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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Barry Bonds Q & A From The Oakland Tribune

The truth about Bonds

ALL EYES are on Barry Bonds.

Major League Baseball's investigators are watching him. Congress is watching him. The FBI and the IRS may be watching, too. And millions more will watch Bonds' every move this season as he takes aim at the all-time home run record.
Bonds' accomplishments are among the greatest in baseball history, and the greatest in question. For some, he will always be the ultimate symbol of the game's steroid era.

But whether you cheer his climb up the charts or view him as a loathsome cheat, it is easy to be confused on the facts as they pertain to Barry Lamar Bonds. With the Giants set to open the season Monday in San Diego, we attempt to clarify all things Bonds with answers to the 20 most common questions.

1. Where does Bonds stand on the all-time home run list?

Bonds has 708 home runs, which ranks third all-time behind Babe Ruth (714) and Hank Aaron (755).

2. What will happen if Bonds passes Babe Ruth?

The Giants have said they would commemorate the occasion. If it happens at home, expect the game to be stopped and the moment to be acknowledged. Major League Baseball would get involved in the planning if Bonds begins to close in on Aaron's record.

3. How much will Bonds play this year, and is this his last season?

If he stays reasonably healthy, Bonds could play up to 120 games (out of 162). His contract expires after this season and he is preparing for this to be the end. But if he remains healthy and productive, he would seize the chance to get paid for another year. He says he'll know by midseason.

4. Will Bonds finish his career as a Giant?

That's his stated intention. He hasn't ruled out becoming a designated hitter in the American League, but the Angels don't want any part of his baggage.

5. How has Bonds looked this spring?

His bat remains otherworldly. He was 9-for-13 with four home runs in Cactus League exhibitions. Bonds also showed much improved mobility in left field from last year, when three right knee surgeries limited him to 14 games. Expect Bonds to be pitched around often.

6. How 'real' will Bonds' ESPN reality show be?

It won't be in the mold of "Fat Actress." Producer Michael Tollin pledges a fair and classy documentary-style show that mostly deals with Bonds the baseball player. Tollin insists it will include some discussion of steroids. But Bonds has review rights, so expect it mostly to reflect on Bonds' greatness as a player.

7. What was revealed in the two books on Bonds this spring?

"Game of Shadows" was written by San Francisco Chronicle investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. Citing three years of gathered documents, affidavits, interviews and other evidence, it asserts that Bonds regularly used a large and varied amount of potent performance-enhancing drugs starting in 1999. "Love Me, Hate Me," by former Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman, is more of an anecdotal look at Bonds through the eyes of opposing players and former teammates, including some who accuse him of steroid use.

8. Why did Bonds file suit against the authors and publisher of "Game of Shadows"?

Bonds' attorney, Michael Rains, sued to have the book's profits given to charity, not to keep it from being released. The suit claimed the authors violated unfair competition laws because they published sealed grand jury testimony from the BALCO case — something other writers did not have access to. A judge refused to issue a temporary restraining order on the profits and said he did not think the case had merit but could go to trial. Rains says he has not ruled out a libel case, but it would be messy and difficult to prove — and impossible if Bonds actually used steroids.

9. Is the BALCO case over?

President Victor Conte, Vice President James Valente and Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, took a plea deal and were convicted of conspiracy to distribute steroids. Anderson and Conte also were convicted of money laundering. Conte received the most prison time — four months, which he finished Thursday, to be followed by four months of house arrest. Anderson served three months in prison and is currently serving three months of house arrest. Valente received probation.

10. Does Greg Anderson still train Bonds?

Yes. According to Bonds, the two remain friends and workout partners.

11. Could Bonds still be investigated on perjury charges for his grand jury testimony in the BALCO case?

Federal investigators are within the statute of limitations but likely would have pursued perjury or obstruction of justice charges already if the case were viable. If Bonds makes conflicting statements about steroid use in the future, such as a flat-out admission, he could face federal charges.

12. Will the IRS investigate Bonds?

It's a distinct possibility. His former mistress, Kimberly Bell, contends that Bonds used unreported income from autograph and memorabilia sales to give her a down payment on a house. She reportedly has some documented records to back up her claims.

13. Will Congress subpoena Bonds and/or other ballplayers for more hearings?

Bonds was a curious omission from the House Government Reform Committee's list of players who were subpoenaed in 2005, and his involvement in the BALCO case was cited as the reason. With those proceedings concluded, it's possible Bonds could be hauled in to testify. As he gets closer to Aaron's record, it will be even more tempting for members of the committee to make themselves part of the story.

14. Why is Major League Baseball investigating Bonds?

It's all about the home run record. And money, of course. Commissioner Bud Selig is under perceived pressure from the fans and media, and actual pressure from Congress and sponsors, to take a hard look at Bonds because Hank Aaron's record is considered the game's most precious. National sponsors such as Bank of America and Home Depot have pulled their support of a Bonds celebration campaign unless an investigation shows Bonds did not use performance-enhancing substances.

15. Who is heading up MLB's investigation, and when will it be resolved?

Selig asked close friend and former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to head the so-called independent probe. The last time MLB ordered an investigation of this kind, it took Washington lawyer John Dowd three months to produce a 225-page report detailing the evidence that Pete Rose bet on baseball. It took nearly four more months before Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti reached an agreement to ban Rose for life in August 1989.

16. Can Major League Baseball suspend Bonds?

Selig has broad powers under the "best interests of baseball clause." But invoking the clause to discipline Bonds would draw an immediate grievance from the Players' Association, and likely would be overturned. When Rose was banned, he was not protected by the union. However, Bonds could be banned from the sport upon his retirement, which would keep him out of the Hall of Fame.

17. Will there be an asterisk next to Bonds' records?

Hall of Famer Frank Robinson has said any proven steroid user should have his records completely erased. But that's not practical, given the lack of facts prior to 2003. Expect Bonds' records to stand unless Selig's investigation turns up proof that the slugger used steroids — or Bonds tests positive this season.

18. Has Bonds ever failed a league-sanctioned drug test?

Unlike Rafael Palmeiro, Bonds has not tested positive for banned substances since penalties were made public in 2004. Bonds also claims he didn't test positive in'03, when violators were kept private.

19. Is it possible Bonds is using performance-enhancing drugs now?

Yes. Human growth hormone requires a blood test to detect, and the union has not agreed to that. Also, new designer steroids are being created in labs all the time. It's possible some players are using stuff that can't be detected, including Bonds.

20. Did Bonds use steroids?

It's the one burning question. While some players are suspected as users based solely on appearance and other anecdotal factors, a significant and compelling amount of circumstantial evidence exists that ties Bonds to steroid use. But ultimately, there still isn't a smoking syringe.


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