Blasting Post,

by Michael Leonard, Sports Editor;

Well, here it is mid-June and we're about to enter what I call "The Lull" again.

That dreaded, two-month period where only Major League Baseball is in play of the "Big Four" sports.

Short of confining my television sports viewing to Fox Soccer Channel, there's no way I'm going to be able to avoid the balls and bats.

However, one thing does compel me to watch baseball this year, though not in the way one might think.

Barry Bonds' challenge of the career home run record has officially reached the final stages, with the distance between Bonds and Hank Aaron now in the single digits.

While I'm not riveted to the television to see when Bonds breaks the record, I'm very interested to see the way the fans/commentators/baseball establishment is reacting to it.

Listening to many of the sports talk radioniks, one gets the sense many not only do not want Bonds to hit, they want someone to put the hit on Bonds. Any obstacle that can be constructed to keep Bonds from the record is a blessing in their eyes.

Hate to burst your bubble, guys, but Bonds is going to break Aaron's record. Even if he doesn't do it this year, he'll break it.

In fact, I might want to see Bonds play another year, play his final year in the American League and break the record as a designated hitter just to watch the purists squirm.

However, by mid-August, we should have what one commentator noted as "the most uncomfortable embrace in the history of sports" -- the moment when Commissioner Bud Selig has to laud Bonds for his accomplishments after he belts No. 756.

The purists might give a small nod when it happens, followed by months of repeated cries of "Steroid user!" The court of public opinion has long since indicted, tried and convicted Bonds of artificial enhancement.

Nevermind the fact these same purists looked the other way during the Mark McGuire-Sammy Sosa home run race of 1997.

So many who are decrying the last decade as "The Steroids Era" didn't offer a peep when the home runs were flying out with such regularity in the 90s.

In my eyes, the purists and the establishment of baseball seem to want it both ways: they want their heroes to be great on the field and fit the mold of the "All-American boy," extolling America's virtues by playing America's game.

Bonds is the complete opposite of that, playing the game well, playing it his way, and not caring if you don't like it.

Purists hate those guys. I love them because they show me just how narrow baseball fans can be in choosing their heroes. Most want a mythic figure to carry the banner -- instead of great professional who happens to be loner.

Many decry Bonds as representing everything that's wrong with baseball.

When these detractors pipe up, the words "pot," "kettle" and "black" spring to mind.

E-mail: mleonard@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3113