Glum Bonds says knee may cost him season

Stressed slugger `mentally done'

Baseball

March 23, 2005|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,SUN STAFF

FORT MYERS, Fla. - While the baseball world listened intently, its biggest star predicted he might miss the entire season after another knee operation last week.

"Right now, I'm just going to try to rehab myself to get back to, I don't know, hopefully next season, hopefully the middle of the season. I don't know," San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds told reporters in Scottsdale, Ariz., yesterday. "Right now, I'm just going to take things slow."

Bonds, a seven-time Most Valuable Player who is just 11 home runs away from tying Babe Ruth for second in history with 714 and is 52 behind Hank Aaron's record, seemed despondent after spending about 90 minutes working with Giants trainer Stan Conte.

Last Thursday, Bonds had his second arthroscopic operation on his right knee since Jan. 31.

"I'm 40 years old, not 20, 30," he said.

He blamed the media for pushing him to such mental depths.

"I'm tired of my kids crying. You wanted me to jump off a bridge. I finally did," Bonds said while sitting at a picnic table with his 15-year-old son, Nikolai. "You finally brought me and my family down. ... So now go pick a different person."

He said he was "mentally hurt, physically, mentally done. I'm mentally drained."

His fellow players weren't surprised.

"I'm sure he is mentally done, because they assign writers on Bonds for the entire spring," said Boston outfielder Johnny Damon before a game against the Cincinnati Reds in Fort Myers. "He can't do anything. He is under a microscope. I can see why he is mentally done."

During a news conference in Arizona in which he leaned against a crutch, Bonds continually said he was tired. His offseason included being accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, his BALCO grand jury testimony was leaked, he underwent the knee operations and a purported mistress testified about his alleged steroid use.

"I think with everything that is going on right now with him, with his physical health, with the BALCO stuff and his personal stuff, I think it can be pretty overwhelming," said Cincinnati shortstop Rich Aurilia, who played with Bonds in San Francisco from 1995 to 2003.

Aurilia, however, doesn't expect Bonds to limp away from baseball.

"This isn't the first time he's come out and said, `I am done.' I've heard him say it before for different reasons," Aurilia said. "I just think that, at this point, with everything that's going on in his career and his life, I probably think he is fed up with answering all the questions."

Aurilia suggested Bonds might be talking about being "done" simply out of frustration.

"Maybe he just thinks, `If I just say I'm done, everybody will just leave me alone,'" Aurilia said. "That's fine. That doesn't make him a bad person."

Moises Alou, Bonds' Giants teammate who has had five surgeries himself, said the slugger probably was having a bad day.

"I think it was one of those rehab days where you just caught him on one of the bad days," Alou said. "It's not fun when you come to the ballpark, then have to go to the training room to get taped and get treatment.

"It's not as fun as when you are young and wild and doing things, especially when you are the man," Alou said.

Trainer Conte told The Los Angeles Times, "We're going to work really hard to keep expectations low. We're not going to get him onto the field until he's ready."

Another former Bonds teammate, Bobby Estalella, a reserve catcher attempting to make the Reds, said he was saddened by the news.

"He's one of if not the best player I have ever seen and had a chance to play with," Estalella said. "That would be unfortunate if he had to shut it down. Then again, he's dealing with a lot more issues than I know about."

Estalella called the enigmatic Bonds "a wonderful man, though. To me he was. He was nothing but top-notch. I'm sad that this has happened."

But there is no need to get out the hankies this early, Aurilia said.

"He's not done. He is one of the most mentally strong people I've ever met on and off the field," Aurilia said. "So if he is physically fit to play halfway through the year, I think he will."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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