By Tony Massarotti
Selig and LaRussa facing dilemma on Bonds
If you are Bud Selig, or even Tony La Russa there is now only one thing you hope for: a muscle injury. You hope that Barry Bonds strains a hamstring getting out of his clubhouse recliner, or that he pulls an oblique in the on-deck circle. You hope that maybe he even strains a groin on the soggy, wet turf. And you hope it happens soon. APBarry Bonds' weekend homer at Fenway brought him to 748 in his career, just eight more away from setting a new record.The All-Star Game is just three weeks away, baseball followers, and we all know where Barry Lamar Bonds stood when the last balloting results were announced; Bonds was fourth. One of the most talented, controversial, ungrateful and accomplished players in the history of the game did not qualify as an All-Star Game starter as he approached the most sacred record in sports, which put his potential presence at next month's midseason festival in the hands of people like Selig and La Russa. Oh, right. Did we mention that the All-Star Game is in San Francisco, at AT&T Park, where Bonds plays his home games? It is a sticky situation. Truth be told, it would not be the worst thing for baseball if Bonds is voted in. At least then baseball officials will be able to wash their hands. Bonds was roughly 100,000 votes behind Chicago Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano when the last voting results were announced -- the National League returns are announced every Tuesday -- and there is still a chance that Bonds will catch Soriano to earn his place in left field when the game's most celebrated players take the field together July 10. Still, in the last week, Soriano's lead has grown by 60,000 votes in the last week alone, so it is not a given. However, if a late surge pushes Bonds past Soriano and into third place, baseball has little choice but to throw up its hands while being freed of all accountability. (This is the fans' game and they wanted to see him play. If they voted him in as a starter, there is really nothing we can do.) Case closed. But what if Bonds finishes fourth? What then? Baseball has modified its All-Star selection process in recent years, in part to control the politics that have shaped too many rosters. A manager can't reward his players for past performance, for instance, though a deserving player can still get snubbed. Still, the representing league managers work hand-in-hand with the league to assemble balanced and representative rosters, taking into account the ridiculous rule that every team must be represented. For skipper La Russa and the rest of the NL team, this is where the situation gets sticky. Exactly who on this year's Giants makes it over Bonds? San Francisco has one of the worst lineups in baseball, just one player with more than nine home runs. (Any guesses?) Aside from Bonds, the only legitimate candidate on the Giants roster is pitcher Matt Morris, who is a solid 7-4 with a 3.21 ERA in 14 starts this year. Even then, Bonds has other elements in his favor. Baseball has some precedent for electing players to the All-Star Game based on lifetime achievement, most notably Cal Ripken Jr. Ripken was at the 2001 All-Star Game even though he did not deserve to be, and it is no matter that he eventually won the game's Most Valuable Player Award. The idea was that baseball wanted to celebrate Ripken's career, an event most everyone was willing to be a part of. But Bonds? Given that Selig has yet to commit to being in attendance when Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's all-time home run record, one has to wonder if the commissioner might consider skipping the All-Star Game, too. Bonds' career achievements are tainted -- on that we can all agree -- and it is one thing if fans elect him to appear in the game. But it is another thing entirely if baseball has to put him there, especially now, amid George Mitchell's ongoing steroids investigation in the wake of the charges against Bonds in ``Game of Shadows.'' And so, if you are baseball now, you are really hoping for one of two things. You are hoping that Barry Bonds gets voted in or that he is derailed by injury, because there is only one thing you simply do not want to do.
You don't want to make a decision.
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