Go ahead, blame it on me. You usually do.
I'm a media guy. I've criticized Barry Bonds. So it's all my fault.
I made him fat.
The San Francisco Giants' Web site reported in November that Bonds' offseason goal was to lose some 40 pounds, down to his early-'90s playing weight of under 200, so he could take pressure off his arthroscopically repaired knees when he runs down fly balls or legs out doubles.
But alas, I chained poor Barry to his couch for two months and hooked him up to a maple syrup IV. So he showed up at the Juan Marichal Golf Classic in late January looking like he could play left guard for the 49ers. Call him Baby Ruth. He must have weighed 250!
I killed his joy for playing baseball by being one of the first to raise suspicions about his steroid use and by writing about his personal life.
It is my fault that Bonds chose a personal trainer who got time for distributing steroids.
It is my fault that Bonds chose to do fitness magazine ads for BALCO, before it was exposed as the clearinghouse for the designer steroid THG.
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It is my fault that the San Francisco Chronicle printed leaked grand jury testimony in which Bonds said he unknowingly used what might have been THG.
It is my fault Bonds' mistress went public with her story, saying he failed to live up to financial promises, and it is my fault that Bonds' attorney acknowledged she and Bonds had a relationship.
It is my fault that Bonds and his previous wife are embroiled in a custody battle over his son.
And it is my fault that Bonds finally inspired some feel-good PR by committing to play in the World Baseball Classic -- whose participants must undergo Olympics-tough drug testing -- then raised new suspicions by pulling out.
If you listen to Bonds, the media has fabricated and exaggerated everything he has ever allegedly done wrong.
Here I go again.
When Bonds wearily says the media has taken all the fun out of playing baseball, as he did in Monday's USA Today, I can't avoid this translation: If you people in the media would just leave me alone and let me use whatever it takes to keep me strong and healthy at 41 years old, and let me do whatever I need to do to relax off the field, I'll keep filling ballparks and hitting balls in the water and giving you something to write about.
Instead, we keep doing our damned job and ruining his life.
The most feared hitter in history has always feared the damned media. The only hitter who has ever had the advantage over the pitcher knows he can't control those who chronicle his feats. He can intimidate them and humiliate them and mislead them, but he can't hit them into the water.
That drives him crazy.
That can happen when someone has something to hide.
So forgive me, but here I go again: The truth is, without a bat in his hands, Barry Lamar Bonds can be a pathetically insecure spoiled brat. He's 41 going on 12, begging for love and sympathy no matter how he misbehaves. This is what can happen when you're the supremely gifted son of Bobby Bonds and the godson of Willie Mays, and you grow up in the Giants' clubhouse getting your way and wanting for nothing.
When the media reprimands Bonds, he reacts petulantly, saying, "I'll never talk to you people again," or, "That's it, I'm going to retire so you'll never get to write about me again." That's the main reason he created BarryBonds.com, so he could eliminate that mean old media and speak directly to the wide-eyed fans who believe he can do no wrong.
"Barry's Journal" is written in a childlike, what-I-did-on-my-winter-vacation voice.
Here's a paragraph from the last posted entry, dated Jan. 23: "I can hardly believe that the winter is almost over and Spring Training is right around the corner. Currently, I'm deep into my offseason workouts, doing a wide variety of things from swimming to biking to running hills around my house. I lift and run six days a week. I feel great and feel happy with my conditioning at this point."
That was just after Bonds had returned from the Juan Marichal Golf Classic in the Dominican Republic -- where he apparently thought there would be no TV cameras, which would result in no "blimp" shots of him on "SportsCenter."
Whoops: Time for another Journal entry at what amounts to BondsDamageControl.com.
Now fast-forward to Monday's front-page-of-USA-Today story on poor Barry. He's about to report to spring training -- about to have to face that damned media again -- so he gave a vintage oh-woe-is-me, this-is-my-final-season interview to a writer who has been kind to Bonds: Bob Nightengale.
In it, Bonds said: "I can't even tell you how many pain pills I am on or how many sleeping pills I'm taking. I don't have a choice. I can't even run that much anymore. How can I run? I don't have any cartilage in that knee. I'm bone on bone
"The latest thing is that ESPN says that Barry is still big. They say I didn't lose weight. Well, you know what? I am still big. I'm fat. I can't do much."
Wonder what Barry's Journal pen pals think of that admission? Is it possible their special friend fibs?
My question is, why hasn't Bonds chained himself to an exercise bike or forced himself to run in a swimming pool? No matter how little cushion is left in his knee, there are alternative fat-burning methods for a guy with the opportunity to pass Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron and set the most prestigious record in sports -- the all-time home run record.
The one thing I've always respected about Bonds has been his commitment to conditioning. If this were next season, and he were, say, DHing for the Angels, who play near his home in Beverly Hills, he could get away with looking like Babe Ruth. But he still has to play left field to get his at-bats.
In the final year of his Giants contract, which pays him $18 million, how much will his excess weight cost his team?
Then again, should you really believe his knee is "bone on bone"? Or is he setting us up to feel sorry for him? Has he decided that, with stricter steroid testing, he has a better chance of maintaining his power by replacing some of the muscle with heft?
So feared, so scared.
Remember the lethal Master-Blaster in "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome"? When Mad Max finally knocks off his helmet, he finds a childlike giant underneath.
Punch line to the USA Today story: Bonds turned right around and told MLB.com, who knows, he might play in 2007 if he feels up to it. Bonds also suggested that Nightengale burned him by printing a "private" conversation.
Perfect: Bonds even blames a sympathetic writer.
I'm off the hook.
Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice a week on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.