Barry Bonds and the Hall of Fame

After homerun record-holder Barry Bonds' federal indictment on perjury charges over steroids use, there are questions about whether he will make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Scott Simon talks with Howard Bryant, senior writer for ESPN.com, about Bonds' future.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Is Barry Bonds headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame or to prison? Why not both? After the indictment of the career home run, later, on Thursday, neither is really out of the question.

Joining us now is Howard Bryant, senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine.

Howard, thanks for being with us.

Mr. HOWARD BRYANT (Senior Writer, ESPN.com): Hey, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: Well, better than Barry Bonds, and I don't - I ordinarily can't say that. Is his playing career over? A free agent had hoped to sign.

Mr. BRYANT: I think Barry Bond - his career is finish. I think that his career, for the most part, should have been finished last year, if not for the cynical San Francisco Giants' ownership that needed him to break the record in a Giant uniform to earn money for them to continue paying for that ballpark.

I think this was the last straw. And I don't see any team taking a risk on him or taking a flyer on him simply because he wants to keep playing. He's going to be a player who's under indictment, who was already a lightning rod in the first place. I think we've seen the last of Barry Bonds in a baseball uniform.

SIMON: Grand jury says that he lied when he said he didn't knowingly take steroids that were given to him by his personal trainer. So legal experts have noted he's not actually being indicted for taking steroids but for lying to investigators when he said he didn't take them. Is this just a fine legal point but not a real point?

Mr. BRYANT: No, I think it's very real. This is an investigation that isn't taken lightly by the investigators of - by the federal government. I think that when you read the indictment, and I suggest that everybody read the indictment. It's online in PDF form. You can read it in about 10 minutes. It's a 10-page document.

It's just Bond's true defiance. And what I took from it was this idea that he really did believe that he was above the law, that he treated these federal investigators as if they were rent-a-cops outside of a high school. It's really fascinating reading. And you can tell how contentious things were and how much the federal government was convinced that he was lying to them.

SIMON: Quick last question, Howard. Alex Rodriguez agreed to a $275-million 10-year deal with the New York Yankees. Good deal for both sides?

Mr. BRYANT: Oh, it's a great deal for both sides. It's a great deal because I couldn't for the life of me think of another baseball player at the height of his power especially in the modern era now that would walk away from the New York spotlight with the New York marketing machine and all the power that New York can bring to you. Alex Rodriguez would have been the first.

Every other player from Dave Winfields to Ricky Henderson, to Reggie Jackson, to Babe Ruth, all of them left New York against their will. And for Alex Rodriguez to walk away would have been remarkable. Also, he's got a chance now to break Barry Bonds' home-run record in a Yankee uniform. So it's all set up for him. It's set up for the Yankees. At $27 million a year there weren't going to be that many other suitors. He is where he belongs.

SIMON: Howard Bryant, senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine.

Thank you.

Mr. BRYANT: Thank you.

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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Bonds Faces Perjury Charges in Steroids Case

Barry Bonds in the outfield against a sign showing his home-run total. i i

Barry Bonds is baseball's all-time leading home-run hitter, but allegations of steroid use have followed him in recent years. Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Barry Bonds in the outfield against a sign showing his home-run total.

Barry Bonds is baseball's all-time leading home-run hitter, but allegations of steroid use have followed him in recent years.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

In Depth

A look at Bonds' pursuit of the home run record in words and photos.

Baseball superstar Barry Bonds was charged Thursday with perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying when he said he did not use performance-enhancing drugs.

The indictment, unsealed Thursday by federal prosecutors in San Francisco, is the culmination of a four-year federal probe into whether he lied under oath to a grand jury investigating steroid use by elite athletes.

"It is a surprise," said NPR's Tom Goldman, who has been following the case. "The grand jury term had expired at least once, and Greg Anderson (Bonds' longtime trainer) has been languishing in jail while refusing to testify against Bonds."

Goldman noted that Bonds' legal team has long challenged prosecutors to make their case.

"They said: 'If you have evidence, bring it on and indict us,'" Goldman said. "And the grand jury did."

The indictment comes three months after the 43-year-old Bonds, one of the biggest names in professional sports, passed Hank Aaron to become baseball's career home-run leader, his sport's most hallowed record. Bonds, who parted ways with the San Francisco Giants at the end of last season and has yet to sign with another team, also holds the game's single-season home run record of 73.

While Bonds was chasing Aaron amid the adulation of San Franciscans and the scorn of baseball fans almost everywhere else, due to his notoriously prickly personality and nagging steroid allegations, a grand jury quietly worked behind closed doors to put the finishing touches on the long-rumored indictment.

"I'm surprised," said John Burris, one of Bonds' attorneys. "I'm curious what evidence they have now they didn't have before."

The indictment charges Bonds with lying when he said that he didn't knowingly take steroids given to him by Anderson.

He also denied taking steroids at any time in 2001 when he was pursuing the single season home-run record.

"During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances for Bonds and other athletes," the indictment reads.

He is also charged with lying that Anderson never injected him with steroids.

"Greg wouldn't do that," Bonds testified in December 2003 when asked if Anderson ever gave him any drugs that needed to be injected. "He knows I'm against that stuff."

A long-awaited report by former Sen. George Mitchell on steroid use in baseball is due at the end of the year, NPR's Goldman said, adding that the report is expected to name several high-profile players as steroid users.

From Associated Press and NPR reports

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