Barry Bonds isn't merely a member of the National League All-Star team, he was voted in as a starter by fans for the July 10 game in San Francisco.
In a late surge, Bonds overcame what was reported as a 119,000-vote deficit and blew past the Chicago Cubs' Alfonso Soriano to claim the third starting outfield position, with 123,000 votes to spare.
That's a swing of nearly a quarter-million votes - a shift in approval rating that would make President Bush green with envy.
The conclusion to be reached is clear - baseball fans, or at least a large number of baseball fans, either don't believe Bonds used illegal performance-enhancing drugs or they don't care whether he did or not.
Given their one opportunity to make a clear statement about Bonds, performance-enhancing drugs and the integrity of the most hallowed record in sports - Hank Aaron's all-time home- run mark - the fans decided Bonds deserved to be an All-Star.
"I'm at a loss for words," Bonds, who is starting his 12th All-Star Game, said Sunday after the results where released. "It just means more, 'cause I'm at home.
"I'm having a huge party Monday here in San Francisco. I was having a party, anyway, because the All-Star Game was here, whether I was in it or not. It's the All-Star Game, and it's the right thing for me to have a big party."
Many people throw huge celebrations when a jury gives them a favorable verdict.
As I've said plenty of times, I believe the circumstantial evidence that Bonds used illegal performance-enhancing drugs, and believe his pursuit of the home-run record is bogus and the result of cheating.
But I also understand that mine is only one opinion.
Bonds should be an All-Star, because the All-Star Game is for the fans, and fans elect the players they most want to see.
Bonds, no matter what I think, is one of the players fans most wanted to see.
I'd have more of an issue if Bonds had been added to the roster by NL manager Tony La Russa.
"I think when our staff got together, we were not surprised at all that either the fans or the players were going to vote [Bonds] in and that somehow we would put him on," La Russa said. "He's having a good year."
Bonds isn't having an MVP-caliber year, which is why I say this vote puts the entire steroid issue into perspective.
This was a legacy vote - the same kind fans gave to such fading stars as Willie Mays, Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn.
Legacy All-Star votes aren't about fans saying thanks for what you are doing. It's about saying thanks for what you've done for us.
Bonds is only six home runs away from surpassing Aaron's mark of 755 for a career.
If most fans were outraged at the prospects of the home-run record becoming tainted, Bonds would not have finished third in this popularity contest.
So what does this All-Star vote all mean?
It means baseball commissioner Bud Selig should write former Sen. George Mitchell an early check and end his Major League Baseball-sponsored probe into steroid usage in the game.
To me, because Mitchell is examining the period only after baseball banned steroid use in 2002, his entire investigation is a historical side note.
No player - not Bonds, Jason Giambi, Mark McGwire, et al. - should receive any kind of official punishment or sanction, because even if they did use, it wasn't against the rules then.
But since the baseball public has just delivered another notice that it really doesn't care about illegal performance-enhancing drug usage, what's the point?
Barry Bonds was voted an All-Star.
McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa have Hall of Fame numbers and should someday be enshrined.
The baseball public has rendered its verdict - the statistics and records from the steroid era will be accepted without recrimination.
I'll just keep walking with the dinosaurs. *
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