It will happen. Guaranteed. A dead lock. Sure as the rain in Maine will fall mainly on game day. Certain as somebody offending Rev. Al Sharpton.

Barry Bonds will hit No. 756. Much as you and I, Hank Aaron, Bud Selig, Bob Costas and God didn’t want it to happen, Major League Baseball’s all-time home run record is about to drop like a drunkard in the center field bleachers at Fenway.

No. 741 left the yard Wednesday night, representing Bonds’ seventh blast of the season. Not sure where his current pace would put the inevitable knock into immortality on our calendar. Let’s just say Bonds is likely to break the record by the time George Mitchell finishes his next three interviews.

Neither prayer nor voodoo dolls can stop His Royal Bitterness from drowning Mr. Spalding in McCovey Cove. Hope reigned last year, when Bonds hobbled around like Bill Buckner. He missed almost an entire season while creeping one year closer to the age when supplement-inflated professional wrestlers disappear from the scene due to various degenerative conditions.

No such luck. Like the scenes in the “Grumpy Old Men” movies that implied Jack Lemmon or Walter Matthau knocked boots with the hot neighbor, Bonds is on the prowl. He’s a rejuvenated senior citizen.

Even if those abused knees collapse tomorrow, you know there will be at least one team desperate and deep-pocketed enough to roll out Bonds in a wheelchair until he breaks the record. Fifteen home runs sitting down are no sweat for this guy.

Probably I’m in the minority, but my problem with Bonds’ imminent benchmark has nothing to do with any suspicions I might have about the origins of his muscle mass. I dislike Bonds for the same reason most of us dislike anyone. He’s a jerk.

Baseball isn’t a popularity contest or church social, though. Ty Cobb wasn’t a huggable chap. Carl Yastrzemski remains a surly recluse. Wade Boggs received his inspiration from chicken and a road slut.

Also, if we’re going to hold Bonds accountable for an artificial body and an arguable body of work, well, we’d better strike the last two decades from the record and disband the league. Everybody from Bonds to Buddy Biancalana had the opportunity to take something that wasn’t dreamed up in Teddy Ballgame’s day.

The next rock-solid, indisputable evidence that Bonds cheated will be the first. That doesn’t make him much different from Lance Armstrong. But I guess there’s no free pass for Bonds since he hasn’t charmed us with commercials, beaten cancer, wowed us with his charity work or dated a cool rock chick.

I hate what we’re about to see as much as the next guy. But I’m also gracious enough to call our home run heir apparent what he is: The greatest hitter of his generation and mine. Period. Exclamation point. Sigh.

****Randy Whitehouse returns to the rotation next week. Thank you for humoring Oakes in his absence.


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