Here is a link to my Sunday column about Barry Bonds. The full text appears below:
The Giants have invited Barry Bonds to be a batting instructor for a week in spring training. This is controversial news for reasons I don’t need to explain, but before I get started, here’s where I stand on Bonds the person — just so you’ll know.
Bonds is the most unpleasant baseball player I ever covered. There could be somebody else. I’m blanking on him, whoever he is, right now. I recently spoke to a former Giant who referred to Bonds as Good Barry and Bad Barry. I agree. Bonds has at least two personalities.
Being Bad Barry comes easily to him. I believe Bad Barry has no conscience, although I could be wrong. It seems being Good Barry requires great effort from Bonds — like running to the left field wall, chasing a deep fly ball when his body was mechanical and bloated his last few years. But Good Barry, the smiling giggler, does exist.
My opinion on appointing Bonds a visiting batting instructor may surprise you. I think it’s fine and proper.
I used to have a different opinion. Keep this guy away from the team, keep him away at all costs. Not anymore, although I must say, when reporters recently asked Bruce Bochy about Bonds, Bochy was businesslike, correct, polite, but hardly enthusiastic.
Why is it OK for Bonds to instruct young Giants?
Let’s start with the legal-moral stuff. He paid his price to society, not an expensive price to be sure. He endured house arrest in his mansion for a minute or so. He also is a convicted felon. He carries something like the Mark of Cain on his forehead, a red “F.”
And while Mark McGwire got back into the family of baseball by confessing and apologizing for his PED sins and Bonds has not and won’t, such self-ratting-out is not a requirement for anything and seems anti-American and highly degrading.
Barry Bonds always had his integrity as an unpleasant person. And he’s entitled to it.
It’s likely Bonds wants to rehabilitate his image by being included in spring training. An impossibility, but he’s entitled to his delusion. He may want to appear in camp as the sage, as the man dispensing wisdom. This might help his Hall of Fame chances.
He may want the adulation of younger players. He may want a chance to be the center of media attention — he’ll sure be that. And he may want the chance to dangle the media. He was good at that.
But, and this is important, he may be good at teaching. He may be sincere about this enterprise. He had the most beautiful, most economical swing I’ve ever witnessed.
Orlando Cepeda raves about Bonds’ swing, says he never saw anything like it.
Bonds was brilliant at sizing up a pitcher, setting up a pitcher. He was a giant among baseball players — even before he became a chemical giant — and no one should forget that.
When I was in Arizona, Jeff Kent was a visiting batting instructor — it’s like being a visiting professor at Cal. He took the job seriously. During batting practice, he stood behind the cage — toward the left as you look at the pitcher — and he would peer at the batter with his piercing eyes. And you knew he was thinking and calculating and judging.
Maybe Bonds will be serious, too. Maybe Bonds can help the Giants who, based on last season, need batting help galore. Wouldn’t you like to talk with Bonds about hitting for, say, an hour? It would be like talking to Albert Einstein about Relativity.
Imagine the opportunity Bonds is giving the Giants. And imagine the opportunity they are giving him. To be a generous man. To be cordial. To be a team guy — something he never was as a Giants player. He may even like being Good Barry for extended periods.
And there’s something else. The Giants are honoring their past. Give them full credit.
Bonds’ past is a controversial past for sure. With him in the clubhouse, the Giants were perceived as Ground Zero for drugs. But there were lots of Ground Zeroes. Oakland was a Ground Zero, too.
It’s time to move beyond that, and embrace — well, acknowledge — what was valuable and special about Bonds and the Bonds’ Era, and include him in the team family on a limited,
trial basis. To see how it goes. To see who he is.
The Giants are great at honoring their past — the A’s are not. And Bonds is a large part of their past and it seems strange — weird, actually — to write him out of history like he never existed.
So, yes, bring him in. Put him in a uniform with No.25 on the back. Invite him into coaches’ meetings. Get his take on Pablo Sandoval — wouldn’t that be fascinating? — and Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford and the others. Let him help.
Does this new Bonds attitude on my part, this open-mindedness, mean I’ll check his box on the Hall of Fame ballot?
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.