Barry Bonds made his triumphant return to baseball on Monday with an appearance at the San Francisco Giants spring training complex in Scottsdale. But one lingering question remains—is he welcome?
If you ask Giants' skipper Bruce Bochy about it, he'll tell you it was about timing.
"The timing was right on both sides. That's why it's happening now," Bochy told the media in a report that first appeared on ESPN.com by Jim Caple. "We welcome all of our former players."
According to Bochy, the answer is yes. Bonds is welcome. But this isn't a game that belongs to spring, the managers or the media. It belongs to the fans. Do the fans take Bonds back?
Like an ex that's resurfaced in one's life, looking to make amends, the feeling with most fans is still one of bitterness and resentment. But is that Bonds' intent? Is the man who shattered Hank Aaron's all-time home run record and broke Mark McGwire's single-season record really looking to make up with fans?
The words out of his mouth say no, but every action and warm smile he throws up for the cameras say otherwise. When asked if he was trying to boost his image, Bonds said, "I think you guys are all adults. I have no advice for you."
Some words he's certainly rehearsed over and over to himself, and couldn't wait to let loose.
Without a doubt, Bonds is back with a mission. That mission is for people to not remember him as that arrogant guy who acted like he was above everything.
Let's not forget that this is the same guy who would take his young son with him to practice during the middle of the steroid scandal, and hide behind him to avoid questioning. Bonds knew the tough questions were coming and used his own child as a smokescreen.
And you thought your dad put you in tough situations.
But it was never about the steroids. It was about his attitude. For most fans, it was like trying to cheer on Shredder to kill the Ninja Turtles. Bonds was the king of villains.
Regardless, that's now the past. Today, Bonds stands in with his former team, and physically he looks great doing it. He's lost his steroid chub, and his eyes almost seem like they're capable of a beaming kindness that simply didn't exist before. Is he even the same person?
So Bonds is back, and he's ready to ask baseball fans back out. But are fans even going to respond to his text message?
They should. I will admit to being one of the biggest anti-Bonds guys on the planet. But after understanding Barry's perspective a little more, it's hard to look at him the same.
To Bonds, being accused of steroid use was almost silly. How can all these players—many of whom were breaking records and having Hall of Fame careers—how can they all be taking steroids and not be getting grilled by the media? Why aren't they being yelled at, threatened and heckled? All the owners, managers and most of the other players know they're doing it.
Bonds is a baseball player, not a P.R. person. He grew up learning about how to play baseball in a Major League family as the son of Bobby Bonds. He's not an actor who's supposed to know how to handle the intense media pressure that represents the shift of an era of baseball.
But he did it anyway.
He didn't know what to do, but he never batted an eye or thought twice about attempting to move forward on his own. While other Major League players timidly watched the steroid saga unfold, Bonds was thrown rocks while he was drowning in accusations. Amid all the pressure and the absurd ideology of being singled out as the ultimate sports villain ever, a new person surfaced. No one liked him, and from the looks of Bonds latest attempt to make things right, he may not have liked himself either.
No, Bonds' comeback isn't about helping the Giants; he himself admits that he's not even sure if he can help the team. But he's in Scottsdale for a reason and he's hoping that his smile will do a lot of the talking.
Bonds is back and wants to see if he can change his image. If you're hung up on the past, maybe you should think about what he's been through. Forgiveness is a powerful human attribute, and Bonds is seeking it the best way he knows; with a passive, indirect, "I'm sorry."
As far as this fan goes...apology accepted. Doing things like hiding behind your son was low, but coming back with a smile in the face of everything you messed up is something 99 percent of people wouldn't be capable of doing.
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