Kaline not blasting Bonds as he chases HR record


Plenty of baseball old-timers are discounting what San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds has accomplished the past few years.

Don't put Baltimore native and Hall of Famer Al Kaline among that group.

Kaline, 71 and a special assistant to Detroit Tigers president Dave Dombrowski, said Willie Mays is the best all-around player he has ever seen.

But if the category is narrowed to best hitter - with defense and other components tossed out - then Bonds, Mays' godson, leads the discussion.

"I think Bonds has to go down, if not as the best hitter, certainly as 1-2 with Ted Williams," said Kaline, who was in his hometown last week with the visiting Tigers.

At least for now, Kaline is not penalizing Bonds for allegations that he has taken illegal steroids. Despite damning evidence in leaked grand jury testimony and in the book Game of Shadows, as well as the stark contrast in Bonds' physical stature over the years, Kaline stressed that the left fielder has yet to fail a Major League Baseball drug test or been found guilty of taking prohibited substances.

"I'm like most of all the other players," Kaline said, "Until they tell us something definite, from all reports I have, he has passed every drug test."

Therefore, Kaline has no problem with Bonds eclipsing Babe Ruth for second on MLB's home run list or even overtaking all-time leader Hank Aaron.

"If he passes Aaron, I think that will be a tremendous thing," Kaline said. "And until they come out with something positive that he has done something illegal, and prove he has done it for a long time, I am going to say that if he passes Aaron, that's great.

Kaline added: "If he passes Aaron and things come out not so good for him, then it may be a different story in my mind."

Towers struggling

Toronto Blue Jays starter and former Oriole Josh Towers has begun the season in infamous fashion. Heading into today's scheduled start against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Towers has lost all seven of his 2006 appearances. To make matters worse, his season ERA is 10.09.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no pitcher has lost seven starts to begin a season while posting an ERA 9.00 or higher since 1912, when the majors began recording earned runs. Towers, who has allowed 68 base runners in 30 1/3 innings, could be demoted from the rotation if he struggles again.

"We want to be fair to Josh, in one sense, and fair to the other guys in that dugout, too," said Toronto's general manager J.P. Ricciardi.

A first for B. Williams

For the first time in his 16 seasons in the majors, New York Yankees mild-mannered designated hitter Bernie Williams was ejected from a game. During the seventh inning Tuesday night, Williams took a called third strike and flipped his helmet backward as he walked off the field. It nearly hit plate umpire Charlie Reliford, who immediately ejected Williams.

Quick hits

Despite swirling rumors and his pending free agency, starter Barry Zito is not being shopped by the Oakland Athletics. ... The Kansas City Royals started this season 5-1 against the Cleveland Indians and 5-21 against everyone else.

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