By Drew Olson Special to Published Jul 22, 2006 at 5:30 AM
Barry Bonds was rude to me once.

Wait a minute; that’s not totally true.

It was more than just once, and he wasn't rude to me, specifically. I was part of a pack of baseball writers and radio / TV journalists -- it was actually several packs on several different occasions -- that Bonds sneered, scowled or snarled at when the mood struck.

Sometimes, he ignored our Dockers-wearing existence.

At other times, he answered our questions with a relaxed, friendly and at times playful demeanor that revealed an intelligent, engaging and passionate side of his personality that left you thinking he wasn't a horrible person.

That feeling dissipated, however, as soon as you bumped into any of the dozens of cab drivers, bellhops, autograph hounds, bartenders and waitresses who do not hesitate to share stories about Barry’s bad behavior.

In light of my experiences with his Barryness, I've come to the following conclusions:

Barry Bonds is a complex individual.

He’s very intelligent and can be exceedingly charming when he wants to be charming.

He can (and very often does) act like the biggest jerk on the planet.

Bonds is the best hitter and probably the best all-around player I've ever seen and most certainly belongs near the top of the all-time top five list.

Because of his stature and other circumstances, he is receiving an unfair amount of attention and blame in baseball’s steroids scandal.

He almost certainly used steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) to elevate his performance from to exceptional to mind-boggling.

He very well may have lied to a grand jury, thus committing perjury.

And, finally, the one that will fire up the talkbacks:

Barry Bonds doesn't belong in jail.

You could almost sense the disappointment amid most of the American sporting public this week when the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California would not seek an indictment for Bonds. Not yet, anyway. Three years after the BALCO trial began, the government is still trying to put together its case and, from the outside, it seems kind of flimsy.

The government’s two key witnesses -- Steve Hoskins, Bonds’ former friend and business manager and Kimberly Bell, his ex-mistress -- aren't very reliable. His former trainer and childhood pal, Greg Anderson, already did three months in jail for his role in the BALCO case but recently spent two more weeks in jail for refusing to testify about Bonds’ possible perjury. (We should all have friends like that).

The fact that the government is pursuing the perjury and tax evasion route seems to indicate that they don't have sufficient proof to nail Bonds on the steroids / HGH arena. (That begs the question: If the government can't nail the guy with subpoena power, how in the blazes are George Mitchell and Bud Selig going to do it?)  In essence, Barry is treading the same ground as Martha Stewart, who was imprisoned not so much for actions, but for lying about them during the investigation.

From this week’s events, we can draw two conclusions. First, the government really wants to nail Barry Bonds. Second, this case is going to drag out for a long, long time.

If Bonds retires after this season or falls short his bid to surpass the Hank Aaron's record of 755 homers, many people will be happy regardless of what happens with the US attorneys.

Others won't.

Outside of San Francisco, where he is still basically revered, Bonds doesn't have a lot of fans. A certain portion of the public will not relax until Bonds is punished. They'll say he cheated the game. They'll say he made a mockery of baseball and its history. Some of those people will say Bonds should be barred from the Hall of Fame.

Undoubtedly, some of Bonds’ harshest critics will watch their teams battle toward the post-season led by players who probably used -- and might still be using -- performance-enhancing drugs.

How can fans call for Bonds to go to jail and then give Jason Giambi a standing ovation in the Bronx or request a curtain call from Pudge Rodriguez in Detroit? Is it fair that Bonds takes almost all the heat for baseball’s sins while Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro (talk about a possible perjury case!) enjoy lives of leisure on sun-splashed beaches and golf courses? If Bonds’ home runs should be wiped from the record books, what about Ken Caminiti’s MVP trophy, Palmeiro’s 3,000-plus hits and the championships won by the Oakland A’s when Jose Canseco was their key slugger?

Two more questions:

Had Bonds simply retired after his injury-riddled 2005 season and never passed Babe Ruth’s 715-homer mark, would the government be as zealous in its investigation?

If Bonds does go down for tax evasion, perjury or even if someone produces proof that he used steroids beyond the overwhelming circumstantial case presented in the book "Game of Shadows," will that make anyone feel better about what went on in the game during the 1990s?

The BALCO case is already a success. It produced five felony convictions, brought the steroids debate into the national spotlight, led to tougher sentencing guidelines and prompted Major League Baseball to strengthen its testing programs for steroids and amphetamines.

At this point, the federal government should either declare victory and depart the field or haul every player, manager, general manager, trainer, clubhouse attendant and bat boy who worked during the steroid era into a grand jury room for a little question and answer session.

To focus solely on Bonds is unfair and will ultimately prove unsatisfying as well.
Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.