That’s the number. That’s the one everybody — namely, Alex Rodriguez — will be chasing.
Barry Bonds finished last season with 762 career home runs. And after a San Francisco federal grand jury handed down an indictment against Bonds on five counts, four for perjury and another for obstruction of justice, that’s where the number will stay.
Yes, Barry Bonds is finished.
No longer a member of the San Francisco Giants and a free agent, it is hard to believe any team would sign Bonds with this kind of excess baggage. So it can be imagined with relative clarity that Bonds’ final act in a baseball uniform was skipping out on the team’s last home game before a video montage celebrating his career could be played.
The indictment comes following what turned out to be a 4 1/2-year investigation, a marathon in comparison to the sprint the feds did in compiling a crippling case against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.
But it came nonetheless, just three months after Bonds had completed rewriting the relevant parts of baseball’s home run record book.
Now one has to wonder what comes next. We know an arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 7, a day that will no doubt live in baseball infamy, but it’s unlikely much more will be learned about the case then.
But while Bonds’ time as a player seems to be done, the damage to his legacy may only be beginning. Like President Bill Clinton, whose obituary’s first sentence will include the word “impeach”, Bonds will never shake the stigma of this indictment, which comes as a result of Bonds’ 2003 testimony that he did not knowingly take steroids.
What comes next could involve jail time — the maximum would be 30 years — and emphasizes a lesson for everybody: When the feds come after you, they don’t stop, and lying to them is only going to make matters worse. Don’t mess with the feds. Just don’t.
But in baseball terms, which is probably the least of Bonds’ problems, this could finally blow the roof off of the steroid era. If the case ever appears as though it could head to trial, and if Bonds is foolish enough to allow it to get to that point, it is hard to imagine him ever reaching the Hall of Fame. Baseball writers are notorious for their grudges, and anything that is proven could lead to Bonds’ name being stricken from the record books he slashed through. The asterisk has never been more possible.
The thing to remember, though, is that these charges aren’t steroid charges. Bonds was subpoenaed to testify regarding a case involving BALCO, the lab that distributed steroids like the “cream” and the “clear”, among others. Bonds testified under oath that he didn’t knowingly take steroids. OK, fine. But if there’s evidence that he lied to a federal grand jury and obstructed justice, it doesn’t matter whether the subject he was talking about concerned steroids or bunny rabbits. It’s the lying the feds are mad about, and as we mentioned before, you don’t mess with the feds.
Sure, the feds were always going hard after Bonds, the central figure in the BALCO case. And it’s probably true that his celebrity and status in baseball kept the investigation going. But remember, just about everybody involved with BALCO has gone down. From chemist Patrick Arnold to BALCO founder Victor Conte to star Marion Jones, who had to give back her Olympic medals. Bonds is just another piece.
What does this all mean for baseball, other than the home run king is forever tarnished, whether he is convicted or not?
Not a whole lot, really. Fans have shown that they don’t seem to care about steroids. Attendance records keep falling, and ironically, a report released on Thursday indicated that baseball made more than $6 billion in revenue in 2007. The health of the game is fine, and will still be fine following the release of the Mitchell Report.
But Bonds’ legacy, already on the fringes, is done. The man who owns the record for bases on balls can’t walk away from this one.