Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Barry bites back

Whether you love him or hate him, you've got to admit there's no one in all of sports like Barry Bonds.

Today the San Francisco Giants' slugger, the subject of intense speculation about steroid use thanks to his ties to the BALCO investigation, kicked off spring training with a jousting match...that is, a press conference. The man with 703 career home runs ripped the media — never his biggest supporters, and his reference to reporters as "liars" isn't likely to win him any more Hall of Fame votes from the Baseball Writers of America — as well as whistle-blower and erstwhile Madonna boytoy Jose Canseco, who in recent weeks has attempted to out several major league stars as steroid users.

Although he was as impassioned and eloquent as we're ever likely to see Bonds, he managed to keep a smile on his face through most of the proceedings, while avoiding any direct, specific response to the swirling rumors. Anyone who doubts that Barry is one smart cookie didn't see him on stage today.

We may never know the undisputed truth about Bonds and his adventures in modern pharmacology. But one thing I did notice as I watched his press conference today. Several of the other active players at the center of the steroid story, including Jason Giambi and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, showed up for camp noticeably more svelte than we've seen them in recent seasons — a sign some have interpreted to mean that these players have dumped muscle mass since stopping the dope. Bonds, however — at least from what I could see on television — looked every bit the chiseled specimen we've come to know in his later years.

Maybe it really is iron he's pumping, rather than hormones.

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