Many Questions Surround Barry Bonds This Season

As we enter the 2006 baseball season there’s one story that going to pick up steam as the summer progresses. Barry Bonds enters the season at 708 home runs. He’s 47 shy of Hank Aaron’s all time record. Bonds is also turning 42 this season and has said this will be he last year, with or without the record. Whether we believe him or not is another story. So many questions surround Bonds that he will no doubt be on the front page for every home run he hits this season.

Bonds’ health and age seem to be his biggest obstacle. Knee injuries limited him to fourteen games last season. At 42 years old it’s questionable of whether or not he can hold on for one more season. He clearly doesn’t want to go for the record by struggling through two injury-plagued years. His declarations of retirement may just be in anticipation of that possibility. His reputation is already low because of the steroid implications and the last thing Bonds wants to do is limp over the finish line by playing hurt or moving to the American League to play DH. If Bonds can stay healthy the whole year, 47 home runs is not an unreachable goal. Before last year’s injuries Bonds had hit at least 45 in the previous five seasons. So this season will be a game of ifs. If Bonds can stay healthy and if his age hasn’t hindered him too much there should be some excitement building in August and September.

There’s still a question of whether or not people will want Bonds to reach Hank Aaron. The steroid scandal is still fresh in people’s minds and although Bonds never tested positive under Major League Baseball’s policy he has been implicated about taking certain performance enhancers. Will people regard Bonds’ accomplishment as tainting the record? It’s difficult to say whether or not people will be rooting for or against him. Most people seem to like seeing historical moments so they may be willing to ignore who’s getting the record and just appreciate that they’re seeing something that may not happen again.

Bonds is doing his part to play the public relations game. He’s set up his own reality show with ESPN to follow him around during the season. If Bonds thinks he can break the record this season it may be helpful to him to let people see him in a positive light so their preexisting notions of Bonds might not play into their perception of the record. Expect to see Bonds being on his best behavior and expect to see a lot of footage of him working out in the gym. Bonds seems to be a magnet for controversy so it probably won’t be a total love fest, but he has said himself he hopes that people will see the real him and set the record straight.

If Bonds has a successful and healthy season, but comes up a handful of home runs short he may regret saying that he’s going to retire with or without the record. He said he doesn’t enjoy playing the game anymore, but who would after going through the number of surgeries Bonds has had to endure in the past few years. It would be difficult to imagine a healthy Bonds walking away at 749 home runs, but then again would he want to endure an entire season and would fans accept a midseason retirement after the record is his?

No matter what happens this season should be exciting for baseball. With the scandals surrounding the game the excitement over more home runs may not reach the peak of Mark McGwire’s pursuit of Roger Maris in 1998, but then again it may rejuvenate the game like that season did. Baseball could recover from this like it recovered from the 1994 strike. Purists probably won’t be happy, but casual fans probably will. All eyes are on Bonds this year, whether you like him or not.

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