The Bonds Trial

Barry Bonds
As seems to usually happen when a big baseball story pops up that I think about writing about, Joe Posnanski beats me to it. He acts like it's his job to write, or something. He's so darn good at it too, and he did it yet again. The Barry Bonds trial is about to begin, and Posnanski weighed in with a well articulated article, as usual.

While I more or less agree with his view, I still want to write something about the trial. As far as the story of Barry Bonds, no matter the outcome, this is a fitting coda.

Let's be honest, there is no doubt that Bonds took steroids. Grown men in their late 30s don't just all of a sudden become Incredible Hulks and crush home runs at a pace they never have before. If it really was just flaxseed oil, somebody would be peddling barrels of it for $19.95 on television. We would all be on the Barry Bonds diet.

We aren't though. Yet Barry Bonds still won't fess up, not even to a federal jury, with the potential for perjury charges that are now a reality. The arrogance is somewhere between squalid and spectacular - perhaps even both at the same time.

Then again, should we have expected anything different from Bonds? He was among the best players in his generation (if not the best) before he took any steroids. Bonds didn't need them to compete. He just wanted to hit more home runs. More than anything, he wanted to take the spotlight away from Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Again, the arrogance is appalling, maybe so ridiculously appalling that it is worthy of a slow clap.

I have read Game of Shadows, where Barry Bonds steals the show. Sure, his steroid use is interesting, but accounts by others around him of little encounters with him are what steal the show. I won't ruin them for you if you haven't read the book. Besides, if I did relay them, I'd be plagiarizing and cussing enough to require a NSFW tag. If you have read the book, you know exactly the tales I'm talking about.

Part of Barry's unique aura is the dichotomy between his brilliance on the field, and his cantankerous, petty demeanor off of it. Usually, terrific athletes with bad attitudes do not get a ton of bad press*, but it still showed through in print with Barry. That's a pretty good indicator of just how bad he was.

*Seriously, try to come up with a list of terrific athletes who have got extended bad press in recent memory. Here is mine: Michael Vick (for dog fighting), Ron Artest (for fighting in the stands, and then turning out to be kind of weird), Roger Clemens (for his scorched Earth approach to denying steroids), Tiger Woods (for, ahem, infidelity), and Barry Bonds (for steroids). I'm sure there are more, but Bonds is noticeably less shocking and/or vocal than others who got hit hard by sports media in the past decade.

Ultimately, steroid use was a tangible union between Bonds the player and Bonds the person. His attitude and jealousy drove him to 'roids, and in turn the juiced up Barry produced offensive seasons that defy comprehension. It literally got to the point where he was intentionally walked just about every time he stepped to the plate with men on base, because teams were so terrified of what he would do. The sheer fear from teams was counteracted by bitter booing from fans - not for their own teams chickening out, but for the villain in the box.

What would it have been like to be in Barry's shoes, watching a team show you as much respect as is possible in the course of a baseball game, while simultaneously getting a shower of boos from fans, a manifestation of bitter disdain?

If Barry Bonds is convicted of perjury, it will be poetic justice. It will be another case where the truth wins out, even when one of the greatest baseball players of all-time tries to outrun it. There might be other consequences too. Barry's hall of fame chances might be gone already, but they would really be gone with a conviction. Who knows, Bud Selig might even put an asterisk next to all of Bonds's records. A conviction could set up tragic consequences for a tragic decision, and completely unravel all of Bonds's greatness.

Again, to me, that's one of the saddest jokes about Bonds. He didn't need the steroids. All of this controversy never had to happen. He was one of the greatest ever without PEDs.

What if Bonds escapes conviction though? That's just about a perfect ending in a totally different way. The federal government has spent two years trying to convict Barry, and it would all seem like such a waste. On some level, it would seem to be in line with their inability to approve a budget for a fiscal year that is already half over. The government seems so messed up right now, and losing on the Bonds trial would only fit in line.

For Barry, it would be a victory as hollow as his home run crowns. Sure, he would escape charges, but is anyone pinning their opinion on what he did over this trial? Is the nation really going to go, "You know, I misjudged Barry. I bet he didn't take anything knowingly after all."

For the record, Bonds would have the single season home run crown, be atop the career home run list, and have a court case the corroborates he did it all without using steroids (knowingly, at least). Despite all that, in the court of public opinion, he still won't get the same kind of reverent treatment Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron get. He will still be a villain, if not a bigger one.

With Bonds, it just had to finish this way. I could see either decision in the court case rounding out his narrative well. What's done is done, which is probably why this trial shouldn't be happening in the first place. Rounding out a story is not a good reason to go to trial, but I for one will enjoy the final chapter of this performance-enhanced epic.