Barry Bonds was locked in a battle with Major League Baseball for the last decade. He was followed around by ESPN’s Pedro Gomez. The FDA/IRS’s Jeff Novitzky made him steroid enemy number #1. BALCO & Barry. Barry & BALCO. The two were married, clinically. A jilted ex-girlfriend testifying to his lack of performance where it mattered to her; a trainer who had freedom to lose, and little to gain, got incarcerated but stayed mute; and it seemed Bonds marched on to the HR title without missing a beat. But he did…it showed like the steroids bloat that got him on the hot seat.
But this is not a full recounting of the travails of that lost decade. Bonds was found guilty of obstructing justice, and is still on appeal, though he has decided to do home detention/sentence recently. Which might present the opening for a MLB team short on hitting instruction to take a flier on Bonds, the hitting coach.
MLB proper may not allow or concede it is irrelevant to continue to punish a guy who is no longer playing in the game; as they spent plenty of time deriding and defiling the best hitter of his generation. And his numbers, prior to 2000, were 1st ballot HOF despite what some have dreamed up in their heads as reasons to question his abilities. Thereafter, given the reality he took PEDs, his prior achievements are all tarnished. Yet, he proved it still as testing came on-line and close scrutiny undoubtedly curtailed those visits to BALCO. But again, not the focus of this.
MLB’s current nemeses are A-Rod in a laughable trial/hearing, and the standing suspension of Ryan Braun. After the craziness behind those two stories, even Bond’s travails do not seem remotely close. Moreover, the road to MLB hitting instruction was paved well for Mark McGwire. Matt Williams got a job as a manager after his listing in The Mitchell Report. Jason Giambi still swung a bat in violence in 2013 at 42. Andy Pettitte threw the pill impressively in 2013 at 41.
So, Bonds is due for some redemption. As intelligent as any ballplayer when in his prime, can those playing skills translate to coaching or mentoring young ballplayers?
In a Sports on Earth article, Gwen Knapp recounts several instances where this took place:
- Jim Warren, one of his personal trainers in the days before his body ballooned, has worked with countless professional athletes and calls Bonds “the hardest-working guy I’ve ever trained, by far. I’ve never had anybody work harder than Barry.”
- Teammates knew that Bonds could read situations better than anyone in the game. From the dugout and on deck, he would call a pitch before its release. He picked up on tells like a poker champ. “His baseball intelligence was off the charts,” Van Slyke said.
- Bonds studying a reliever as he warmed up, spotting a vulnerability the way a cat homes in on a wounded bird. “He couldn’t throw his slider, it was all over the place, and Barry looks at me and says, ‘You think he’s going to throw me that slider, when he can’t get it over the plate when no one’s up there?” Snow said. “And he was right. The guy couldn’t throw him a slider, because he didn’t have confidence in it. Barry said, ‘I’m not even going to look for that pitch.'” Did that help Snow? He shook his head. “I still had to look for it, because I wasn’t the hitter Barry was.”
It isn’t that Bonds was the man you wanted as your best friend when you were teammates. He had mood swings and seemed preoccupied by the trivial and a weight of resentment he now seems free of in his new life and with his cycling girlfriend, who testified against the very thing Barry was accused of doing.
|Bonds with his girlfriend and his new athletic endeavor|
So it begs to question, can this supreme expert at OBP, SLG and playing left field, have the patience, the teaching skills, and the sticktoitiveness to face down the harshest critiques of those who will choose to see only the Bonds of old?
The hunger of an eager-to-bash media is about that sort of angle. Fans too, that are frustrated with their teams, will vent mercilessly online via Twitter or name-your-outlet. Could a team, such as the Cubs, do the PR campaign well? Take the focus off Bonds, the PED user, and focus it, if the results come, on Bonds, the instructor?
One can hope such things. Bonds has been detached from the game proper for 6 years. His trial has been over for quite a while. The sentence is done (probation, I suppose, remains?). And he might be ready for an entirely different life.
But I guess if you asked him to coach 1 season, he’d come. To prove he can train some talent to be the next Barry Bonds. Sometimes, you don’t learn your lessons and gain the wisdom until long after you are defiled beyond forgiveness.
Staind puts a truthful melancholy on what Bonds did:
And everything I can’t remember
As fucked up as it all may seem
The consequences that I’ve rendered
I’ve stretched myself beyond my means
But it’s been awhile…
“Now instructing, Barry Lamar Bonds.”