boston.com Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe
DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Selig acts as cutoff man

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds and Bud Selig were in the same ballpark last night. No telling when that might happen again.

They still love Bonds here. This is home. And this is where he'll probably break the all-time home run record in the next few weeks.

"This is my family," Bonds said after multiple ovations and an 0-for-2 night in the 78th All-Star Game. "These are people, a lot of them I grew up with throughout my years. I cannot ever, ever thank them enough. I'll never forget it."

Bonds got the loudest pregame ovation, then served as the official greeter when Willie Mays (Bonds's godfather) came out from behind the center-field fence in a ceremony that was mildly reminiscent of Ted Williams's farewell appearance at Fenway before the 1999 All-Star Game. The only thing missing was a dotcom hat on the Say Hey Kid's head.

The ovation was long and loud again when Bonds came to the plate to face Dan Haren in the first. Bonds might be a pariah elsewhere in the United States and Canada, but the Bay Area fans still love him.

Bonds popped to right in his first at-bat, then came up again in the third to face your own Josh Beckett. First base was open, but Jim Leyland wasn't about to ruin everybody's night. Bonds showed bunt on the first pitch, fouled one to the backstop, then hit a long fly to left that generated the first excitement of the evening. Alas, Magglio Ordonez ran it down at the track and it got quiet again at AT&T Park.

"He threw a good split," Bonds said. "I hit it pretty good, but I didn't hit it good enough."

That was it for Barry. Selig wasn't going to have to worry about presenting the All-Star MVP Award to Bonds. Alfonso Soriano took over for Bonds in left to start the fourth and the AL went on to a 5-4 victory.

The Barry Problem is no fun for Uncle Bud. You should have seen Selig dancing when he spoke with the media early yesterday. Affable Bud participated in his annual All-Star Q & A session on the second floor of the St. Francis Hotel, and after scribes scarfed cold cut sandwiches and stuffed desserts into their pockets for later, we were given the opportunity to ask the commissioner questions.

It would be fun to tell you that we ate Bud's lunch. And we tried. The first half-dozen questions concerned Bonds and the tarnished trudge toward history. Bud bobbed and weaved like Cassius Clay. It's pretty clear Selig would rather prep for a colonoscopy than talk about this.

He tried to stop the bleeding before the first cut, saying, "I'll start off by saying to you what I've been saying to all of you -- I have made no decision yet on the Willie Mays thing. None. Zero."

Excuse us, Bud, don't you mean Barry Bonds?

"Ah, yes," he corrected. "On the Barry Bonds situation. I had Willie Mays on my mind. I said I'd do it at the appropriate time and I'll determine what the appropriate time is, and that has not been determined. I really don't have anything more to say to that. I know a lot of you have been questioning me ad nauseam and I don't blame you. I understand why you want to do that, but there has been no change in that. I don't know how else to say it. So if anybody wants to ask a question, proceed at your own risk."

We asked if George Mitchell had requested to interview Bonds as part of his steroid investigation. Selig said he did not know the answer and indicated Mitchell does not discuss anything with him regarding the investigation.

Not giving up, we asked what might happen in the next couple of weeks to enable Selig to make a decision on appearing at Bonds's record-breaking game.

"A lot of people have asked that question," he said. "This is just something that is very personal and very sensitive, and I'll make that judgment and I don't feel comfortable talking about it. I understand that I am the commissioner of baseball and this is the most hallowed record in American sports. I can understand [why people want to know if he'll attend]. I understand you have a job to do, and if I were you, I'd be asking the same questions. But it's something I'm just going to handle in my own way."

This makes us think Bud is waiting for a Hail Mary in the form of an indictment, an untimely injury, or some other act of God that could get in the path of Barry and Hank Aaron.

"You'll have to draw any conclusions you want," said Selig. "I just don't have any more to say about it. I am very orderly. My wife calls me compulsive. It's fair to say I make plans. That is how I operate."

Is the topic uncomfortable?

"I'll let you make that judgment."

The answer, of course is "yes."

When Bonds spoke with the media Monday, he said he respected Selig "as a man" regardless of the commissioner's decision on attending the record-breaking game. Bowie Kuhn was not in Atlanta when Aaron broke Babe Ruth's record and was hammered for the no-show. Selig faces a far more delicate situation. His presence or absence will be viewed by many as a vote on Bonds's innocence or guilt. It's lose/lose for Bud, and he knows it.

Bonds said if Alex Rodriguez someday overtakes Bonds's record, he would attend as long as someone got him a ticket. Bonds also said he would attend if he were commissioner ("That's my duty if it's me."). SI.com yesterday reported Selig plans to be on hand for the record-breaker, but no source was cited.

The whole thing is a little silly. There are much more important issues in baseball. But the Bonds conundrum will dog Selig and Major League Baseball as he approaches the record. The Barry Problem is not going away. It's only going to get worse.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES