NEW YORK (Reuters) - Baseball writers called Barry Bonds a cheater and a liar who might never hit another Major League home run nor enter the Hall of Fame if he is convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice.
Fans were a little more forgiving, but not much.
A San Francisco grand jury indicted Major League Baseball’s all-time home run leader on Thursday, accusing him of lying under oath about using steroids, further rattling a sport that has yet to come to terms with past use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Bonds, 43, has repeatedly denied using steroids and his lawyer promised a vigorous defense, but columnists have cited Bonds’ late career power surge and growing muscles as circumstantial evidence against him.
“Americans love a good confession. But the truth is not in Barry Bonds,” columnist George Vecsey wrote in Friday’s The New York Times.
The New York Post headline read “LIAR” and the Daily News called Bonds the “Lyin’ King.”
One fan at the ESPN Zone bar and restaurant in Times Square said an indictment was too severe.
“He’s getting a bad rap, and they should spend some more time on other things other than what Barry Bonds is doing; he’s just a baseball player,” said Tom Commisso, 40, a salesman.
Jimmy Kimpton, a 33-year-old school teacher, said that as a lifelong baseball fan “I‘m glad it happened” but that “I‘m really surprised.”
“As far as the indictment goes, I can see both perspectives,” said Tammy Moore, a 37-year-old mother. “But the bottom line is ... he should be prosecuted.”
After years of watching players bulk up while hitting more and more home runs, Major League Baseball began testing for steroid use in 2003.
Bonds passed Henry Aaron’s career home run record of 755 this year and ended the season with 762, then became a free agent when his contract with the San Francisco Giants expired.
Despite slowing down and becoming a below-average fielder, the seven-time National League Most Valuable Player was still an offensive force who said he wanted to play in 2008, giving him the potential for another multimillion-dollar contract.
“It’s over, folks -- Bonds’ playing career, and maybe any chance for him to reclaim his name,” wrote Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports on its Web site. “If he is found guilty, he can forget about the Hall of Fame, which instructs voters to consider character, integrity and sportsmanship.”
Bonds has been the subject of a grand jury investigation since at least 2003 and under media suspicion even longer.
Wrote Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.com: “Of course, I think Bonds cheated.”
Additional reporting by Bob Mezan; editing by Eric Walsh