Poor Barry Bonds.
Somebody’s always picking on him, writing nasty things about how he puffed up bigger than the Michelin Man and suggesting he’s as wholesome as a used car salesman. Worst thing is, they don’t have the guts to say it to his face. It’s always coming from some anonymous source or grand jury testimony that was supposed to be secret.
The stress and the pain it’s caused, well, most people couldn’t handle it.
“You can’t hurt me any more than you’ve already hurt me. You can’t hurt my family anymore than you’ve already hurt them,” Bonds said in last spring’s TV classic, “Bonds on Bonds.”
“You don’t see me bringing anyone else into this. I take it myself.”
So much for that.
For all his complaints about how unfairly he’s been treated, Bonds apparently has no problem throwing other people under the bus.
According to the New York Daily News, Bonds blamed a positive test for amphetamines last season on teammate Mark Sweeney. This after telling a federal grand jury in 2003 that he’d never knowingly taken steroids, implying that, if he had indeed doped, it was all trainer and good buddy Greg Anderson’s fault.
Anderson’s still paying the price for that one, sitting in prison for refusing to testify whether his boyhood friend lied.
At least Bonds publicly apologized to Sweeney, releasing a statement Thursday night to say he never got anything from him. But the damage is done. Anytime this story comes up in the future – and Bonds being Bonds, you can bet it will – Sweeney’s name will, too. With the cloud of performance-enhanced suspicion hovering over just about every player these days, rumors and innuendo can be as damaging as facts once were, no matter how many times they’re batted down.
That, as much as the positive test itself, should give the San Francisco Giants pause as they try and finalize a one-year, $16 million deal.
Baseball, moreso than any other sport, prizes the sanctity of its clubhouses. Players are together for eight or nine months, day in and day out. They see more of each other than they do their families and friends. With the season that long and the team that small, there’s no room for public soap operas.
Sure, there are problems inside those walls. To the outside world, though, things are always fine. You don’t air the family dirt, and you never, ever rat out a teammate, no matter the sin.
By the time Sammy Sosa skipped out on the Chicago Cubs at the end of the 2004 season, most fans would have cheered the player who took a bat to his boom box. To this day, though, nobody’s claimed credit.
As Bonds, Sosa, Mark McGwire and dozens of others got bigger and stronger in the 1990s, there was lots of suspicion as to how, but the baseball fraternity was silent. Steroids were banned after the 2002 season.
“We knew,” said Tony Gwynn, who was elected to the Hall of Fame earlier this week. “Players knew. Owners knew. Everybody knew, and we didn’t say anything about it.”
For those who do break the code of silence, punishment is stiff.
Jose Canseco might as well have had a communicable disease after naming names in “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big.”
The Baltimore Orioles let Rafael Palmeiro stick around after he tested positive for steroids in 2005, despite that finger-shaking denial before Congress earlier that year. As soon as he tried to pin the blame on Miguel Tejada, the Orioles told him he was no longer welcome.
“We felt it wouldn’t be appropriate for the organization,” said then-Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie.
When Jim Bouton published “Ball Four” in the early 1970s, he didn’t spare anyone. The boozing, the pill popping, the womanizing – it was all in there, and so were the names. To say his teammates didn’t appreciate it would be an understatement. It took nearly 30 years before the New York Yankees let him come back for Old Timers’ Day. Even then, George Steinbrenner wasn’t all that enthused.
“The other guys on the team weren’t crazy about him,” Steinbrenner said then. “I wouldn’t say Jim Bouton is a great guy, but you have to forgive.”
Who knows how long it will take to undo the damage Bonds has done to the Giants’ clubhouse. But he’s shattered all the goodwill and trust that was built up last season.
“This year we had the best chemistry on the team. I felt like the team was clicking,” Omar Vizquel said. “It’s sad a stupid instance like this might rupture something that was going pretty good.”
Bonds has never been known as the ideal teammate. He’s a little too aloof, preferring to hang out in his corner of the clubhouse in his recliner.
But he, especially, should have known better.
Poor Barry Bonds.