He took his spot on the stage and followed the script perfectly, Barry Bonds fulfilling a role Major League Baseball — and, maybe, the rest of us — dreads and needs all at once. He's the bad guy.

New York

He took his spot on the stage and followed the script perfectly, Barry Bonds fulfilling a role Major League Baseball — and, maybe, the rest of us — dreads and needs all at once.

He's the bad guy.

In a sport that's featured ballooning ballplayers who look like pro wrestlers and has just about as much integrity these days, Bonds has become the big, bad villain.

The one everyone can point to in defining the steroids scandal while minimizing or flat-out dismissing all the other factors that have hurt the sport.

So, as he entered the country's biggest media market, Barry took to his role perfectly, strutting over to his locker at Shea Stadium at 4:37 p.m. yesterday.

He bounced along to a song playing over his headphones and you could easily picture him entering a wrestling ring to theme music now, the massive man whose every home run supposedly provides another headache as he marches toward a hallowed record he does not deserve.

About 10 minutes later — and after an e-mail from his own team had alerted the New York media this would be the only day Bonds would talk at Shea — a spokesman relayed a message after Bonds whispered in his ear.

"Barry is not going to speak today," the spokesman said.

A few minutes later, Bonds, somewhere between mock disgust and a smirk, muttered a "y'all need to get out of here" that was more attention-starved than arrogant.

And there you had it — baseball's villain, the poster child for all that is wrong with the sport.

Except he's not.

Because Bonds — as arrogant and obnoxious and tainted by the stench of steroids as he is — is just a symptom of the problem in baseball, not the cause.

Even if Major League Baseball will conveniently take the villain role Bonds gives them, the way the folks at the WWE do storylines of bad-guy wrestlers.

So Bud Selig can teeter on whether he will give credibility to Bonds' assault on Hank Aaron's record by wavering on whether he'll be there to see it.

Even though the commissioner of baseball turned a blind eye when steroids first infiltrated his sport and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa reportedly sparked Bonds' eventual envy.

Even though just down the hall, in a media room where the general manager of the loveable Mets gave you one more subtle clue at just how dirty the sport has been — and how little anyone deeply involved in it cares to clean it up.

The big story was Bonds coming in, but of course the Mets have their own steroid cheat coming back after a 50-game suspension this week, in Guillermo Mota.

And along with Mota, the Mets have had a laundry list of drug busts in their organization, so Minaya was asked if he was concerned about that.

His answer was one more revealing clue into the minds of the men who make their living competing at any cost.

"In the year 2007, you know what?" Minaya said. "The reality is, every club, you have guys (that have done steroids)."

Which gives you the usual impression from too many folks around the game that, yeah, yeah, it's bad and all that, but what can you do?

So maybe Bonds is the bad guy, because everyone else's guilt doesn't make him innocent.

But maybe everyone else — from players, executives, fans and media who are all numb to a scandal that has stained a sport we supposedly love for its purity — share a lot more of the blame than we care to admit.

Maybe Bonds isn't the bad guy from a wrestling ring as much as he is the one Al Pacino describes in his famous rant after making a scene in a restaurant in "Scarface":

"What you lookin' at? You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fingers and say, that's the bad guy. So what that make you? Good? You're not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie."

There's been a lot of hiding and lying and selective scorn in this sport for a long time. It's not going away any time soon.

But no one had to worry about any of that when Bonds came up to pinch hit in the top of the 10th, because the bad guy had arrived. So the fans booed as eagerly as we in the media often rip Bonds in print. "Cheater! Cheater!'' they chanted with a disdain they surely will not share with Mota in his 2007 debut.

"Barry used steroids!'' they screamed, pointing and jeering.

So sure, Bonds is the bad guy.

But what are the rest of us.

Dave Buscema's column appears regularly. Contact him at buscema@hotmail.com.