- Gene Wojciechowski, Senior Writer
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So Barry Bonds is going to hang up his cleats and violin after this season, eh? Good for him. Good for us.
Bonds told USA Today on Sunday that he will retire at season's end, which must be why the birds are chirping a little louder, the sun is shining a little brighter, and the beer on tap tastes a little colder. This is like the Wicked Witch of the West throwing a bucket of water on herself.
Not since Reggie Jackson and the "magnificence of me" days has there been a player more tone deaf when it comes to understanding how tiresome his martyr act has become. Bonds could have had the baseball world giving him a mani and a pedi. Instead, his arrogance and three-act victim's play will be in the opening paragraphs of his eventual big league obituary.
Bonds is seven home runs from surpassing Babe Ruth's 714 dingers and 48 from moving ahead of Hank Aaron's 755. Yet, his legacy is, and will be, as mixed as a can of Planters nuts. And much of it is Bonds' own doing.
Listen to him:
"I'm tired of all the crap going on," Bonds said. "I want to play this year out, hopefully win, and once the season is over, go home and be with my family. Maybe then everybody can just forget about me."
And later: "I love the game of baseball itself, but I don't like what it's turned out to be. I'm not mad at anybody. It's just that right now I am not proud to be a baseball player."
This is the hypocrisy of Bonds. No one is holding a Jugs Gun to his head and telling him to play in 2006. If he's so tired of it all, so desperate to be forgotten, so embarrassed to wear a big league uni, then retire now. And don't let the clubhouse door hit you on the way out.
"But I can still hit," the seven-time National League MVP said. "I can rake. I can hit a baseball."
He also can still whine, still pontificate, still act as if he'll be missed. He won't be.
Bonds might not be beloved, which is no prerequisite for greatness, but his numbers produce jaw drops. He has eight 40-plus-home run seasons, including the record-breaking 73 homers in 2001. Along the way he has alienated fans, managers and teammates alike. He is crustier than a baked pie.
But he can hit a baseball. You have to give him that. The problem is, the shadow of steroid allegations follows him around as if he's Punxsutawney Phil. In this case, Bonds gets six more months, not six weeks, of questions about "did he," or "didn't he."
"I'm clean, I've always been clean," Bonds told USA Today.
Yes, absolutely clean, except for the times he unknowingly used two designer steroid substances obtained from his trainer, who just happened to be convicted in the BALCO scandal. All this according to federal grand jury transcripts. Bonds has said he wasn't aware the substances were steroids.
Even if you believe Bonds -- and sorry, I don't -- he doesn't make it easy to root for him. If you're a San Francisco fan you root for his health (he lasted only 14 games in 2005), you root for that Haagen-Dazs-sweet swing of his, and you root for him to lead the Giants to the franchise's first World Series championship since 1954. But do you root for Bonds the person?
You do if you buy his version of the truth, which, I suppose, is fair enough. There doesn't seem to be much in-between when it comes to Bonds. You're either for him or against him.
Frankly, I'm just tired of him. He said he didn't want to play in the upcoming World Baseball Classic because of the condition of his knees. One knee is without cartilage, which means bone on bone. Totally legitimate reason to skip the WBC.
But Bonds couldn't help himself. He trivialized the first-ever Classic, saying, "Come on, the World Cup isn't the Olympics. Who cares? Does it mean anything?"
Not in BarryWorld, it doesn't.
He said he didn't care about records. Maybe not, but his official Web site is full of Bonds-approved links to purchase photos, baseballs, caps, T-shirts and just about anything else related to his reaching the 700-home run mark in 2004.
My favorite Barry on Barry quote was this one: "I think that's been my only downfall in all of this. I never let people know me. I just wanted to do my job and get the [expletive] out."
Your loss, not ours, Barry. Of course, Bonds later backpedaled on his earlier comments, which figures.
As for getting out, the sooner the better works for me.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at email@example.com.
So Barry Bonds is going to hang up his cleats and violin after this season, eh? What's wrong with right now?