Staying power is with Barry

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- They want him to walk away.

Retire. Go to his room. Stride off into the sunset and avoid the controversy that surely will follow him on opening day, off-days and on Mondays through Sundays.

Yet, Barry Bonds is not going anywhere.

Except over the fence and into the right-field pavilion as he did when the San Francisco Giants slugger turned around a 2-1 curve from Woody Williams in the fourth inning yesterday at Scottsdale Stadium. The 380-foot homer off the San Diego Padres right-hander was Bonds' first spring-training homer in two seasons.

He enters 2006 with 708 homers -- needing seven to pass Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time list and 48 to pass Hank Aaron for the top spot.

He also moves forward as a new book -- Game of Shadows, by two well-respected San Francisco Chronicle reporters -- is about to be released. It documents Bonds beginning to inject steroids after the 1999 season. By 2001, when Bonds broke Mark McGwire's home-run record with 73, the authors claim he was taking multiple steroids, human growth hormones and insulin.

Bonds made his first spring start yesterday in left field, a late change in manager Felipe Alou's lineup due to Saturday's rainout.

"Barry kept his hands back. That's just another reason why he is the second-best power-hitter in the game ... behind me," Williams said with a laugh.

"I don't judge that stuff," Bonds said when asked about the homer in his fourth at-bat of the spring. "There's no real evaluation right now."

Bonds struck out and singled against the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday in Tempe. Yesterday, he received applause when he batted in the second, striking out on an inside fastball. Plate ump Shawn Rakos punched out Bonds as if he was Leslie Nielsen subbing as an ump in Naked Gun.

It will take the everyday grind, Bonds says, to know "exactly where I am."

"That's when you can tell, when the bell rings," Bonds said. "There will be a time when I'm going to have to pretend it's like the opening day of the season. I'll have put a lot of stress on my body and see how I come out of that. The time for that is here."

Bonds, 41, played left field for four innings before Todd Linden took over in the fifth.

"Thank God," Bonds said. "It's not the running that bothers me. It's the standing around that is more aggravating. My weight is just sitting there."

Padres outfielder Eric Young admits there are pro-Barry players and anti-Barry players.

Former Blue Jays righty Corey Lidle, now with the Philadelphia Phillies, falls into the latter category and said he has suspicions about Bonds.

"If this has been going on for seven years and if they can prove it, which probably will be hard, I think there should be an asterisk," Lidle said of the homer record, if Bonds does set it. "All (steroid users) make the playing field uneven."

Young disagrees.

"One thing players don't dispute is how Barry is on a level by himself," said Young, who spent part of the 2003 season with the Giants. "I don't care about the alleged steroids, this guy was MVP early in his career.

"To be a seven-time MVP, you're special. Doesn't matter what they say. If somebody is better, let me know."

Bonds had plenty of enablers. Blame commissioner Bud Selig, owners who saw increased offensive numbers as dollar signs at the gate and TV contracts.

Blame the players' association and management for not coming up with a stiffer drug plan until 2005.

But can you ignore the 374 home runs Bonds hit before 1998 when his steroid use is alleged to have begun? Or, the seven Gold Gloves he won before '98 and the three National League MVP awards?

We don't think so.

We thought he was a Hall of Famer when he left the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992. And so, he still is today.


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