- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Has there ever been a less savory sports star than Barry Bonds? If so, I don’t want to meet him.

Don’t get the idea that I know Bonds — very few people do. But from everything we hear, he seems to be baseball’s version of Attila the Hun.

Not that Barry goes around killing people, even media wretches. But if looks could kill …

Now the San Francisco Giants’ aging slugger is facing indictment by a federal grand jury, perhaps as early as this week, on such issues as steroid use, tax evasion, money laundering and perjury. And it’s hard to work up much sympathy for him.

Heck, it’s hard to work up any sympathy.

It will be up to the grand jury to determine whether Bonds is guilty on any or all counts. But in the court of public opinion, he stands convicted of being a surly lout whose lack of people skills outweighs his mammoth achievements with a stick of wood in his fists.

Not since Pete Rose was laying down bets hither, thither and yon has a name player so disgraced baseball. But for all his shortcomings, Rose was a fan as well as a ballplayer — one who famously used to sit in his car trying to tune in out-of-town broadcasts in the days before cable TV and the Internet. His problems stemmed from the fact that he simply wasn’t very smart; Bonds obviously is too smart for his own good.

Of the matters likely to be investigated by a grand jury, steroid use is the most compelling. Bonds has always denied knowingly partaking of the clear and the cream, et al — and if you believe that, he might try to sell you the Golden Gate Bridge.

Given that Bonds is nearly 42, limping on surgically repaired knees and has only 13 home runs this season, we probably don’t have to worry about him beating Henry Aaron’s record 755. Good riddance, too. Aaron is an exemplary figure who would have made a good commissioner if Bud Selig, the old auto salesman whose impartiality is exceeded only by his personal charm, hadn’t somehow gotten there first.

Bonds is Bonds, which is sort of an indictment by itself.

Whenever baseball manages to survive five years without Barry, the question of whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame will arise — just as it does annually with Rose. Unless by then, Bonds is singing the old Johnny Cash song, “I Got Stripes.”

And I don’t mean pinstripes.

As far as I’m concerned, you can take Bonds’ 721 home runs and seven National League MVP awards and chuck ‘em into San Francisco Bay beyond the right-field wall at AT&T; Park. I’m naive enough to think star athletes owe something to their public besides an occasional game-winning hit, especially now that most of these guys make (but not necessarily earn) more money in a season than most of us will during a lifetime of labor.

Did somebody mention Cal Ripken, who qualifies nicely as the anti-Bonds? Cal respected his sport and his fans, which is why some people have named their children after him. Another former Orioles infielder, Brooks Robinson, commanded similar respect.

Maybe there are folks somewhere out there who will name their children after Barry Bonds. We can only hope these offspring don’t grow up to be equally arrogant, self-centered and hostile.

According to published reports, Major League Baseball itself is exploring options for punishing Bonds if he is indeed indicted and convicted on one or more of the charges. If MLB is looking for suggestions, I have a dandy. It’s called lifetime suspension.


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