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BILL PLASCHKE

Baseball shares in shame and blame over Bonds

Commissioner Bud Selig, whose multimillion-dollar annual salary was revealed this week, appears to have done nothing as the sport was fooled and humiliated by its most celebrated player.

February 05, 2009|BILL PLASCHKE

Even in a sports world with statistics spilling out of its hat like Larry Fitzgerald's hair, it's been quite the week for numbers.

Football is celebrating six, the record number of Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl championships.

Basketball is celebrating 61, the record number of points Kobe Bryant scored at Madison Square Garden.

Baseball is, well, baseball, which means it's not celebrating numbers, but mourning them.

They are 18.35 million and five.

The first is the reported recent annual salary of Commissioner Bud Selig.

The second is the number of times Barry Bonds apparently tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs on Selig's watch.

Oh, yeah, add one more number to that list -- zero.

That's how many times Bonds was suspended for any of it.

In the wake of a pay stub revelation that should embarrass Selig, and court documents that could imprison Bonds, it's hard to know which is more amazing.

That the guy who presides over America's most troubled major sport makes about $7 million more than Roger Goodell, the NFL guy who runs America's most popular major sport?

Or that Selig's reign has been so ineffectual he could only watch as his sport's most celebrated player blatantly broke laws while chasing its most hallowed record?

The evidence released Wednesday in advance of Bonds' upcoming perjury trial tells us more about the demons of the game than the sickness of the man.

That Bonds used steroids? We knew that. Nothing can shock us there anymore, not after spending years staring at the size of his head and the length of his homers.

That baseball allowed it to happen? We'll never get used to that part.

Certainly, Selig, a decent man with good intentions, fought to catch the crooks while the union fought to protect them, resulting in nothing happening until it was 762 home runs too late.

But, goodness, according to Wednesday's evidence, baseball was not only fooled, it was humiliated, and you wonder how a man who makes so much money could rule so cheaply.

According to the court documents, the dates of Bonds' first three failed drug tests occurred in the winter of 2000-01.

The tests were conducted not by baseball, which didn't test at the time, but by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, which was supplying Bonds with the steroids.

One can only imagine the conversation.

"Well, Barry, good job, you tested positive for steroids."

"Great, give me some more, this is the year I catch that cheating Mark McGwire!"

Start laugh track.

The grossly misshapen Bonds did catch and pass McGwire that season, everyone knowing he was dirty, nobody able to do anything about it.

The next failed test, also involving steroids, was actually a baseball-administered test on June 4, 2003.

But it was part of the league's initial anonymous survey testing program, a year of amnesty that the union demanded to give its guys time to come clean.

On the day of that test, the Giants' Bonds hit a ninth-inning, two-out, game-winning single against the Minnesota Twins.

One can only imagine the conversation.

"Wow, Barry, the drug testers are here, and you're not even worried?"

"I'm not Barry, I'm Anonymous, remember? What are they going to do, suspend Anonymous?"

Start laugh track.

The final failed test will be of particular interest to Dodgers fans, as it occurred on July 7, 2006, in Dodger Stadium.

It was a failed test for amphetamines. One can only wonder if that drug helped Bonds hit a three-run homer against the Dodgers that day.

One can only imagine the conversation.

"Barry, the drug-testing guy is back."

"Give me my bat, the only person getting punished today is a Dodger."

Start laugh track.

Sure enough, as part of the testing program, Bonds' failed test resulted only in a finger-rapping letter from Selig and the promise of more testing.

Five tests, five flunking grades, and each time, Bonds moved further to the front of the class.

It was so ridiculous, in a taped conversation also released Wednesday, Bonds' trainer Greg Anderson can be heard bragging that he had baseball sources who would warn him of the testing.

"I'm not even trippin', " he says on the tape.

Ah, but baseball did, hard, falling all over its dignity during an era of shame that will be relived next month at Bonds' trial, where the first two surprises have already been popped.

Selig is richer than we thought, while the integrity of his tenure is even poorer than we imagined.

--

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

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