I was able to watch a rebroadcast of Ken Burns’ Bottom of the Tenth Inning on Monday night. It’s probably the best non-Red Sox Red Sox documentary there is out there. But, it also had a healthy dose of Barry Bonds coverage in it. Watching it this second time, I started to feel sorry for the guy. I’m not sure what to do about that.
To start off with, I’m sure the guy is a complete butthead. There are enough people who would know that say so, that I’m inclined to assume it’s true. The unfortunate part for Bonds is that his career shouldn’t need nice guys, but it does. It’s not like Bonds decided to go into sales, or teaching. If he had, the fact that he’s a jerk would have shown an unwise career move. But, he didn’t. He became a ballplayer. His job description is to use a stick to hit a ball, and a glove to catch one. The fact that he’s interviewed by hoards of reporters after every game was a recent unfortunate development. But, that’s not even the part I feel sorry for him about. Even if he didn’t want to talk to people, or be bothered by reporters, he was probably meaner about it than he could have been. That’s still on him a little bit.
No, the reason for my pity is the performance enhancing drugs. When (we assume) Barry was completely clean, he was one heckova ballplayer. He could do it all. He was the very model of a five-tool stud. But, nobody seemed to care. The documentary tells us that Bonds was never interested in the home run record. He wanted to be an all-around star. And, he accomplished that when he amassed 400 career homers and stolen bases. That was quite a feat. But, nobody seemed to care. They were too interested in McGwire and Sosa. How annoying must that have been? You finally accomplish a career mark that should probably be celebrated above all others, and nobody gives a hoot. So, to combat that public perception (we assume) he turned to the same PED’s that helped McGwire and Sosa achieve the marks that had overshadowed Bonds. So, he goes out and sets the new home rune record for a season. When does he do it? About a month after September 11th. Once again, everyone’s attention is on another story. Once again, his timing couldn’t have been worse.
Nor could it have been worse when it comes to the whole PED scandal. He was one of the first ones “outed”, when everyone still assumed it was isolated. He was blacklisted. McGwire took PED’s too. But, he still got to be celebrated like a national hero before everyone found out. Andy Pettitte used PED’s. But, he’s still celebrated as a great Yankee and (oddly) a member of its “core four.” Bonds? The commissioner doesn’t even want to show up when he sets the all-time home run record? Despite being a feared hitter, Bonds gets dropped by the Giants and not one single team picks him up?
So, was Barry Bonds a jerk? Yup. Did he cheat? Yup.
I still can’t help but feel a little sorry for him though.