Is Bonds a Sure Thing to Pass Aaron?
Barry Bonds is just 22 home runs shy of passing Hank Aaron for the all-time lead in home runs. Barring a new injury in 2007, it might seem inevitable that Bonds would set the new career mark for homers, considering he stroked 26 last season after losing nearly all of the 2005 campaign to injury. There is one sportswriter who isn't a believer, as FOXSports.com columnist Dayn Perry recently made his case why Bonds would fail to break Aaron's record in 2007. Perry cites a number of reasons why he believes Bonds will fall short of Aaron's total:
1) Bonds may continue to be plagued by frequent swelling in his right knee and also must rebound from offseason surgery to remove bone chips from his left elbow.
2) The Giants' slugger faces "six months of abuse" by re-signing with the Giants and not moving to an American League team that would allow him to DH. Playing the outfield regularly will take its toll.
3) With Moises Alou gone and Ray Durham unlikely to repeat his impressive 2006 performance, Bonds will lack protection in the San Francisco lineup and draw more intentional walks. If he hits, teams will pitch around him. If he doesn't, he won't be a threat to the record.
4) A criminal indictment related to his reported steroid use could further cut into his playing time and prove to be a distraction.
5) The unbalanced schedule means a lot of games at AT&T Park, Petco Park and Dodger Stadium. Though this didn't have much of an effect on Bonds before, he's now 42 years old and less likely to produce his trademark moonshots.
6) Add in that he won't bounce back as quickly from injuries big or small at his age, the likelihood that Bonds will have to play on a losing team in 2007 and the media crush that awaits him as he approaches Aaron, Perry says that Bonds won't pass Aaron.
What Perry has missed, however, is how Bonds came on late in the season. His ability to perform at all in 2006 was uncertain, and Bonds hardly looked anything like his old self during the first half. As late as Aug. 20, he was batting just .235 with 16 homers, 51 RBIs and a .471 slugging percentage. Then over the last six weeks of the season, he hit .368 with 10 homers, 26 RBIs and a .758 slugging mark. And he did that with an ailing elbow.
Bonds also was bothered by a stiff back late in the season. That, along with the elbow chips and those chronically problematic knees make a case for Perry's position, but Bonds showed enough in August and September that we shouldn't be surprised if he's substantially better throughout 2007 than he was before the 2006 break.
Another reason to not doubt Bonds is because he's an ornery cuss who is likely to be hell-bent on proving his detractors wrong when writers say he can't do something. Perry's words may be fuel to the fire that pushes Bonds toward Hammerin' Hank in 2007.