Forum Spin Doctor
SAN FRANCISCO - Barry Bonds might get a telephone call from baseball commissioner Bud Selig instead of a handshake if the San Francisco Giants slugger breaks Hank Aaron's home run record. Selig wouldn't say Thursday whether he would attend any Giants games if and when Bonds closes in on the mark.
Selig insisted that Major League Baseball would celebrate Bonds' potential feat exactly as it does any other major milestone, such as a pitcher's 300th win. Last year, Selig telephoned San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman when he became the career saves leader.
"I wasn't there when Roger Clemens won his 300th game. That's a matter I'll determine at some point in the future," Selig said at a baseball luncheon hosted by Fox Sports Bay Area. "Let me say it, and I'm not going to say anymore. That's it."
Does he even want Bonds to pass the 755 homers of Aaron, who played his final two seasons in 1975 and '76 with the Selig-owned Milwaukee Brewers?
"It is a fact Hank Aaron and I have been friends for 50 years, close friends," Selig said. "When you're the commissioner, you just don't think about that. I have said before, if and when Barry Bonds breaks that record it will be handled the same way that every other record in baseball that's been broken was handled."
There has been wide speculation Selig would prefer that Bonds just retire now to avoid further scrutiny as the seven-time NL MVP pursues the mark of Hammerin' Hank. The 42-year-old Bonds, whose $15.8 million, one-year contract with the Giants remains unresolved less than a week before the team begins spring training, begins his 22nd major league season only 22 homers from passing Aaron - and Bonds is healthier now than in recent seasons.
"This is a matter between the Giants and Barry," said Selig, who was treated to his favorite frozen custard dessert flown in from Milwaukee. "As far as I'm concerned, as long as things that are being done are in the best interest of the sport, whether it's contractual or anything else, I don't make those judgments."
Bonds and the Giants have differing views of certain language in the deal and Bonds has yet to sign a revised version that omits the promotional clause that runs afoul of baseball's new labor agreement. The version Bonds signed did contain a provision that says the Giants can terminate the contract if Bonds is indicted.
This season, there will be further speculation about whether his quest for the record was fueled by steroids. Bonds long has denied knowingly using steroids.
A federal grand jury is investigating whether Bonds perjured himself when he testified in 2003 in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative steroid distribution case that he hadn't knowingly taken any performance-enhancing drugs.
If Bonds becomes the new home run king, Selig wasn't sure whether the mark would always be tainted by his alleged steroids use.
"Only history will tell us that. I'm not smart enough to make that judgment," Selig said.
Selig did say he likes Bonds.
"I do," he said. "Taking this job after running a team, I have lived with players all of my adult life. I think I understand players very, very well. There are very few players I have disliked for any particular reason. Today I can't think of any players."
New Giants manager Bruce Bochy, meanwhile, is determined to make sure his players don't let Bonds' issues affect his club as it looks to end a three-year playoff absence. Pitchers and catchers report to the team's Scottsdale, Ariz., complex Wednesday.
"We're going to try to stay from any distractions, even with Barry and his historic milestone," Bochy said. "Guys have to remind themselves, 'We're seeing history but we have to win a ballgame.'"
One of the best lines of the day came from embattled San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, who poked fun at himself in the wake of news that he will seek counseling for alcohol abuse and the admission of an affair with the wife of his former top aide.
"I wouldn't have imagined six weeks ago that someone could take Barry Bonds off the front pages of San Francisco newspapers," Newsom said.