Leyland on Bonds: 'Let the guy alone'

Updated: April 18, 2006, 10:58 PM ET
Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Barry Bonds' first major league manager believes the San Francisco slugger is being unfairly singled out for his alleged use of steroids.

Jim Leyland, now in his first year as Tigers skipper, managed Bonds for seven years with the Pittsburgh Pirates before the slugger left as a free agent to join the San Francisco Giants for the 1993 season.

Bonds is at the center of the steroids controversy that has heightened following last month's release of "Game of Shadows,'' a book by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters detailing Bonds' alleged longtime regimen for using a variety of performance-enhancing drugs.

"I think that's a shame,'' Leyland said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press before Detroit opened a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics. "Let the guy alone. I guess there weren't rules. I don't know what happened. I don't care what happened. This is a hands down go-after-Barry-Bonds thing.''

The 41-year-old Bonds, who entered Tuesday's game at Arizona still stuck on 708 home runs and batting 5-for-26 (.192) so far this season, has always denied taking performance-enhancing drugs. But a federal grand jury is now investigating whether Bonds committed perjury when he testified in 2003 that he never used steroids.

The panel has been hearing evidence for more than a month about whether Bonds lied to a different grand jury that was investigating the BALCO scandal. Dr. Arthur Ting, Bonds' personal surgeon, has been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury investigating possible perjury charges, and the San Francisco Chronicle reported Giants' trainer Stan Conte also will testify.

In addition, commissioner Bud Selig last month appointed former Sen. George Mitchell to lead an investigation of steroid use in baseball in recent years, but Selig has emphasized the probe is not directed only at Bonds.

Leyland would like to see equal questioning of players believed to have taken steroids to boost their performances and not just Bonds, who is struggling to hit because of an elbow injury and to move well because of his surgically repaired right knee.

The authors of "Game of Shadows'' wrote that Bonds began using steroids because he was jealous of the attention paid to Mark McGwire's home run race with Sammy Sosa in 1998.

Steroids weren't banned under baseball's joint drug agreement until after the 2002 season.

As a rookie in Pittsburgh, Bonds weighed 185 pounds. Now, he's somewhere around 240.

"He's my friend and he will always be my friend,'' Leyland said. "I'm certainly not indicating I would defend him. But I get sick of hearing about it. They're single-handedly going after Barry Bonds.''

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press