“It’s all doable,” Bonds told MLB.com in a recent 30-minute interview.
The fact is, 733, 2,800 and 1,900 are all way stations on the trek to the bigger enchiladas — 755, 3,000 and 2,000. And none of that will happen unless Bonds decides to come back in 2007 for a 22nd Major League season.
Though he has been vacillating, Bonds said he still hasn’t made that determination.
“It’s been a great life here. I’ve had a great time. I have nothing to prove,” Bonds said. “I’ve got people telling me they want me to go after these records, that they are great records. Yeah, 755 is a great record. It’s an unbelievable record.
“But I want to try to win a championship. That’s what I told my son: ‘If Dad has a chance to play another year in San Francisco to win a championship, then that’s what Dad is going to do. If Dad has to go somewhere else to try to win a championship then that’s what Dad’s going to do.’ But I’m only going to play to win a championship. I’m not going to play for these records. I’m not going to do that.”
Bonds said after he hit No. 715 on May 28 at San Francisco to pass Babe Ruth into second place on the all-time list that he probably would return next season if he remains healthy. He said his 16-year-old son, Nikolai, had implored him to keep playing.
Since then, the right knee, which was surgically repaired three times last season, has been stable, and Bonds has hit four more homers, giving him 719, the most ever for a left-handed hitter. Going into play on July 6, he’s 112 RBIs short of the 2,000 mark and 214 away from 3,000 hits.
The numbers within reach for Bonds are awe inspiring, said Mike Piazza, now a San Diego Padre. With 408 homers of his own in his 15-year career, Piazza has the most ever as a catcher, although he is still more than 300 homers short of Bonds.
“He’s the greatest ballplayer of this generation and possibly of all time when you think about what he’s done,” Piazza said. “The 700 home runs is mind-boggling, considering how hard I had to work to hit 400. It deserves respect. The record really does. Think about it. It’s crazy.”
The hits figure is also a special one, Bonds said. Only one player in Major League Baseball history has amassed more than 700 homers and 3,000 base hits, and that’s Aaron, who finished with 755 and 3,771 respectively, in his 23 seasons.
“The 3,000 hits would mean a lot to me,” said Bonds, whose lifetime batting average his dipped below the .300 line this season and is currently at .299. “It means you’re more of a hitter’s hitter than just a power hitter, a Tony Gwynn-type hitter, a Pete Rose-type hitter. That to me would be a big-time thing. It’s what Willie [Mays] did. Yeah, 3,000 hits to me would be fantastic and 2,000 RBIs would be good, too.”
Mays, who is Bonds’ godfather, didn’t reach the 700/3,000 plateau, finishing at 660 and 3,283 when he retired at 42 in 1973 as a member of the NL champion New York Mets. For Mays, his final years in New York were a homecoming of sorts. He began his 22-year career in 1951 with the New York Giants and moved with the franchise to San Francisco in 1958, playing there until he was traded in 1972.
Ruth didn’t do it either, finishing at 714 and 2,873 when he retired at 40 with the Braves, returning to Boston after his salad days with the New York Yankees to finish off his stellar 22-year career in the city right where it began in 1914 with the Red Sox.
Aaron also finished his career where it began — in Milwaukee. Aaron’s career spanned almost the Braves’ entire 13-year tenure in the Wisconsin city. He came up in 1954 and won his only World Series and NL MVP there, both occurring in 1957. The franchise, which moved from Boston to Milwaukee in time for the 1953 season, uprooted again, this time to Atlanta, in 1966.
All told, Aaron hit 733 of his homers in the NL for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, and that will remain the record as the most hit for a single franchise. During his time with the Braves, Aaron was an All-Star right fielder 19 times. He finished his career in 1975 and 1976 with the Brewers, then in the American League, and hit his final 22 homers, mostly as a designated hitter.
Bonds has hit 543 of his homers since he joined the Giants as a free agent in 1993. His first 176 came during his initial seven seasons playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It also should be noted that Bonds has walked a record 2,382 times in his career as opposed to only 1,402 for Aaron, who strolled only 35 times in the final year of his career. Bonds has already walked 71 times this season.
“If I hadn’t walked so many times, I’d already have 3,000 hits,” Bonds said.
Or 755 home runs, not to mention 733.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.