MILWAUKEE – Bah, humbug.
This is the week Barry Bonds visits his past, present and future, and, Scrooge he is, Bonds wouldn't deign to discuss it Monday. He arrived with his San Francisco Giants, inching ever closer to Hank Aaron's all-time home run record after smacking No. 748 on Sunday and still carrying himself with the grim look of just having spent an afternoon with Debbie Downer.
Standard fare, of course, except for what awaited him.
Outside Miller Park, among a clutch of cars in an auxiliary parking lot, a plaque in the ground commemorates the spot where Aaron's 755th home run landed. Asked about Bonds at the monument's unveiling less than two weeks ago, Aaron said: "I don't even know how to spell his name."
Inside Miller Park, where the Brewers scratched out a victory over the fading Giants, baseball commissioner Bud Selig caught a few innings of the game from his luxury suite. Perhaps this was his tacit way of saying that he would attend the games leading up to No. 755. Or maybe Selig wanted to show his face so he doesn't have to when Bonds, the biggest head – literally – on the steroid Mount Rushmore, climbs past Aaron, the commissioner's good friend.
And after two more games here, plus an off day, the New York Yankees come to San Francisco, which means Alex Rodriguez, not even 32 years old yet, brings his 491 home runs to the Bay. The last time these two faced one another, July 17, 2001, the public had never heard of BALCO, let alone figured Bonds could ever hit 73 home runs in a season and put Aaron's record in his crosshairs.
Yet here he is, the precipice calling, Bonds' true motivation for sticking around all these years within reach, and the confluence of these three storylines makes the chase somewhat … interesting. Funny to say that when baseball's greatest record is about to fall, but it's true: This chase has all the buzz of a bumblebee that just met the business end of a flyswatter.
Perhaps it will gain traction as he edges closer and as people realize that for the mistakes he made – ones to which he might never own up – Bonds remains one of the greatest to ever swing a bat. He was brilliant pre-steroids, shone like Sirius while on them and hasn't regressed much in his tests-clean-but-who-really-knows aftermath.
None of that will convince Aaron, whose true feelings seep out a little more every time he talks about Bonds. This has been his record since he passed Babe Ruth on April 8, 1974, and the closer Bonds gets, the starker reality becomes: In days, weeks, maybe a month or two, Bonds will play repo man on what has been Aaron's for 33 years.
Selig continues to ride the fence. If he goes, he's doing his duty as commissioner. If he doesn't, he's making a statement as commissioner that he couldn't through regular disciplinary channels. This isn't an either-or. For this decision to have caused such consternation and debate added some sorely lacked melodrama, if not piles of ill-conceived logic.
More interesting than anything in Milwaukee is the weekend series against the Yankees, which might be the last time Bonds and Rodriguez share the field in a regular-season game. In mid-April, when Rodriguez hit 14 home runs in his first 18 games and stoked thoughts of the single-season record falling, Bonds said: "I'm so happy for him. It's great. It's phenomenal to watch. I hope he hits a hundred."
While Rodriguez is at 27 – on a pace for 65, which would exceed Roger Maris' American League record of 61 – his career number matters more. By the end of the season, he could pass Ted Williams and Willie McCovey for 15th on the all-time list. Three more typical A-Rod seasons and he'll pass Willie Mays for fourth. And at that point, leapfrogging Bonds boils down to health.
"The question is, can he or whoever else is approaching it sustain that?" Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "If anybody can, he can. That's how good he is. He's so consistent with his power, and he's such a big healthy guy, it wouldn't surprise me to see him approaching it too."
People talk about Albert Pujols, and, yes, entering his 1,000th major-league game tonight, he has 266 home runs – 11 more than A-Rod had at his 1,000th, and 101 more than Bonds. And he, too, may very well own the record one day.
But A-Rod's got next.
"It's soon to be Barry's, and that's inevitable," Giants center fielder Dave Roberts said. "A-Rod's the heir apparent. He's young. He's great. He's had so much success.
"As a spectator and as a player on the field, it's going to be special to see two of the best players who have played the game, period."
Maybe it will give Bonds that extra nudge to show that, at 42 (and 43 in a month), he's still got chops. Bonds has 14 home runs this year. He gets on base at a better clip than anyone in baseball. He doesn't play the field like he needs knee replacements anymore. He can still waggle his bat and rip a fastball from a kid half his age – in Monday's case, the Brewers' 21-year-old rookie blue-chipper Yovani Gallardo – into right-center field for a double.
At least Scrooge changed. After the game, Bonds still didn't want to talk, not even about that hit. He strapped on his white shirt, jeans and Timberland boots, grabbed a quick dinner and left the stadium, his past repulsed by him, his present ambivalent about him and his future primed to take the only thing that keeps him going.