07/14/2003 7:08 PM ET
Bonds taking aim at The Babe
CHICAGO -- The next 18 homers Barry Bonds hits will include some consternation. The 55 after that, should they come, will not. And should he stick around long enough to blast 41 after that, the consternation will return.
Bonds, speaking in a session with the national media at a downtown hotel as part of All-Star Monday, said he has only one number in his sights when it comes to career dingers. And that number belongs to Babe Ruth.
"Look, 755 never caught my eye," Bonds said, referring to Hank Aaron's record total. He said 660 of his godfather, Willie Mays, didn't either. It's Ruth's 714 for which he's gunning.
"And 715, as a left-handed hitter, I'd wipe him out," Bonds said. Aaron and Mays were right-handed hitters.
It wouldn't be the first time Bonds, a lefty, has erased Ruth from the record books. He's snatched from The Babe the single-season marks for slugging percentage and walks, and his .582 on-base percentage in 2002 is 37 points higher than Ruth's best season of .545 in 1923.
"Slugging percentage, on-base, walks ... and I'll take his home runs, too," Bonds said with a smile.
Why the focus on topping Ruth?
"To the baseball world," he explained, "Babe Ruth is baseball."
As for breaking the marks of Mays and Aaron, Bonds, who has 30 homers for the year and 643 for his career, said he'd be doing so with mixed emotions. He has a reverence for both men that he obviously doesn't quite have for Ruth.
"Passing your idols," he said, "is not an easy thing to do or to want to do."
Asked if he'd play long enough to approach Aaron's mark, Bonds suggested that his body and time will answer that question. As long as he's still playing at a high level, he'll stick around.
"I want to stay in that group [of top players]," he said. "I don't need to be the best, but I want to be in that group. If I'm in that group, I'll play."
Exactly where he'll play is also up in the air.
"I couldn't do it as a 44-year-old at Pac Bell Park," he said, laughing.
That brought up the topic of being a designated hitter, and it was a timely one given that National League manager Dusty Baker had announced his lineup earlier in the day. Bonds is his DH.
"That's fine with me," he said. "I'm 39 years old this month."
He said he wouldn't mind finishing his career as a DH, either.
"I live in L.A., so maybe I could go play for the Angels."
Wherever he winds down his Hall of Fame career, he'll do so without ever again competing in the Home Run Derby. Bonds took some heat over his decision to pass on this year's event, critics claiming he should participate to help promote the game, and he used Monday's session to counter the critics.
"The game is promoted," he said. "It's on TV, the radio, there's ads. They don't need me to promote it. ... They're not losing money, so it's not going bad."
Besides, he added, it's time to see some new blood.
"I've been to a bunch of these," he said. "They're the future."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This column was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com