If you hate Barry Bonds, and there are many out there who do, you are happy. If you are a baseball purist — and I mean purist, as in you don’t like the designated hitter and anyone, I mean anyone who cheated deserves to be kicked out of baseball, well, you have one scalp on your belt. But if you were someone, like me, who enjoyed watching Bonds play for the Giants, where every at-bat meant that conversation stopped, concession lines came to a standstill, and your knees braced for the upward thrust as you leapt to your feet at that violent crack of his bat and followed the flight path of another orbital splash hit, this is a sad day. And an angry day.
This so-called pursuit of justice began with the bombshell of the multi-count indictment in 2007 (though the investigation and endless rounds of grand juries began in 2003) and ended just short of a full whimper. Convicted of one count of obstruction of justice. Martha Stewart was convicted of four counts of obstruction by lying to federal investigators. It only took one year to bring her to trial. It took 4 years for Bonds. Parity is a wonderful thing in the world of federal prosecution.
Speaking of parity, it’s been nearly 3 years since our economy nearly flatlined, and no one (remember, Bernie Madoff was not a cause of the collapse), not a SINGLE PERSON OR CORPORATION has been brought to justice for playing games that ruined people’s lives, lost them their homes, destroyed their credit, and delayed the retirement of hundreds of thousands of people. Bonds, on the other hand, who played a game that enriched thousands of people literally and figuratively, who sold out seats and kept the ballpark packed every year that he played — he’s the one who gets the perp walk. I’m just sayin’….
Yes, in a world of perfect justice, Barry should have been and was convicted. He lied, he cheated, he juiced, he was convicted by a jury of his peers. I get it. Justice has been served. But in the imperfect world in which we live, was this where we should have spent our resources? Does this mean McGwire and Clemens get to skate because DoJ blew its wad on Bonds? How many times did Manny Ramirez have to fail another test before someone went to law enforcement?
As much as we decry the Steroid Era, as fans who were part of that era, it was exciting. It was fun. We cheered McGwire/Sosa, we watched pitchers hit velocities at an age that would have blown out most arms, and yes, we as Giants fans went positively mental the year that Bonds hit 73 home runs. In the back of our minds there was at least an nagging doubt, some suspicion, but despite that we put on the blinders and shelled out our money and went faithfully to the temple of baseball every day. Because even if we suspected, we also suspected that a lot of other people were doing it, and that, somehow, gave us comfort that it was still a battle of equals, if juiced equals. And because of that, I bet we would do it again.
I’m not even going to get into theories of why Bonds was selectively prosecuted by the Justice Department. I’m not going to ponder why, of all the players who have Hall of Fame statistics from that era, a black man who had a reputation for arrogance was the only one to receive the full might of the Justice Department. But that fact needs to be stated, and considered, when we weigh how much this conviction should tarnish his legacy, and our memories.
There were no winners in this case. Not the federal government, not Bonds, not Major League Baseball, and certainly not the fans.
As for me, whatever happens to Bonds — whether he wins on appeal, or serves out his time at some Club Fed — nothing will diminish the memories I have of his time as a Giant. Nothing. What happened on the field stays on the field, and that is not anything that time, or a conviction, can erase.