Friday, November 16, 2007

Mike Lupica: Barry Bonds caught Hank Aaron, now he's just caught

New York Daily News
Friday, November 16th 2007, 4:00 AM

The Balco All-Stars: Barry Bonds, Victor Conte and Greg Anderson

This all really started with a dirty little drug company called BALCO, and then Barry Bonds sitting in front of a grand jury and saying, under oath, that he never knowingly used steroids from BALCO or anybody else. The government of the United States now says that was a lie, which is all anybody thought in the first place.

The government officially says that Bonds, who has hit more home runs than anybody in baseball history, lied about being a drug cheat. Bonds could go to jail for that. Pete Rose, who had more base hits than anybody in baseball history, once went to jail as a tax cheat.

Now it is 5:21 yesterday afternoon and a woman named Eve Burton, general counsel for the Hearst Corp., a woman who spent years trying to keep two San Francisco Chronicle reporters out of jail because of their reporting on Bonds and BALCO, looks at her computer screen in her office on the 42nd floor of the Hearst Tower at 57th and Eighth, and sees that she has an incoming e-mail.

It is a two-word message from Phil Bronstein, the editor of the Chronicle:

"Bonds indicted!"

For years Burton worked to keep two of Bronstein's best reporters, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, out of jail. So much of that was about Bonds, because BALCO was always about Bonds more than anybody else. The reporters were charged with contempt, and so Eve Burton kept filing in and out of the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco with motions and arguments, fighting for her reporters, fighting for the First Amendment.

While all this was going on, Barry Bonds kept chasing Henry Aaron's record of 755 home runs, and the only people who didn't know it was drugs who got him anywhere near Aaron over the last decade of his career didn't want to know, and shame on them, and the way they tried to blame everybody except Barry Bonds for who he is and what he did.

Barry Bonds watches the flight of his 752nd career home run during the second inning of the Giants' game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field (7/19/07).

So many people, in and out of the media, desperately wanted Bonds to be a victim of something other than his own arrogance and his obsession with being the home run king of baseball. So they called this a witch hunt. One more lie. Not from Bonds this time. Just about him.

He kept chasing Aaron. The government stayed in its slow chase after him. Finally yesterday Barry Bonds was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice. This really means the government produced finally came up with a positive drug test on Bonds. If you want to put down a bet, bet that somehow they got it out of BALCO, where this all began.

If it came from BALCO, that wouldn't just be justice, it would be poetic justice. That would make this poetic justice in addition to real justice.

Either that, or Greg Anderson got tired of sitting in a jail cell for Bonds and finally flipped on him.

In Eve Burton's office yesterday, after all the years of fighting for her reporters, she danced around her office on the 42nd floor like a schoolgirl and then the other people on that floor heard her yell, "YES!"

Halfway across the country in Milwaukee, the commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, walked into his office after having been at the owners' meetings in Naples, Fla., and his phone rang and it was one of his PR men calling from an airport in Florida.

"Did you hear about Bonds?" Selig was asked.

All last season, Selig kept hearing that an indictment of Bonds was just around the corner, that it might even come before he passed Aaron. Only the indictment never came. Bonds passed Aaron. The night he did, there was this cockeyed notion that Selig should have done more to celebrate the moment, that somehow he was the bad guy.

Another lie.

"What about Bonds?" Selig said on the phone.

"They indicted him."

Selig didn't say anything right away. Finally he said, "Inevitable. Sad, but inevitable."

This indictment does not mean that Bonds is convicted, that the government will make its case in a courtroom, that what they have it has on him will meet the standards of either perjury, or obstruction of justice. But the government never believed him on in regard to steroids because reasonable people never did, the way reasonable people never believed that he grew the way he did and his home run numbers grew the way they did after the age of 35 because of all the gym work he did with Greg Anderson, personal trainer, ex-jailbird.

Nobody ever believed that the only way Bonds would ever use steroids is if he thought what he was using was flaxseed oil. If you believed that, you also believed pigs can fly.

The longer the government went without an indictment, the more you started to hear that it was more than a witch hunt, it was a vendetta now. You heard that if they it didn't have something on him by now they were it was never going to have anything on him. Only there turned out to be no clock on this the way there is no clock in baseball.

Of course this is a baseball story first and foremost because it is Bonds, and he is the one who hit all those home runs. But he did this. He is the one who could end up a bum the way Rose did, at least in the eyes of the law. Bonds knew exactly what he was doing, and what he was doing - unless you think Fainaru-Wada and Williams wrote a novel when they wrote "Game of Shadows" - was a laundry list of drugs that reads as if it were written in a pharmacy in hell.

Now the government says that he not only took all those drugs, but then he lied about it under oath and kept lying. And that isn't on baseball. It is on him. Baseball didn't do this to Barry Bonds, the media didn't do this, the feds didn't do this. He did this to himself. He takes a different kind of medicine now.

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