Bonds ready for second-half challenge
Slugger not worried about numbers as home run record looms
SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds has never embraced the description of his approach to Hank Aaron's all-time home run record as a "chase." For Bonds, it's more like a challenge -- a challenge to himself.Citing a conversation with a highly accomplished athlete he wouldn't name, Bonds explained the psychology of exceeding one's own expectations. "If you cut your sights short, you might as well quit, because now that desire in you is gone," Bonds said at Monday's media availability with the National League All-Stars. "I'm not chasing Hank; my sight's past that. If I come up short, I come up short, and if I get past it, I get past it. But I'm going to give my honest effort to my ability that God's given me." Bonds, the San Francisco Giants left fielder who'll bat second for the National League in Tuesday's 78th All-Star Game at AT&T Park, otherwise addressed familiar subjects during his 45-minute chat -- which was briefly interrupted by a visit from NFL receiving legend Jerry Rice, doubling as a television feature reporter. Chief among the topics was whether Bonds senses his proximity to Aaron's mark of 755. Bonds, who's batting .295 with 17 homers this season, has 751. "I'll really feel it," Bonds said of his expected mind state when he hits homer No. 754. "And then it just depends how many games are left."
What about Bonds playing in 2008?"I'm not quitting. I might make you wait until next year [for the home run record]," Bonds added. "I've got some time, brother. My skills ain't that bad. I'm going to play. If I walk away from the game knowing I can still play, it won't have a happy ending. I have to walk away when I know I can't do it anymore." One thing Bonds can't do anymore, at least in his estimation, is participate in the Home Run Derby. Thousands of fans of the All-Star host Giants and even club owner Peter Magowan had hoped to see their favorite slugger take aim at McCovey Cove. But Bonds insisted that he needed to preserve his energy for the regular season. "I'm 42, almost 43 years old, guys. If it was like one round or something, I could give a good effort," he said. "But we're in San Francisco. It's kind of windy and cold and if you have to sit and get stiff ... this is not about me, this is about my team. I've played a lot of games this year  and I want to keep playing a lot of games for my team."
Bonds gave his familiar stump speech about whether Aaron and Commissioner Bud Selig should be in attendance if and when he breaks the record. Aaron has said that he likely won't travel to see Bonds eclipse his standard; Selig has maintained that he'll decide when the time comes.In short, Bonds is at peace with both Aaron and Selig. "Hank has a life, too," Bonds said. "It could go weeks. You expect this man to travel across the entire continent for weeks? It's not fair to him. ... Hank, if you want to stay home, stay home, brother." Bonds repeated that Selig's decision is up to him and maintained his undying respect for him.
"Bud is his own man," Bonds said.
Asked what he would do if he were the commissioner and a player were aiming for the home run mark, Bonds said he would attend the record-breaking game, but pointed out that he wasn't casting aspersions upon Selig: "I'm not even getting into a challenge here."Only once did a reporter come close to asking Bonds a question about the performance-enhancing drug controversy that has enveloped him. Bonds swatted it foul.
"Why are we on that?" Bonds said when asked about a USA Today story on BALCO founder Victor Conte, who believed that a large number of players continue to use illegal performance-enhancing substances. "I don't know what Victor said. Let's stay away from that. That's not necessarily true. And I know that's not true, but I won't go there with you."Bonds was much more at ease discussing subjects such as Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, widely regarded as the next player to challenge the home run record.
"His talent is unbelievable," said Bonds, who noted that he'd gladly sit in to watch Rodriguez become the home run king. "I don't think people really appreciate his talent. It's unbelievable. His eye-hand coordination, his actual strength, his actual recognition of the ball -- those are things you can't teach. A lot of have it at this level, but some of us can do it better than others, and he's one of them."Elected an All-Star starter with a late surge of voting, Bonds expressed appreciation for his popularity at the ballot box.
"I have two million friends that you guys didn't know about," he said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.