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Put Bonds in Royals Blue

What's the best way to juice up the pitiful Royals? Hire Barry.

It's safe to say that by the end of next summer, the Royals will not be challenging the American League champion Detroit Tigers for dominance. Sure, Royals owner David Glass has agreed to bump up his payroll to $55 million. But these days, that means the Royals will still be at or near the bottom of the heap in spending.

What's the answer? Barry Bonds.

Bonds may have re-signed with the San Francisco Giants, but that doesn't put him out of the Royals' reach. Far from it.

In fact, the Royals could easily trade for him. San Francisco lost its ace pitcher this year when Jason Schmidt jumped to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Royals should sacrifice first-round pick Luke Hochevar. The Royals have seen nothing but failure with draft picks in recent years, so there's no reason to wait until Hochevar flounders in the minors before trading him. And if Hochevar's not enough, it's time for the Royals to dump its $11 million, often-injured first baseman Mike Sweeney, who won't be chasing any home-run records.

Here's why Bonds should be the Royals' designated hitter.

· Playing for the Royals would help Bonds improve his image. Even as the overall home-run leader and the single-season homer king, Bonds might be snubbed from the Hall of Fame for his connection to steroids. So how can the Royals help? Kauffman Stadium isn't built for homers, with 330 feet from home plate to the foul poles and outfield walls that jut even deeper. Bonds is 22 homers shy of hitting more home runs than any player in major-league history. If he stays healthy, he'll likely eclipse Hank Aaron's record of 755 next summer. If he can break that record at Kauffman, it's a feat that'll help his street cred.

· The Royals can afford him. Kansas City has a team payroll of about $40 million, which leaves $15 million for free agents. Bonds signed a one-year deal with San Francisco worth $16 million. Glass can afford a little more than what he has promised to spend. Picking up Bonds would do more for the Royals' attendance and reputation than newly signed pitcher Gil Meche will ever muster.

· Bonds would bring in fans. That home-run chase would lure more fans for the Royals since the last time baseball's most pitiful team was in contention — in the strike-ending 1994 season. Last year's average attendance of 17,158 was the lowest in the past 11 years. With Bonds, Royals fans would party like it's 1985.

UMKC's High-Flying Rats
Last week, the University of Missouri-Kansas City announced that its researchers had "uncovered a connection between glutamate receptors in the brain and the euphoric effect of cocaine."

A pretty bad eight-ball hangover may be clouding our judgment, but we think that means they've figured out why coke makes people feel all happy. We called UMKC School of Medicine neuroscientist John Q. Wang to learn more about his $1 million government-funded study.

The Pitch: How'd you get involved with this?

Wang: Drug abuse is a big social problem. I think I was interested in brain function, how the brain works. When I was doing my graduate-student study, my supervisor said that searching to understand the drug's effect is a big challenge for the basic research and for the clinic research as well. We know the effect of the drug, but we don't know how the drug works. For the public health problem, it's big. There's a tremendous need to do the research.

What's the goal of the study?

Ultimately, the goal of our study, together with the studies performed nationwide in other labs, is to find a way to prevent addiction or find a way to treat addiction. I think we are doing the basic research to try to figure out how the drug works in the animal brain. That information is very valuable to try and find out how the drug works in human beings. Eventually, after we figure out how the drug works in animals and human beings, we can try to find a way to prevent it or treat it. So there's a long way to go from basic research to patients.

How do you administer coke to rats? Tiny coke spoons?

Well, we inject the drug into the rats in a specific dose. We pick out the drug and weigh it on a balance. The drug is powder. We mix the powder drug into a solution and inject it, intravenous injection or just IP injection. We can give the injection of the drug into the animal. Then we wait for a certain time. Then we kill the animal. We take the brain out, take the brain of the rats out for any chemical assessment we want to perform on the brain tissues. We test the changes in the protein level in the brain tissue of the rats treated with cocaine as compared with the rats treated with saline control.

What does cocaine make rats do? Exit cars without panties on?

After the injection of cocaine, rats will show excitement, which will show as increased motor activity. The rats will keep running in the cage, which is an indication of behavioral change.

Do you play some disco music for them?

[Laughs] No. Another indication: They have a kind of rat's type of sniffling. They show different kinds of excitement. They do more biting, or rearing — that means stand straight up. And also they kind of keep an exploration, a scratching the floor, scratching the wall. Without the drug injection, rats just kind of keep quiet over there, but after the injection, they become very excited.

Is there something about the rat brain that is parallel to the human brain?

There is a similarity, to some degree. They have a similar anatomy and similar physiology or function, as compared with the human brain. It's not totally identical, but there is a parallel there, yes.

A rat was more effective than a monkey?

A monkey is more advanced than a rat. But a monkey is more expensive!

Can I sign up for the human study?

[Laughs] Sure.

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