Faced with the most damning, deeply sourced, comprehensive and chilling charges against Barry Bonds yet, courtesy of a new book by the San Francisco Chronicle reporters who have been on him from the start, decision day is here for Bonds, for baseball and for the San Francisco Giants.
In the crushing new investigative book "Game of Shadows" (an excerpt appears in the March 13 issue of Sports Illustrated), authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams use extensive interviews, grand jury testimony, secret documents and mountains of evidence to show in painstaking detail, not just that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs to become the most fearsome slugger of all time, but how, when and what he used on a day-in, day-out basis.
BALCO Barry may never stand trial in a court of law, but right here, right now, on the eve of the historic season that could see him become the all-time home run king, the court of public opinion is in its closing arguments and he is way, way behind.
The book should either forever cement Bonds' legacy as that of a cheat of the highest order or allow the ballplayer to sue the books' publisher so ferociously for libel that he'll own half of San Francisco.
There isn't any middle ground. There isn't any room for debate or for situational ethics. There isn't any more time to put off making serious decisions about Bonds' future.
If Barry's reaction is to ignore, to pout, to try to clown it up in a pathetic, public relations-fueled drag act – his hair and boobs as fake as his career stats – then no longer can anyone sit by and idly watch.
That would start with the Giants, Bonds' employer and enabler which has profited even more handsomely than the slugger himself at this fraud show, this freak act. The Giants don't have the contractual right to cut Bonds loose, but that doesn't prevent them from finally doing what's right.
If Bonds isn't defending himself in a serious manner, then the Giants should bench him forever. Yeah, sit him and let the old drug cheat waste away, never getting a chance to take a final shot at Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron, never again letting the village idiot Giants fans applaud him as some hero.
Anything else is a slap in the face of baseball, of history, of San Francisco, of Aaron, of consumers who demand real athletes and not a chemical creation who hits every third pitch into the San Francisco Bay.
It's not like Bonds is owed anything. The juice made him rich and infamous. No one is asking back the money, no one is going to send him off to prison. There will always be ever-apologetic ESPN willing to cleanse his image with some silly reality show.
But for the Giants to keep pretending and keep profiting is just as despicable as Bonds, as the book alleges, popping 20 pills a day and shooting himself up with drugs.
Understand that Bonds is no one's victim, no one's good guy. Don't let the Paula Abdul act that got all the clowns on the 11 o'clock news chortling fool you.
This is someone who sat next to his own godfather – the classy, beloved Willie Mays – on the day he tied the Giants' all-time greatest player on the home run list and acted like they were equals. He knowingly smiled and let Willie make a fool of himself by defending BALCO Barry and providing political cover.
It takes a special kind of person to do that to his own godfather.
It takes a special kind of person to keep doing this to everyone.
The early excerpts from "Game of Shadows," set for release March 27, are stunning. It is not that the book reveals that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs to become the most incredible home run hitter of all time. Only the most naive among us didn't already know that, Giants officials included.
It is the details that are too deep and precise for Bonds to ignore. It is also the revelation that Bonds, in 1998, watched the circus performances of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and all the other highly suspicious stars of the steroid era and felt the need to keep up. So he turned to drugs.
Which is why "Game of Shadows" shouldn't just put the final nail in Bonds' coffin. It should convince Hall of Fame voters to turn a cold, callous shoulder on the entire era, keeping all of these puffed-out sluggers out of Cooperstown forever.
It should motivate Bud Selig to wipe the record book clean of that time frame, even reinstating Roger Maris' 61 home runs as the single-season record. Because baseball relies on having its lore passed down through the generations, and there is no way you'll ever be able to explain all of this to your children or your grandchildren.
But mostly this should make life perfectly miserable for BALCO Barry, who should be treated with scorn by anyone who cares about the game.
Presumably that starts with the Giants' organization itself, which if it has any courage, any ethics, any sense of right and wrong, would shut this charade down forever and stop stealing money off this sad, sad excuse of an athlete.