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Bonds's Numbers Likely to Stand Up

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 4, 2004; Page D10

BALTIMORE, Dec. 3 -- There is no sport more obsessed with numbers than baseball, but those in charge of the game's statistics say slugger Barry Bonds's records will remain intact -- at least for now.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported in Friday's editions that Bonds admitted in grand jury testimony that he used several substances but denied knowing the substances were steroids.

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The president of the Elias Sports Bureau Inc. -- the official statisticians for MLB -- said the bureau would wait until Bonds is proven guilty of any wrongdoing before deciding to examine his records.

"I don't want to speculate on something that doesn't exist," Seymour Siwoff said. "We have nothing to say really. If something does happen we'll talk about it. In a sense, someone is conjecturing. They haven't accused Bonds of anything."

The most prized of Bonds's numbers is his single-season home run record of 73, set in 2001. Bonds is 53 home runs from breaking Hank Aaron's career home run mark, perhaps the most cherished record in baseball.

It would almost be impossible with one swoop to eliminate all of Bonds's numbers, said Rob Neyer, ESPN.com senior writer and noted baseball statistician.

"I wouldn't advocate doing that, and I don't think there is any way of doing it," Neyer said. "There is no mechanism to do it. If you go to the Baseball Encyclopedia, are you going to see nothing? Because baseball is a team game, everything has to add up."

If baseball did one day eliminate Bonds's 73 home runs in 2001, would that mean the San Francisco Giants that season have 73 less home runs? Would the home runs be eliminated from the statistics of those pitchers that allowed them, meaning their ERAs would be adjusted? Would final scores of games be changed?

"Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs, there is no way around that," Neyer said.

And what about other noted cheats in baseball? Gaylord Perry has publicly admitted to throwing a spitball, yet his 314 wins remain untouched. Ken Caminiti, who publicly admitted using steroids, was not forced to relinquish his MVP award from 1996.

An option would be to keep Bonds's statistics in the record books, but eliminate the distinction of the records he broke. In that scenario, Mark McGwire's 70 home runs in 1998 would be considered the single-season record. But as Neyer notes, McGwire also has faced suspicions of steroid use.

It would be almost impossible to assign some sort of asterisk to Bonds's numbers in the record books, much like baseball did when Roger Maris hit 61 homers in 1961 to break Babe Ruth's single-season mark. That asterisk was used to denote that Maris broke the record in 162 games, eight more games than it took Ruth. It was later removed.

It appears that the only change in Bonds's records may be in how some fans perceive them. His legacy may be the only thing affected.

"We're not going to engage in any speculation along these lines," said Steve Hirdt, Elias's executive vice president.

The Society of American Baseball Research, perhaps the premier baseball historical society, also declined to comment on what Bonds's reported admission would do to his records.

Barring a suspension, Bonds will break Aaron's record within the next two years and there might not be anything baseball can do to stop it.

It appears unlikely that any of Bonds's memorabilia will be removed from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. All of Pete Rose's items remain in the Hall of Fame despite the fact he is banned from baseball for gambling.

In 2003, the Hall of Fame X-rayed five bats that had belonged to Sammy Sosa after the Chicago Cubs' outfielder was suspended for using a corked bat, and said they would not have removed them from display had they found cork. For now, the Hall of Fame remains quiet about Bonds.

"We don't comment on ongoing investigations," said Jeff Idelson, vice president of communications for the Hall of Fame. "We're staying clear of this."

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