An asterisk awaits Barry Bonds’s career home run total and single-season home run record if the allegations in a new book, Game of Shadows, due out this month, are true. San Francisco Chronicle writers Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams conducted a two-year investigation and concluded that Barry Bonds used a vast array of performance-enhancing drugs, including steroids and human growth hormone, for at least five seasons, starting in 1998. There have been questions about Bonds’s training regimen ever since his association with the BALCO drug company was revealed a few years ago, but nothing this definitive. The extensively footnoted and documented tome, which is exclusively excerpted here by Sports Illustrated, argues that Bonds’s troubles began when he became enthralled with the media coverage of the Mark McGuire/Sammy Sosa home run chance. Always concerned about his position in the history of the game, Bonds became a user and subsequently put up unprecedented home run totals for a man past his 34th birthday, culminating in breaking McGuire’s three-year-old single season home run record in 2001. Bonds’s alleged usage stopped in 2003 when the MLB began cracking down on performance enhancers.
What does this mean for Barry Bonds’s legacy and for the MLB? If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say the slugger, who hinted earlier this spring that he was going to retire after the season (but later took it back), has played his last game of major league baseball. However, I’d guess he’ll probably avoid the Pete Rose treatment because the substances he allegedly used were not illegal at the time. If these allegations are true, his mammoth post-34 home run totals definitely deserve an asterisk, and doubts about his career totals are certainly justified.