Almost everyone has his favorite warm-and-fuzzy *Barry Bonds memory, and I have mine, too.
My Kodak moment took place at the 2003 All-Star Game in Chicago. Bonds and Cubs pitcher Mark Prior had a dust-up a few days earlier, and now they were teammates on the National League team. Since Bonds was such a kind, humble, gentle, caring, understanding human being, I thought there might be a chance that the two would shake hands and put any differences behind them. Or at least acknowledge that the other one existed. There seemed to be no better time or place for Bonds to extend an olive branch, or far more likely, the other way around.
Before the game, Bonds was alone in a corner of the clubhouse when I approached him.
“Have you had a chance to speak with Mark Prior yet?” I said after a brief introduction.
Bonds stared a hole through me as if I had inquired about one of his mistresses.
“You came over here to ask me that?!” Bonds said incredulously.
“Well, uh, yeah,” I answered. “This is the kind of thing my readers might like to know.”
“Go away!” Bond sent me on my way with the flick of a hand. “Go away!”
That was about as nice as Bonds ever got to any person he didn’t need in his 22-year career. Lucky me. He could have got in my face and called me a “punk bitch,” his favorite term for the peons who didn’t comply to his every whim.
Since Bonds retired after the 2007 season, he was found guilty of obstruction of justice. After his conviction was upheld last fall, he served one month of house arrest at his Beverly Hills mansion. Otherwise, he began to fade from public consciousness, and no one was heard to complain about it. But just when we thought that Mr. Happy had left us, he’s about to become a pain in the asterisk again.
The San Francisco Giants have invited Bonds to their training camp in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he will serve as a hitting instructor for one week. His final contract includes a 10-year services deal with his former team, but the appearance will be his first in an official capacity since he retired not a nanosecond too soon. Even if AT&T Park is The House That Barry Built, that the Giants organization would roll out the carpet as though nothing ever happened reeks of the giddy ignorance that allowed him to snooker us in the first place. Why Major League Baseball would allow this to happen is even more incomprehensible. The game needs to move forward from its darkest hours, not back to them. You wouldn’t invite the devil to the family picnic, so why would you welcome back the face of the steroids era, the dope who did more to destroy the game than any person in modern history?
Oh, but haven’t you heard – this is the new Barry, we’re told. Now he’s within a three zip codes of a personality, rumor has it. Why, just the other day, he allegedly treated someone like a human being.
Save for the fact that Bonds lost a half a person since his playing days — now he’s addicted to cycling, we’re told — it was the familiar SOB (Same Old Barry) who showed up at a news conference that trumpeted his return. He conveniently sidestepped questions about the steroids issue. He offered no apologies for the way he dishonored the game. He had none for the players who did it the right way before him. He had none for the fans who were cheated for so many years.
Bonds even had the nerve to say that his Hall of Fame credentials were beyond reproach, ignorant of the fact that he hit more tainted home runs than any player in history.
“Without a doubt,” Bonds said of his Hall of Fame worthiness, that familiar dumb smirk on his face.
Of course, that’s the real reason why Bonds wants back in the game again. He fell 231 votes short of Hall of Fame induction in the most recent election. If the guy is to have a snowball’s chance to be in Cooperstown, N.Y., one day, then he needs to change his image, as if that can happen this late in the game. He needs us a whole lot more than we need him, and as Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the San Mercury News a few days ago, “Now it looks like he’s got some time on his hands.”
“He’s part of what we’ll do here,” Bochy went on to say. “He’s going to be part of the group of instructors, like (Will) Clark, (J.T.) Snow or (Jeff) Kent. He’s going to be like the other guys and help where he can. I don’t have any concerns.”
Sorry, skip, but it appears that the Giants do have some concerns. Kent left camp before Bonds showed up, a well-conceived schedule that kept the mortal enemies apart lest they strangled each other again. In 2002, as you may recall, the two went at it in a dugout, an ugly confrontation that was televised live and in color. Two years later, Kent challenged his ex-teammate to “own up” to the BALCO revelations. Meanwhile, there are those who believe Kent needs to explain how his own career took off at age 29 all of a sudden.
One part of me wants to see Kent and Bonds on the same field again, but the other side says to give it up already. In many ways, spring training is the highlight of a baseball season that drags on forever and ever, a time for hope and innocence. It should be an affordable place for families to smell the fresh grass, soak in the sunshine and share positive thoughts. Now the sight of one person will dump manure on all that. At least one young fan will be sure to ask, “Daddy, who was Barry Bonds?”
Rather than attempt to explain every sordid detail, best to have the kid read Game of Shadows when he gets older. That’s where Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams tells us all we need to know about Bonds and his evil ways. The book outlines how he absorbed everything from basic steroids to custom-made drugs, as many as 20 pills at time, all of which allowed him to drive baseballs into McCovey Cove at a record clip, make an absolute joke of the record book and pull the wool over the public at the same time.
“It’s one of those things where (Bonds) comes in and you try to pick his brain as much as possible,” Giants first baseman Brandon Belt told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It seems like he did everything right (at the plate). When you talk to hitting coaches around here, they point to him as the specimen to follow.”
They mean the specimen that tests negative, I presume.
“I’m excited just to listen, for sure,” catcher Buster Posey said. “From talking to people that either coached him or played with him, everybody said he had a very straightforward, simple approach. To me, that’s a huge part of hitting — trying to keep things as simple as possible.”
Yeah, the advice is simple and straightforward all right . . .
1) The Cream works just fine, but Winstrol, not so much. It can limit upper-body movement, so proceed with caution.
2) Trenbelone blows up cattle faster than tire pump! Imagine what it can do for you!
3) There’s nothing like Human Growth Hormone. Mix it with almost anything, and you won’t have to lift a weight again.
4) Whatever you do, don’t get caught. Don’t ever get caught. But if you do, tell them what I did – you had absolutely no idea! Or if you’re desperate, go Braun on them – the urine collector screwed up!
Commissioner Bud Selig should have his right arm in a sling by now, so often does pat himself on the back for the stricter drug policy that finally is in place after all these years. Yet one has wonder just how badly the higher-ups want to clean up the garbage once and for all. Because if they were really serious, Bonds would be persona non grata until further notice. They would twist arms if necessary to make sure of it.
Until then, I’ve got some parting words for Bonds all these years later.
Get lost, pal. Beat it. Just go away, forever this time.