Bonds' Closes In On Aaron's Record, Could A-Rod Be Next?

Friday, June 22nd 2007, 8:42 pm
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Baseball's leading home run hitter this season thinks it would be a shame if Barry Bonds is not an All-Star.

``One hundred percent. I think the game needs it,'' Alex Rodriguez said Friday when asked if Bonds deserved to be on the NL All-Star team next month in San Francisco. ``I think it would be good for the game. This is not popular for a lot of people but Barry Bonds is probably the greatest player who has ever put on a uniform. He's awesome.''

Rodriguez and Bonds made a rare appearance on the field together in an interleague matchup between the New York Yankees and Giants.

Rodriguez said it's exciting to get to play against Bonds, a player whose swing he compared to Picasso. Rodriguez said he's been friends with Bonds since the two were teammates on a Major League Baseball tour of Japan in 1996.

Rodriguez downplayed any talk that he could be the next player most likely to break the career home run record or that he could the season mark of 73 that Bonds set in 2001. Rodriguez came into the series opener with 27 home runs, which puts him on a pace for 62 this season.

He also has 491 career home runs and does not turn 32 until July 27 _ the fastest pace of any player in history. Bonds entered the game with 748 home runs, seven shy of tying Hank Aaron's mark of 755.

``I'm not worried about that,'' Rodriguez said. ``I'm concerned about winning a game tonight. It's hard to think about individual things when you desperately want to win. The other thing is I got to this point by not thinking about myself and thinking about the team. This is Barry's time, not my time.''

Even though this is Bonds' time, his place in the All-Star game to be held in his home park is not certain. He was fourth in the latest vote totals among NL outfielders, about 120,000 votes behind Alfonso Soriano for the final starting spot.

The other players will vote for some of the backups and manager Tony La Russa will select the rest. Bonds began the night with three homers in his last 97 at-bats after hitting 11 in his first 76.

His accomplishments have also been clouded by allegations of steroid use, but Rodriguez said that does not change his opinion of him.

``His numbers are mind boggling,'' Rodriguez said. ``If you see some of those numbers he had going back five, six, seven years ago, those numbers are Babe Ruth-like, if not better. There's no one comparable in the game. The game has never seen such a unique talent, such a disciplined hitter with power.''

Rodriguez's place in the All-Star game July 10 is all but assured. He leads players in votes and admits it would be meaningful to win that race after all the questions about his personal life and his ability to cope in New York.

``I won't lie to you, it would be pretty cool,'' he said. ``With all the scrutiny and stuff it would be a very humbling thing. ... I've been close a few times. To be No. 1 would be special.

Rodriguez said he won't be in the Home Run Derby on July 9, even though he leads the majors in home runs. He said he looks forward to watching the other sluggers participate and is willing to help out as analyst but not as a hitter.

``I've never been good at it for one,'' Rodriguez said. ``I'm going to enjoy watching it this year. I'll have a good seat. I've worked hard on my swing and I definitely don't want anything to get in the way of that.''

Rodriguez could choose to opt out of the final three years of his contract after the season and many Giants fans are hoping he does and comes to San Francisco and replace Bonds as the face of the franchise.

Questions about that are still a long way away but Rodriguez did talk glowingly about the city.

``I love the stadium, I love where it is in the city and I love the vibe in the city,'' he said. ``It's like a West Coast New York, except with better weather in the summer time.''