Sosa’s was not an uplifting end, and this is the end, according to his agent. A muted reaction accompanied the news of his declining the offer of the Nationals. He leaves the game with the conviction of only employing a corked bat.

Sosa long ago took the feel-good charm out of his place among the game’s all-time home-run hitters. He dissolved into another pampered diva who failed to be true to his happy-go-lucky public image.

His departure is a cue to note the following: Two down, one to go.

A summer of Bonds is going to be an intellectually torturous journey for those who chronicle the game between sentimental sobs.

There will be an inclination to cheer or jeer, with the middle ground expected to be a daunting reach around this polarizing undertaking.

Not that Bonds will care how it goes down.

He is a joyless figure who never has grasped that joylessness does not translate well if you are playing a child’s game. As one of the most put-upon stars of our time, he is about as gracious and inviting as a hemorrhoid.

Unlike Sosa and possibly Rafael Palmeiro, Bonds lacks the capacity to take a hint. His trek is fraught with contentious debate. There are always going to be the true believers, their idolatry no different, in a way, from those who followed Jim Jones to Jonestown, Guyana.

There is no book on how to behave in the public eye, although there are plenty of public relations firms that profess to have vast insight into it.

Yet there are plenty of obvious don’ts, one of which is: Try not to be a complete jerk, however difficult it is.

And we can understand how difficult it is to lug around a fat wallet, be inundated with autograph requests and have media types forever asking, “How does it feel.”

No wonder Bonds mentioned the word tired a zillion times in an exhausting interview last spring.

Bonds will pass Ruth before Hank Aaron, and then what?

Will baseball celebrate while holding its nose?

How prominent will the BALCO scandal be played in the Bonds-inspired news reports?

These are the unappealing questions before baseball.

A scaled-down revelry, if it comes to that, will go with the person.

Bonds courts the me-against-the-world persona, which is his loss.

Baseball’s loss, too.

Pitchers and catchers are reporting to camp. Bonds will be there soon enough.


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