Bonds on offense in `State of Barry'

Giants slugger covers a wide variety of subjects

apology not one of them

Baseball

February 23, 2005|By Chuck Culpepper | Chuck Culpepper,NEWSDAY

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - In piqued contrast to Jason Giambi's apologetic sheepishness of two weeks ago, Barry Bonds ran pretty much the gamut from mildly surly to decidedly surly yesterday in his welcome-back news conference.

Irked by the 100 or so reporters assembled at the San Francisco Giants' spring training complex, Bonds rambled through turns as media critic, sociologist, sports historian, fervent proponent of strict drug-testing policies, even baseball player.

The list did not include apologist. "What did I do?" he said.

As a reporter tried sharpening a question, he said, "Yeah, but what did I do?"

Grand-jury testimony from Giambi and Bonds in the BALCO case, leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle in December, indicated that Giambi said he knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs while Bonds said he did so while mistakenly presuming the substance was flaxseed oil.

And though Giambi repeatedly apologized without quite saying what for in a Yankee Stadium news conference, Bonds played a different game: offense.

"I'm just sorry there's this fictional stuff, maybe facts, who knows?" he said.

Before blasting away, he attributed the remarkable late-1990s improvement of his physique and statistics to: "Hard work. That's about it. That's it." Then he set about repeatedly chiding the media for "reruns," likening the continuing drug coverage to reruns of the 1970s TV program Sanford & Son.

"Stop watching Redd Foxx and rerun shows," he said at one point, citing the show's lead actor shortly after saying, "I look for the day you guys stop being a rerun show and this thing will blow over."

As a media critic, he rambled from oddly congenial - "I think you guys are good people" - to accusatory - "All of y'all, in a story or whatever, have lied ... When your closet's clean, come clean somebody else's closet. Clean yours first." He said he never watched sports channels, but, "It's become Hard Copy all day long. Are you guys jealous? Upset? What? You guys don't bother me. You're professional at what you do."

Then, in response to a question about whether he has used performance-enhancing drugs: "Why do you keep asking me the same question? I'm not a child, OK?"

At one point, he had a barbed exchange with Henry Schulman, the San Francisco Chronicle Giants beat writer, after Schulman asked if Bonds' recovery from two off-season knee surgeries would finish in time for part of spring training.

Asking who had told Schulman that, "Who? Name. Name. Name. Name."

When Schulman supplied the name from an official Giants statement, Bonds said, "See, you lied."

"I didn't even ask you a BALCO question!" Schulman said.

The horrid noise around him this offseason, he said, stems from his longstanding unwillingness to share himself with the media and the world.

"I just think it's because I haven't given you guys what you wanted," he said. "That's all. I chose that route. It wasn't for any bad reason. It was for my own personal reason, my own safety net."

Then, fielding a question about passing Babe Ruth for the No. 2 spot in career home runs - Bonds trails 714-703 at the moment - he proclaimed it exciting, "Because Babe Ruth is one of the greatest baseball players ever."

Pause.

"Babe Ruth ain't black. I'm black. Black, we go through a little bit more. That's the truth."

Moments later: "I just sat there and said it's just different. Just different."

Yet he reported a marked uptick in his reception from fans.

"You know what, I'm gonna tell you, that's one question I was waiting for," he said, and his voice began rising toward a mild boom. "Because I have probably gotten the best relationship with fans through all of this that I have ever gotten in my entire career."

As a sports historian, he suggested that if we examine the ethics of sports back into the 19th and 18th centuries, "We'll crush a lot of things in a lot of sports if that's what you guys [media] want. We can go back and basically asterisk a lot of things if that's what you choose and that's what you want."

"I commend Bud Selig and the players union and all the players to try to put together a testing program to try to satisfy everyone," he said, later imploring, "Allow it to work. Let's go on forward. I truly believe we have to go forward."

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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