Barry Bonds can appeal his single conviction on a count of obstructing justice, finally delivered in a San Francisco court room, and I'm sure he will be barraged with mellifluous arguments from his high-priced legal team on why he should do just that. Don't listen, Barry: Move on. Get on with your life.
T.J. Quinn of ESPN, for my money the best in the business of reporting on baseball and steroids, said in his wrap up from California that it's "very unlikely" that Bonds would see any jail time as a result of this one conviction with a "recommendation of probation" being the likely sentencing. Yet Quinn also reported that Bonds is "expected" to appeal.
So if he does, that would presumably mean more court-room spectacles of various witnesses talking about "testicular shrinkage," and mood swings and jabs in the butt with a steroid needle and the whole ugly litany? Count me a cynic on high-priced lawyers, but: Couldn't this go on for years?
As my late friend Ed would say: Do yourself a favor, man. Just move on.
I wrote in an earlier post that Bonds might be found guilty of "a charge or two," but that in the end he would be voted in the Hall of Fame. I stand by that prediction.
I also wrote that Bonds was on trial for being "stupid," and I stand by that, too. What did I mean exactly?
Not that Barry Bonds is unintelligent. Far from it. Anyone who has had a wide-ranging conversation with him that lasted more than a few minutes knows that Bonds is in his way very smart. I in fact have had such conversations, on a couple of occasions, talks in which Bonds was very revealing and unguarded.
Bonds was stupid in refusing to allow any of the kind of glimpse he offered me to reach a larger public. For example, I just did a search of Jeff Pearlman's book "Love Me, Hate Me," about Bonds to see if there was any reference there to Tupac Shakur.
The only citation I saw was one that, if you feel the way about Kenny G that I do, amounted to one hell of a slam: "Bonds speaks in an effeminate, high-pitched manner, reminiscent of the voice Eddie Murphy would use to imitate an uncool white guy on Saturday Night Live," Pearlman writes. "Whereas black players filled the San Francisco clubhouse wiih the beats of Tupac, Nas, Missy Elliott, and Jay-Z, Bonds's four favorite performers are Barbra Streisand, Kenny G., Michael Bolton, and Celine Dion."
Ouch! Talk about a damning glimpse of someone! Michael Bolton and "favorite" in the same sentence?
Pearlman is an excellent reporter and I'm sure he had his facts right, based on what was available. But I happen to know that Bonds was -- in his own words -- "friends" with Tupac and, in fact, that he spoke to him on the phone the week before Tupac was killed in Las Vegas and in fact that Bonds told Tupac, "Violence is not the answer, man."
Bonds never talked to Pearlman for that book. Did he have a lot to hide? Obviously. Still, Rule One from the world of politics and the media, very much applicable to sports, is: If you don't define yourself, your enemies will define you as they see fit.
Bonds at one point hired a ghost-writer to do a book that would offer a more three-dimensional picture of himself than sportswriters could offer, since Bonds barely gave them the time of day -- the book was coming along great until Bonds suddenly fired his own ghost-writer because the guy, an accomplished pro and good writer, advised Bonds that he needed to talk about his father, famously difficult former Giant Bobby Bonds, in the book.
ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez, a great reporter (yes, he's also a friend of mine) covered Bonds for a long time as a full-time assignment. He gave Bonds countless opportunities to offer a glimpse of himself, on his own terms, that would show more of the person. He could talk about figures in the Negro Leagues who had inspired him. Whatever. Bonds said no, no and no.
I used to talk to Mark McGwire about hitting a lot and I think he was both correct and honest when he fixed me with those dinosaur eyes of his one day in a clubhouse somewhere and said, "Kett, you have to understand that hitting is about 90 percent mental and I'm so much stronger mentally now than I was before. That's what has made the difference." Or words to that effect.
As a longtime fan of baseball, and of great athletes who could slow time down and think ahead, like a Gretzky or a Jordan, I still say that watching Barry Bonds at his peak was incredible: The way he stood at the plate, awaiting a pitch, was unlike anything I had ever seen. Every player in baseball at the time saw Bonds as the best player in the game: His presence was amazing. And his thinking was amazing. Sometimes it felt as if he could reach into the head of the pitcher out there and just pluck out what was coming, as if he knew already and the swing and the trot were just an afterthought.
I am glad Bond was found guilty on the one charge. He clearly lied. He clearly broke the law. I'll go further: I think, based on what I know, that Barry Bonds is really kind of an odious character who let arrogance and a simpering state of unhappiness or self-pity gobble up his entire self-conception. That's my opinion.
But as a ballplayer, as a performer between the lines, Bonds reached a level that only the greatest of the greats can reach: He had the act of hitting a baseball wired.
So the sooner we can move on from anatomical references (I stopped myself from typing test- -- well you know -- aren't you glad?), the sooner we can turn the page and, after some time, think about Bonds the hitter, the better that will be for him. As Tyler Kepner of the Times writes in what strikes me as an excellent summation, "Judging Bonds Has Only Just Begun."
Why not let the sports world focus instead on Roger Clemens? The guy who had lost his fastball and been mocked on his way out of Boston and took affirmative measures to become a big-league stud again. I'm not sure Clemens is going to be as fortunate as Bonds has apparently been when it comes to avoiding jail time.
Finally, I think Bonds should sit down and write a book that tells the story of his life, all the way back to the difficult childhood (Bobby Bonds by the way was very kind to me when I was a kid; I still have a picture of us both smiling together at a time when I had a mysterious illness -- so I'm not into simple condemnations of a man who was surely almost as complicated as his son would become).
Also, Bonds should get to work doing some good -- go talk to high-school kids about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs, especially for the young. Don't worry, Barry, you can shrug off any annoying questions. And leave the media out of it -- do this for yourself, for your own deep-down certainty of what's right.