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07/25/07 4:00 AM ET
Selig plans to be present for record
Commissioner sees Bonds go homerless for fifth straight game
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Commissioner Bud Selig was at AT&T Park on Tuesday night for Barry Bonds' birthday bash, and the way things are going for the Giants slugger, the Commissioner better settle in. Bonds went without a homer for the fifth game in a row, spoiling his 43rd birthday and leaving him frozen at 753, two behind Hank Aaron's magical 755. Selig, lifting the cone of silence he had placed on the matter, said he will be at the ballpark for the remainder of the Atlanta-San Francisco series, which runs through Thursday, then head to Cooperstown, N.Y., for Hall of Fame Induction Weekend. Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. are being inducted Sunday, and the Commissioner always presides over the ceremony and reads the inscription on inductees' plaques. And yes, he added, he most probably will be in attendance when Bonds gets around to breaking the Hammer's record. "I felt, frankly, for me this was the right thing to do," Selig told the media in an impromptu press-box gathering during the fifth inning of Tuesday night's 7-5 Atlanta victory that lasted 13 innings. "I'm always confident in my decisions to do the right thing. This is one of those situations in life that somebody is going to be mad, but I've been in that role before. It's damned if you do and damned if you don't, but I think it's the right thing for me to be here and I'm here." Bonds recently said he would continue to respect the Commissioner no matter what he decided to do. Though he didn't speak to the collective media for the second consecutive day, he told MLB.com on Tuesday that he was honored Selig would try to be there for the big event. "It's a nice birthday present," Bonds said before playing another full extra-inning game for the fourth time since June 25. "I said that my opinion wouldn't change no matter what the Commissioner did, and this just supports my respect for him. It's nice to be recognized by Major League Baseball for this. But I haven't done anything yet. I don't want to look too far ahead of where I need to be." To be clear, Selig said he intended to return to watch Bonds after the induction ceremonies. "Well, I kiddingly have said I have a day job, which I do have, but the chances are, yes, I probably would," said Selig, who remained in the house for the duration of Tuesday night's game. "They're in L.A. on Tuesday night and I'd love to be there and for it to happen." For Selig, who was in Milwaukee for the Giants' three-game series against the Brewers this past weekend, Tuesday's announcement ended months of controversy surrounding the mystery of whether he would be there or not. Bonds' alleged involvement in performance-enhancing drug use, an ongoing perjury investigation about the matter by the U.S. Justice Department and an ongoing investigation by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell into MLB's steroids era were all parts of the equation. Though Bonds is still being haunted by a federal grand jury, Selig cited in a statement issued earlier Tuesday "that all citizens in this country are innocent until proven guilty" as one of the reasons for brushing aside criticism and joining the chase. Selig, Aaron's longtime friend, said he wouldn't make any judgments about the pending milestone. "This is a huge moment in baseball history," he said. "It's something people are talking about. What I've had a little bit of difficulty doing is putting my personal feelings aside. But as Commissioner, I don't let my personal feelings on any subject enter into what I think is in the best interest of baseball. And by the way, if those interests transcend those feelings, that's what I do. And that's what I'll continue to do." Bonds hasn't hit a homer since last Thursday in Chicago when he smacked Nos. 752 and 753 into a biting wind at Wrigley Field. Bonds has five hits in his last 38 at-bats, with the two homers, six RBIs and 15 walks. On Tuesday night, he was 1-for-5 with two strikeouts looking and a walk, the hit being a fourth-inning single into the right-field corner. His free pass in the 13th inning Tuesday was Bonds' 100th of the season, a figure that not only leads the Major Leagues, but is the 14th time he's done it in his 22-year career. He had been tied with Babe Ruth in that category and now takes the all-time lead. Bonds, who ultimately scored the game's last run on Pedro Feliz's 13th-inning bases-loaded single, looked spent as he jogged home from third base to touch the plate and then limped back to the dugout. It didn't help his bruised body that Bonds made a diving, sprawling one-handed catch toward the left-field line to rob Brian McCann of an extra-base hit to open the 10th. On July 13-15, when Bonds played all 30 innings of a weekend series against the Dodgers, including a 12-inning day game after a night game, he had to skip three consecutive starts at Chicago on the following road trip because of sore and swollen lower legs. Which means that at best right now, Bonds has to be questionable for Wednesday night's game. "A couple of guys need a day off, but as far as Barry is concerned, we'll wait and see," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Any time you go extra innings, it's a long game. And he made a great catch out there. I'll see how he's feeling tomorrow." Selig said he was compelled to fly to San Francisco after watching Monday night's 4-2 Atlanta victory over the Giants via television from his home in Milwaukee, during which Bonds had three classic confrontations against veteran right-hander John Smoltz. "The more I watched the game I thought to myself: I said I would do this at the appropriate time," Selig said. "This is the appropriate time, and here I am." In the end, Selig said he didn't feel like joining the chase "was a difficult decision." "I always say to the clubs and to you that the focus should be on the field," he said. "The fate of the western world isn't going to change if the Commissioner is not there. But I am the Commissioner of baseball and I understand my responsibilities. I don't need anybody to remind me of them. So I thought it was proper for me to be here."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.