Look­ing for a Stance on Bonds

The Washington Post Sunday - - On The Air Sunday Morning - Ge­orge Solomon

From the tread­mill at the Sport & Health club Thurs­day morn­ing, I watched a “Sport­sCen­ter” high­light of Barry Bonds hit­ting an­other home run Wed­nes­day night. This was Bonds’s sev­enth home run of the sea­son and the 741st of his ca­reer. Ham­pered by in­juries the past two years, Bonds, 42, is health­ier and on a tear. If Bonds could keep this up, Hank Aaron’s record of 755 home runs could be sur­passed be­fore the Fourth of July.

This leaves me and mil­lions of base­ball fans — in­clud­ing Com­mis­sioner Bud Selig — in a state of limbo. We don’t know how to feel about this guy. We don’t know how to mea­sure Bonds’s ac­com­plish­ments, what to think about the cher­ished record he’s about to set or how to feel about him per­son­ally. Aaron, the cur­rent home run king who re­tired af­ter the 1976 sea­son, has no plans to be on hand when Bonds ties or sur­passes his record. Selig hasn’t de­cided, ac­cord­ing to his spokesman.

For sev­eral years, Bonds has been sus­pected of us­ing per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs (he’s never tested pos­i­tive), as well as be­ing a cen­tral fig­ure in sev­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions of drug use by base­ball play­ers. Out­side of his own burg of San Fran­cisco, Bonds clearly ranks among the least-liked ma­jor fig­ures in sports.

Still, New York Times sports colum­nist Bill Rho­den wrote Mon­day that “if base­ball ever hopes to get out from un­der the so-called steroid era that it was slow in deal­ing with and move on, Aaron and com­mis­sioner can set the tone. At­tend the cer­e­mony for Bonds, ac­knowl­edge the achieve­ment.”

Rho­den’s sug­ges­tion, while high-minded, still leaves many in a quandary. Do we root for him, or the op­pos­ing pitcher? Do we sneer at the San Fran­cis­cans who ig­nore the in­crim­i­nat­ing sto­ries on Bonds by the Chron­i­cle re­porters? Do we shut Bonds off com­pletely be­cause, as many have sug­gested, “Please, we don’t want to read about him any­more.”

For guid­ance on the mat­ter, I sought ad­vice from a friend, Matthew Si­mon, who is Rabbi Emer­i­tus at B’nai Is­rael Syn­a­gogue in Rockville, and Fa­ther Bill Byrne, the Catholic chap­lain at the Univer­sity of Mary­land.

“Part of Bonds’s prob­lem is he does not en­dear him­self to any­one,” Si­mon said. “We re­ally want a ‘Nice Guys’ Hall of Fame and Bonds doesn’t fit.

“But what if Bonds is in­no­cent of the drug charges? I’m a be­liever in the doc­trine of in­no­cent un­til proven guilty, or if needed, re­pen­tance.

“And if it’s proven that Bonds had chem­i­cal as­sis­tance,” Si­mon added, “put an as­ter­isk by his name, as the base­ball com­mis­sioner [Ford Frick] did when Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in a 162-game sea­son when Babe Ruth had hit 60 in 154 games. “There are prece­dents in sports.” Byrne said: “It’s dif­fi­cult to con­vict any­one with­out ev­i­dence. And this is about guilt or in­no­cence — not a pop­u­lar­ity con­test. He hasn’t been con­victed of any­thing. For the com­mis­sioner — and all of base­ball — the rule of law should ap­ply.

“Be­sides, I’d rather con­grat­u­late a guilty man than spurn an in­no­cent one.”

Drafts to Re­mem­ber

I love day one of the NFL draft. So much hope, so much ac­tion, so many happy rel­a­tives. Who doesn’t think his team stole the day? I don’t.

I don’t un­der­stand why the Red­skins chose LSU safety LaRon Landry with the No. 6 pick in the first round. Don’t they al­ready have one Pro Bowler (Sean Tay­lor) at the po­si­tion? Wouldn’t a de­fen­sive line­man have been a bet­ter choice? The Red­skins puzzle me.

Still, my fa­vorite Red­skins drafts oc­curred from 1943 through 1959, when each team had at least 25 se­lec­tions, plus an oc­ca­sional bonus pick (Alabama QB Harry Gilmer to the Red­skins in 1948). Such quan­tity would have left ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. in an ex­hausted heap.

Wouldn’t you know it, the Red­skins’ first draft, in 1937, the year the team moved to Wash­ing­ton from Bos­ton, might have been their best: “With the sixth pick of the first round, the Red­skins take quar­ter­back Sammy Baugh from TCU.” Not bad. Baugh, 93, is in the Hall of Fame, one of the great­est play­ers in NFL his­tory.

Some of my other per­sonal fa­vorite Red­skins picks in­clude WR Andy Farkas (No. 1, ninth over­all) of Detroit in 1938; RB Char­lie “Choo Choo” Jus­tice (No. 16) of North Carolina in 1950; DB Lon­nie San­ders (No. 2) in 1963 (just ran into him at the Far­ragut North Metro) of Michi­gan State; WR-RB Charley Tay­lor (No. 1, third over­all) of Ari­zona State in 1964; RB Larry Brown (No. 8) of Kansas State in 1969; WR Art Monk (No. 1, 18th over­all) of Syra­cuse in 1980; CB Dar­rell Green (No. 1, 28th over­all) of Texas A&I in 1983; Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), QB (No. 1, third over­all) of Ten­nessee in 1994; and, of course, LaVar (No. 1, sec­ond over­all) from Penn State in 2000.

Sug­ges­tion to Red­skins: Bring back LaVar. He’ll be great, bet­ter than most of the free agents you’ll over­pay.

Draft trivia: The late Ge­orge Allen, from 1971 to ’77, traded 42 of his top 47 draft picks for vet­eran play­ers. Allen never used his No. 1 pick. The team of Bobby Beathard-Char­lie Casserly-Joe Gibbs traded each of their No. 1 picks from 1984 to ’90. I drafted Fe­in­stein out of Duke for The Post in 1977 and mirac­u­lously did not lose my job.

Notes on the Nats

I know Na­tion­als owner Ted Lerner was en­am­ored of the Sen­a­tors when grow­ing up and liv­ing in Wash­ing­ton in the ’40s and ’50s, but did he have to re­cap­ture the love by recre­at­ing the same kind of stum­bling team?

I know, I know. It’s a long sea­son and the or­ga­ni­za­tion has a plan: Cre­ate a foun­da­tion with a solid scout­ing de­part­ment that builds a strong farm sys­tem with good young play­ers who will de­velop into first-rate ma­jor lea­guers. And next year, when the new sta­dium opens, life changes, as it did in the play “Damn Yan­kees.” But who needs re­runs?

If the re­sults have been shabby on the field, at least an­nounc­ers Bob Car­pen­ter, Don Sut­ton (tell me he wouldn’t be the ace of this staff right now?), Char­lie Slowes and Dave Jageler are good. And it’s nice to have Johnny Hol­l­i­day on the scene as well.

Fi­nally

NHL Up­date: Sports Week’s link to the play­offs, for­mer Caps coach Ron Wil­son, checked in af­ter his San Jose Sharks elim­i­nated Nashville to ad­vance to the semi­fi­nals of the West­ern Con­fer­ence. Of the NHL’s strug­gles th­ese days, Wil­son says: “We don’t mar­ket our play­ers enough. And out­side of the oc­ca­sional dis­play of egre­gious vi­o­lence, I guess we aren’t con­tro­ver­sial enough to at­tract at­ten­tion.”

Re­mem­ber­ing his Caps team that reached the Fi­nals in 1998, Wil­son said: “We had a lot of guys who prob­a­bly per­formed at their best ever for two months. But we were no match for the Wings.” Wil­son’s op­po­nent this week: the Wings.

“Fri­day Night Lights” up­date: Those in the know say the show is likely to be re­newed for next sea­son — but pos­si­bly on a re­duced bud­get. What? Like fewer foot­ball/life scenes from Dil­lon, Tex., and more stu­dio shots in Hol­ly­wood? For­get that; I need to see Smash and Matt Sara­cen on the field.

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BY MARK J. TER­RILL — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

As the Gi­ants’ Barry Bonds, above, closes in on Hank Aaron’s home run record, it’s hard for many peo­ple to know how to feel about the con­tro­ver­sial slug­ger’s ac­com­plish­ments.

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