With the equivalent of two strikes and two outs against him, Barry Bonds earned the third NL outfield spot in fan balloting for the July 10 All-Star game at AT&T Park in San Francisco. He inspired enough fascination or pick-him-so-we-can-boo-him revulsion to erase a deficit of nearly 120,000 in the last few days of fan voting — but he wasn’t in the top five in the players’ vote, a telling note.
Bonds finished third in the fans’ outfield voting behind Ken Griffey Jr.’s league-leading 2,986,818 and the Mets’ Carlos Beltran at 2,511,391. Soriano got 2,202,513 votes but was selected to the team through player balloting.
Fans in San Francisco, mobilized to stuff the ballot box after the Giants launched a public relations campaign, will get to bestow some love on Bonds, who is five home runs from tying Hank Aaron’s record of 755.
Bonds will get to share the spotlight with his godfather, Giants legend Willie Mays, the guest of honor in a pregame tribute. But he will also get more questions about his alleged involvement in the BALCO steroid scandal, which has oozed from baseball to track and field and beyond while investigators continue to explore its scope.
Even in what should be its finest moments, baseball can’t avoid the fallout of its old, don’t-ask-don’t-tell implicit tolerance of performance-enhancing substances, an attitude that is only now vanishing after Congress pressured Selig and the players’ association to adopt vigorous testing and sanctions with teeth.
In the eyes of most fans outside San Francisco, Bonds is tainted goods. No one has forgotten the grand jury testimony leaked by an attorney to a pair of San Francisco Chronicle reporters, in which Bonds said he had received and used clear and cream substances given to him by his trainer, Greg Anderson, though he said he didn’t know they were steroids. He’s still under investigation for perjury.
Purely on numbers alone, it’s not difficult to justify Bonds’ spot on the NL All-Star team. He’s batting .304 with 16 home runs and 40 runs batted in and he leads the league with a .516 on-base percentage and 84 walks. His .603 slugging percentage is second to that of Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder.
Aaron has repeatedly said he won’t shake Bonds’ hand, but he hasn’t elaborated. Aaron told reporters last month that "I don’t have any thoughts about Barry. I don’t even know how to spell his name," an ambiguous response that made him appear churlish.
Selig hasn’t divulged his plans, but he will surely be pressed for a commitment during the All-Star festivities. His response will be seen as a reflection of whether he believes Bonds should be applauded for his exploits or condemned for his alleged attempts at better hitting through chemistry.