Leading off, Barry Bonds

The Baltimore Sun

New spring, same old top story.

There are plenty of intriguing subplots as baseball breaks from its winter hiatus and pitchers and catchers start playing long toss this week in Arizona and Florida.

But, as usual, none can top the sport's most consistent newsmaker, the incomparable Barry Bonds.

Throughout this decade, Bonds has been a must-read spring story: Can he still play at a Most Valuable Player level? Will he hit a historic number of home runs? Is he healthy? Is he cracking under media scrutiny? Is this the year we, once and for all, learn the truth about his rumored involvement with steroids? Is this his last season, no matter what?

At some point this year, one - or maybe all - will be answered. The drama should begin to unfold when he presumably joins his San Francisco Giants teammates in Scottsdale, Ariz., after a months-long dance with club management over the language in a one-year contract.

Off the field, Bonds is still being investigated for alleged perjury in the federal Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative probe. Federal investigators contend he lied to a grand jury when he testified he had never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs. A long-anticipated indictment could be issued this year.

On the field, Bonds, 42, is pursuing one of the sport's most hallowed records, Hank Aaron's career home run mark of 755. Bonds, who set the single-season record of 73 in 2001, is 21 from tying Aaron. Only once since 1990 - in 2005, when he played 14 games - has Bonds failed to hit at least 21 homers.

His run at history, and how image-conscious Major League Baseball handles it, should provide the most compelling drama of 2007.

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