In Bonds’ Case, the Devil Is in the Details

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Barry Bonds Nation used to be a crowded continent, filled with admirers, boisterous lackeys, paid toadies and assorted Giants executives who roared whenever their hero was attacked or disturbed.

It's quieter now. Sadder, far less righteous and much, much quieter.

Now it's a tiny island, populated by a dazed group that will not read the new book "Game of Shadows," will not repeat the meticulous, mountainous revelations about Bonds' steroid activities and probably will keep defending him until he stares into a camera and admits it himself.

Even then, the last holdouts on Bonds Island — Peter Magowan, are you still hunkered down in Hut No.1? — might not choose to believe it.

General Manager Brian Sabean and his top lieutenants probably paddled off the island last season, about two years too late to escape untainted. I think Manager Felipe Alou wishes he could find his own island.

And Bonds' teammates, past and present, have never cared much about the phenomenon, even when it came dressed as Paula Abdul and especially when ESPN's reality-show cameras hover in the clubhouse.

But the compelling excerpts from "Game of Shadows," written by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters, brings a flip-flop of sentiment that has been developing since the BALCO investigation kicked off.

From now on, the true wild-hare conspiracy theorists aren't the people who believe that Bonds took steroids starting in the late 1990s; they're the ones who still think (or wish) he didn't.

First up: His own franchise. If the Giants launch a desperate public-relations attack on this essential book, they will prove every cynical thing about their coddling of Bonds.

That he runs the show. That he is cold and angry. That nothing he does matters, except that he hits home runs and draws fans. That they lost their own dignity in order to placate a superstar.

That Bonds didn't take steroids in order to scratch out a living, he did it to make himself better and more famous than Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who allegedly beat him to the `roid rush.

That the Giants have been, at best, Bonds' steroid enablers; at worst, they're his performance-enhancing co-conspirators.

Next up: The subject himself. What does Bonds do with the tide unremittingly against him? Quit? Stand proud and silent? Try to answer in the best way he can, by hitting home runs, if that's possible on his wounded knee?

Unless the reporting has been fouled up for years, there is no logical Bonds alibi for Greg Anderson, Victor Conte, reams of paperwork, grand-jury testimony and that suddenly muscled body in 1999.

The devil's in the details, and this excerpt was a buffet of hellish details about drug cycles, calendars, screening procedures, alphabet coding, Bonds' girlfriend troubles and his despair that he never got to be weightlifting buddies with authors Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada.