Baker thinks Barry didn't know
Baker also feels for Aaron
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Dusty Baker believes Barry Bonds didn't know the substances provided by his trainer were steroids.
"If he said that to a grand jury, those are words you go by," Bonds' former manager said Saturday at baseball's winter meetings.
Baker said he felt for Bonds, who according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle told a grand jury last December that he used substances that
prosecutors have identified as steroids -- but did not know they were steroids.
"I've never seen a guy who works harder than Barry," said Baker, manager of the Chicago Cubs for the past two years after 10 seasons in San
The 40-year-old Bonds has 703 homers, including 42 last season, trailing only Babe Ruth (714) and Hank Aaron (755).
"He's still the king," Baker said of Aaron, a former teammate on the Atlanta Braves. "Barry's on his trail. Barry's better at this age, Hank was
better at a younger age."
Baker said he felt for Aaron, too, since he's been the unwanted center of attention recently.
"Hank's not in this, other than his record," Baker said. "Hank's a private dude. This has kind of made him less private."
Baker thinks his sport has been damaged by the steroid issue.
"It's not the first time baseball's been hurt by something," he said. "They're in the process of cleaning things up. This is a long ways from being
Meanwhile, Baker has his own problems with the Cubs, who didn't make the playoffs last season due to a late-season slump.
"That's probably the toughest ending I've had since '93, my first year of managing when we finished one game behind the Braves," Baker said. "At the
end of the year, I was beat up pretty good. That's the first year I haven't been to the playoffs in a long time."
Baker hasn't spoken with Sammy Sosa since the end of the season. Sosa said in October he had been humiliated by being dropped to sixth in the lineup
and claimed he was mistreated by the team.
The Cubs have talked about trading Sosa, who has 574 career homers. He has one year left on his contract that will pay him $17 million, and the deal
contains an $18 million club option for 2006 with a $4.5 million buyout. If Sosa is traded, his 2006 salary becomes guaranteed and a 2007 club option
is added at $19 million with a $4.5 million buyout.
"Everybody's going to leave at some time," Baker said. "I didn't know anything was wrong until I read about it. I'll talk to him when I see him. I
didn't have a problem at all. The problem came from the other side."
Sosa hit .253 last season -- his lowest average since 1997. He had 35 homers and 80 RBI, ending his run of nine straight 100-RBI seasons.
"The last couple of years, he's been hurt," Baker said. "You look at (Mark) McGwire, one year he hit .200. There's a lot of guys I've seen repair
The season ended on a sour note for Sosa and the Cubs, who were eliminated from wild-card contention on the second-to-last day. Sosa arrived late to
the finale at Wrigley Field and then left the game early without playing. He was fined $87,500 -- one day's salary.