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Slump gives hope to Bonds foes

As a rule, I try to avoid fan message boards. I have better things to do with my time, and to be honest, I don't even know how to find them. It's hard enough dealing with my e-mail, and the daily reminder that many people consider me a blithering idiot.

One common complaint is that I'm too negative. OK, I'll never be mistaken for Tony Robbins. But I think of myself as objective, not negative. There's a difference. Fans don't always like to hear the truth. It's understandable. After all, the word fan comes from "fanatic."

In a sea of fanaticism, I'm a small boat of reason. If saying the Sabres played soft against Ottawa makes me negative, so be it. If fans think I should be deported for predicting that both Chris Drury and Daniel Briere will be gone next year, they have that right.

Some fans just don't get it. They see the media as glorified cheerleaders (and some do a fine job of it). They expect us to root, root, root for the home team. But the opposite is true. I'm paid to be a critical observer, with no emotional investment in the outcome. A sportswriter is the one guy who's not supposed to root, one way or another.

But at times, it is difficult. I'll confess: I root against Barry Bonds. I know it's wrong. I know my critics will say that I'm cruel, or stupid, or even racist. But I can't help myself. I'm rooting like mad for Bonds not to break Hank Aaron's home run record.

To put it another way, I'm rooting for baseball. I love baseball. I've loved it since my father took me to my first game when I was 8. The numbers were a vehicle for the fascination, a reliable way to study the game and measure players across different eras.

Bonds is an affront to baseball. He's a cheater and a liar, a bad teammate and an insincere jerk. His pursuit of Aaron's record has become a prolonged and joyless ordeal. Aaron has said he won't show up when Bonds gets close to 755 homers. Bud Selig, the commissioner, is clearly reluctant to celebrate the feats of the sport's most notorious steroid user.

How do you root for a guy who won't donate any memento of the home-run chase to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown? "I take care of me," was Bonds' typically snide explanation. He's spitting on his sport's most hallowed institution.

But there is a glimmer of hope for people who are cringing at the thought of Bonds breaking the record. Early in the year, after Bonds homered in 11 of his first 76 at-bats, it appeared he might pass Aaron in late June. But the way things are going, Bonds might not get there until August, if at all.

Bonds has homered once in his past 22 games. He was 11 for 60 with just three RBIs in that stretch. He's bound to snap out of it. But what if it's more than a slump? He sat out Tuesday night's game in Arizona with shin splits. What if Bonds, who will be 43 in July, has suddenly hit the wall and lost his swing?

At any rate, it's unlikely Bonds will pass Aaron before San Francisco hosts the All-Star Game on July 10. Bonds was second among NL outfielders in the most recent voting. Funny, he was only 10th in the voting a year ago. Do you think someone might be rigging the vote to spare the Giants the embarrassment of having Bonds not make the team?

The Giants have only themselves to blame. They could have been rid of Bonds after last season, but gave him a one-year, $15.3 million deal. He isn't worth the trouble. The Giants are going nowhere. Bonds has become a circus sideshow, a way to sell tickets to gullible fans. They'd be better off giving his playing time to younger players.

If the Giants had any guts, they'd release Bonds after the All-Star Game and move on. Let some other team capitalize on his home-run chase. With any luck, no team would bother and we'd be spared the whole ordeal. I can only hope.

e-mail: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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