The news that Barry Bonds had been indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges on Thursday surprised and saddened those in and around baseball.
"Personally, I feel absolutely terrible for Barry and his family and his kids," said Bonds' former teammate Andy Van Slyke. "You invest a lot of time together and a lot of sweat together to accomplish something that's bigger than yourself."
Bonds, a seven-time Most Valuable Player who in August passed Henry Aaron as baseball's all-time home runs leader, could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted on all five counts (four perjury, one obstruction of justice).
Van Slyke isn't surprised that the federal government is obviously taking this issue very seriously.
"The nice thing about our country is that the grand jury gives you an opportunity to tell the truth without ramifications," he said. "You can go to the grand jury and tell the truth and not be prosecuted. But when you lie, you put yourself in a position where Barry is in right now.
"The fact is, the government has an obligation to the public to take a serious course of action in the courts. We take seriously what we do as citizens, to tell the truth in a court of law. And if Barry Bonds was a truck driver in some small case, I don't know if we'd be talking about this. This may be a simple case of making an example of Barry Bonds. I think [the steroids issues] will all be washed away, and I don't think we'll be talking about it years from now. I think it's a serious offense to stand in front of a grand jury and lie to them, and rightfully so, I think, if we consider our country. We have an obligation as citizens to tell the truth if we step in a court of law."
Atlanta pitcher John Smoltz said that he would let the process carry itself out before commenting.
"All kinds of things have been in the waiting for this for a long time," Smoltz said. "For now it's a moot point until it runs its course, because right now it's all speculation. If things come out and are proven, you'll see plenty of people piling on. Right now I look at it the same way as I did when I held on to Pete Rose and wanted to believe that he wasn't guilty."
In a statement, Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig said, "I have yet to see the details of this indictment and while everyone in America is considered innocent until proven guilty, I take this indictment very seriously and will follow its progress closely. It is important that the facts regarding steroid use in baseball be known, which is why I asked Senator [George] Mitchell to investigate the issue. I look forward to receiving his report and findings so that we can openly address any issue associated with past steroid use. We currently have a testing program that is as good as any in professional sports, and the program is working. We continue to fund research to find an efficacious test for HGH and have banned amphetamines from our sport. We will continue to work diligently to eradicate the use of all illegal performance-enhancing substances from the game."
The San Francisco Giants, the team for which Bonds played from 1993 through this year, also released a statement: "This is a very sad day. For many years, Barry Bonds was an important member of and is one of the most talented baseball players of his era. These are serious charges. Now judicial process has begun, we look forward to this matter being resolved in a court of law."
Giants infielder Kevin Frandsen, a lifelong San Francisco fan, was surprised to hear that Bonds had been indicted.
"You figure during the year it kind of blew over," Frandsen said. "It's none of our business, and something we didn't need to get involved with. You want to be as supportive as you can for him and his family because, obviously, it's not a good time."
San Francisco outfielder Dave Roberts was shocked by the news.
"I'm beside myself, I can't believe it," Roberts said. "Just hearing that it could potentially go to a trial and be a drawn-out kind of thing, I'm shocked by it."
Roberts will remember Bonds' record-setting season.
"There was a lot going on and a lot of great things with what Barry accomplished," he said. "To have that big black cloud, it's unfortunate. He was great to me as a teammate, and still a heck of a ballplayer."
President Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers, who has spoken against steroid use, was "very disappointed to hear this," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. "As this case is now in the criminal justice system, we will refrain from any further specific comments about it. But clearly this is a sad day for baseball."
Donald M. Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, echoed those sentiments.
"I was saddened to learn this afternoon of the indictment of Barry Bonds," Fehr said in a statement. "However, we must remember, as the U.S. Attorney stated in his press release today, that an indictment contains only allegations, and in this country every defendant, including Barry Bonds, is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless and until such time as he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
Several others sought by MLB.com for reaction, including Bonds' former manager and current Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker, declined comment due to the legal nature of the issue.
"I really feel bad for Bud Selig, because he was caught between a rock and a hard place," Van Slyke said. "This is no longer a baseball issue. The seriousness of lying before a grand jury obviously outweighs breaking a baseball rule."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporters Jason Beck, Mark Bowman, Chris Haft and Mark Sheldon contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.