Slugger sidesteps questions, chastises media

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Barry Bonds sidestepped a peppering of
steroids questions in the very way teams avoid pitching to him --
and did it with the same prickly demeanor that has defined him for

Barry Bonds Bonds

Bonds angrily avoided inquiries about his role in baseball's
steroid scandal upon his arrival at spring training Tuesday,
pronouncing himself weary but ready to resume his pursuit of Hank
Aaron's home run record.

He called reporters liars, and pointed to problems in the world
he considers much more important than steroids, such as alcoholism
and drug abuse.

Bonds was entertaining as usual. Asked directly whether he'd
ever used illegal substances, he said:

"I'm not a child. You repeat those things to children and then
eventually they tell you. I don't."

In Bonds' first public comments since his grand jury testimony
was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle and reported in December,
he had nothing to say about it, citing legal constrictions. But he
had harsh words for the media and fans still consumed by the
circumstances of his record-setting home run binge.

"You guys are like re-running stories," Bonds said to more
than 100 reporters in attendance. "This is old stuff. It's like
watching 'Sanford and Son.' It's almost comical, basically. ... Are
you guys jealous, upset, disappointed, what?"

The San Francisco Giants slugger has 703 homers, trailing only
Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) on the career list.

Bonds, dressed casually in a black shirt and jeans, was asked
whether he thinks using steroids is cheating.

"I don't know what cheating is," he said. "I don't believe
steroids can help your eye-hand coordination, technically hit a
baseball. I just don't believe it. That's my opinion."

Bonds said the key to his continued success and strength, even
in the later years of his career, has been "hard work, that's
about it."

According to the Chronicle, Bonds testified to the grand jury in
December 2003 that he used a clear substance and a cream given to
him by a trainer who was indicted in a steroid-distribution ring,
but said he didn't know if they were steroids. Prosecutors believe
the substances were two steroids at the center of the BALCO

He isn't convinced any of this will affect his legacy.
"All of you guys have lied," he said. "Should you have an
asterisk behind your name? ... Yeah, I lied to my parents when I
was growing up. Lied to my friends. Have I lied about baseball?
Yeah, I told a couple of stories that I hit a couple of balls
places that I really didn't."

He acknowledged that the controversy has been painful for his
children and that he worries most about them.

"I'm an adult and I take responsibility for what I do, but I'm
not going to allow you guys to ruin my joy," Bonds said.

He refused to speak directly about BALCO, but he castigated
everyone from the media to Jose Canseco, whose recently released
book described a rampant culture of steroid abuse in baseball.
Canseco has said he used steroids with several teammates, including
Mark McGwire. And Canseco said he suspects that Bonds has used
banned substances.

"I don't know Canseco, besides hello and goodbye. I don't put
any weight into what he says," Bonds said. "Mark McGwire was a
big boy in college. To me, Canseco, you've got to come with a whole
lot more. ... It's to make a buck, that's all it is.

"I don't know Jose. I was better than Jose then, and I've been
better than him his whole career. If he wants to go make money, go
ahead. ... For somebody who brags about what he did, I don't see
any of your records."

Bonds rolled into the Giants' training complex on the day
position players were due to report. After he hopped out of his SUV
and made his way into the stadium, he waved twice at the 50 or so
fans there to greet him. Later, on his way out, Bonds signed
autographs for about 10 minutes. He has been appreciative of the
fans' and their support this offseason.

Bonds believes he's being scrutinized more since he's closing in
on Ruth.

"Because Babe Ruth is one of the greatest baseball players
ever, and Babe Ruth ain't black, either," he said. "I'm black.
Blacks, we go through a little more. ... I'm not a racist though,
but I live in the real world. I'm fine with that."

There were seven satellite trucks and a dozen TV cameras there
when Bonds came in.

"The sad part, I just want to go out there and play baseball,"
Bonds said. "I don't even care about the record part so much. The
best is whatever you get out of yourself. That's all I'm trying to

The seven-time NL MVP is entering his 20th major league season.
Bonds drew 232 walks last season, 34 more than the record he set in
2002 and more than 100 better than anyone in baseball. His 120
intentional walks shattered the mark of 68 that he set in 2002.

On the field, Bonds will be limited for a while.

He's had arthroscopic surgery on both knees since last season
ended, including an operation on his right knee Feb. 1 that will
keep him out of games until at least mid-March.

Bonds said he wasn't sure if he'd be ready for Opening Day.

Manager Felipe Alou isn't concerned about his superstar's focus.

"This team is prepared for anything, beginning with No. 25,"
Alou said, referring to Bonds.

Trainer Stan Conte evaluated Bonds and said "the knee didn't
look that bad." Bonds will begin rehab Wednesday.

"There's a little bit of swelling, but not that much," Conte
said. "It looks pretty good. There's a little bit of weakness in
the leg."

Bonds hasn't worked out in a couple of weeks. They will start
out with strengthening exercises to improve Bonds' range of motion.

"He will tell us," Conte said. "I know that to be true
because that's what he's done the last 10 to 15 years. The key will
be protecting him from himself and playing too much."