Bonds promises more bounty
Each homer sets new record, no telling which will be last
SAN FRANCISCO -- With the pursuit of the all-time home run record behind him, and with only a cameo role to play as a pinch-hitter on Thursday, a relaxed and confident Barry Bonds played pitchman and prognosticator.With his record-setting 756th home run in the books -- and now 757 as well -- Bonds said he has his sights on new goals: 2,000 RBIs, 3,000 hits and 800 home runs. And he said he'll be littering Major League parks all season with authenticated baseballs. Bonds told MLB.com, and the Giants confirmed, that Major League Baseball will continue putting marked and authenticated baseballs into play on every pitch tossed to the all-time homer leader. That figures, considering every home run creates a new record and no one knows which one will be the last. "These fans better understand something. It's the last home run ball that's really going to be worth something," said Bonds. "Baseball is trying to downplay it, but that's why they keep changing the balls every time I come up to hit. Technically, the last one is it -- 756 doesn't exist anymore. That ball's worth what it is. The last home run ball is worth the real money. The people need to keep coming out to see it. Because I swear I'll go run out there and catch it myself." Matt Murphy, a tourist from Queens, N.Y., came up with the big fly about four rows deep in the bleachers just to the right of center field on Tuesday night when Bonds eclipsed Hank Aaron's record with his 756th homer. An offer for that ball of $500,000 has already been made public. No. 757 on Wednesday night was plucked out of McCovey Cove by a kayaker. The outpouring of well-wishers from fans has been so overwhelming since Tuesday, Bonds said, that he has set up a hotline for people to leave their good-will messages -- 866-218-4117. Some of them will be available for public consumption on the slugger's web site, barrybonds.com. Despite constant jeers on the road, fans have filled the stadiums - both at home and nationally - as Bonds chased down Aaron's record. Thursday's game included, the Giants have played in front of 16 consecutive sellouts at AT&T Park dating back to June 30, the day after Bonds hit No. 750 vs. the Diamondbacks, and 30 in a row overall since drawing 30,080 at Cincinnati on July 5. Beginning with Friday night's opener of a three-game series against the Pirates, the Giants have 25 games remaining on a home slate that ends this season against the Padres on Sept. 26. For Bonds, that still gives him plenty of time to accumulate the 17 RBIs he needs to become only the third player in the modern era behind Aaron and Babe Ruth to reach the 2,000 plateau in that category. Aaron leads with 2,297 and seems to be out of reach. "The way I'm hitting now, I'll have no trouble doing that [reaching 2,000] this year," said Bonds, who's batting .316 (6-for-19) this month after a .186 month of July. Bonds also is 84 hits away from becoming the 28th player to amass 3,000 hits. His godfather, Willie Mays, is 11th with 3,282 hits, which also seems to be a bit of a stretch. But there's nothing more important to Bonds than chasing down Willie's records. Bonds hit his 661st homer to pass Mays into third on the all-time list on April 13, 2004. "Don't challenge me," said Bonds, noting that there were Mays marks he was still after. When Bonds was told to consider it a challenge, he said: "I'll take that challenge and I'll blow you away." Bonds, who already has said multiple times he intends to play next season, should pass the 3,000-hit mark in 2008. But he would probably need to continue on into 2009 if he has any chance of catching Mays in that department. He's only had 186 hits since 2004, including 12 in 14 games at the end of his injury-riddled 2005 season that included three surgeries on his right knee. "We'll just see about that," Bonds said. "I'll do what I have to do." Of course, edging closer to the 800-homer mark and creating more distance between Bonds and Alex Rodriguez is the big thing. The Yankees third baseman is expected to be the greatest challenger to Bonds' home run record. A-Rod just turned 32 last month and hit his 500th homer this past Saturday. Bonds, now 43, has homered three times in his last four starts, a departure from the one-a-week pace he'd been on since opening the season with eight homers in April. Since then, he's hit four homers each in the months of May, June and July, but is off to that blistering start in August. It's not inconceivable that he could hit 13 more, thus ending the season with 770, placing him well within distance of reaching 800 next season. Bonds' 23 homers this year are already the most for a player turning 43 or older in that particular season. Carlton Fisk, then with the White Sox, held that record when he hit 18 at 43 during the 1991 season. And Bonds' 74 since turning 40 are the most for any player after that age. Aaron, in comparison, hit only 42 homers after turning 40, 22 of them as a designated hitter for the Brewers in his final two seasons. The Hammer's career petered out at 44. Fisk hit four homers in his final two seasons before retiring at 45. "I can still hit," Bonds said. "I may not be able to run much anymore, but even then I can still pick my spots. All I want to do is hit more homers than I did last year." Bonds is only three away from the 26 he hit last year when he played on a right knee recovering from those surgeries and with bone chips in his left elbow. His Major League-leading 115 walks in 100 games are already as many as he had when he played in 130 games all last season. "Isn't that crazy?" asked Bonds, who is the career leader with 2,541 walks and 679 intentional.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.