Barry the Ambassador: Five Reasons Why Bonds Is Not the PR Man for MLB

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Barry the Ambassador: Five Reasons Why Bonds Is Not the PR Man for MLB
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Last week, Doug Glanville of ESPN.com posted a piece about Barry Bonds new opportunity to be an ambassador for Major League Baseball. 

Glanville basically discusses the idea that with the Giants having won the World Series, the stage is set for Bonds, to rise to the spot light. The man who holds the two most notable baseball records—home runs in a season and career home runs—could now use his presence to do good things.

The problem is that Barry Bonds is positioned about as well to be an ambassador for baseball as Don Imus is to be the spokesperson for NOW.

Here are five reasons why the canonization of Barry Bonds won’t happen:

1. The league doesn’t like Barry Bonds

There are two ways to define “the league”.  There is the franchises that make up Major League Baseball.  Then there is that face and voice of the league as a business entity; Bud Selig.  Whichever you use, the truth is the same—Barry Bonds is not well liked.

The league basically ignored him the season after he left San Francisco. He was a free agent with not just a big bat, but the biggest bat ever, who got zero job offers.  Even from an AL team who could have used him as a DH.

Selig has looked upon bonds the way Ford Frick looked upon Roger Maris, only Selig had much better arguments.  Selig despised the idea that Bonds was the one to beat the career home run record of Hank Aaron, a man that Selig is close to. 

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Bud Selig's friendship with Hank Aaron will leave Bonds out of the picture.

Also, whether deserved or not, Bonds represent the steroid era more succinctly than perhaps any player other than Mark McGuire.  Baseball should and will pick its own ambassadors and Selig won't pick Barry Bonds.

2. Bonds has a court case looming

Whether innocent or guilty, Bonds is about to be embroiled in a federal perjury trial, the outcome of which could require jail time. 

Bonds’ testimony in 2007 regarding BALCO is in question and a guilty verdict will not only cement Bonds’ reputation as a juicer, but also define him legally and practically as a liar.

Perhaps if he comes out on the other end of the court case with a verdict of innocent there might be a chance of his personal marketability, but certainly not before.

3. Barry Bonds and the press don't get along

Over the time that Bonds was a Major League baseball player, he developed a relationship with the press that was tense at best, venomous and vitriolic at worse.  Barry treated the press like the villains in his romantic biography, a group of liars and connivers whose only goal was to destroy Bonds.

It would be safe to assume that a baseball ambassador would not only have to open himself up to the press, but actually embrace them as a tool to accomplish… well, whatever he wished to accomplish as the poster boy.

4. No Hall of Fame, no ambassador status

For the man holds the career home run record, if you are not in the hall of fame, if you are still only a visitor when you show up, you are not the spokesperson you want to be.  Now, if after his obligatory five years, if Bonds is inducted, it will be a different story.

The idea is not that you must be a HOF member to be a face for the sport.  The issue is more that Barry Bonds should be in the HOF, based on his on-the-field exploits. More than that, if you only look at his play, he should be a first ballot hall-of-famer.  The fact is he will not get in on his first ballot. Perhaps because of his off-the-field exploits, he’ll never get in at all. It’s a sticking point standing in the way of his public relations standing.

5. Barry Bonds is the ultimate anti-spokesperson

Take away the steroid allegations.  Pretend for a moment that there is no such thing as “The Clear” or BALCO, and that there is no upcoming perjury trial as a result.

Without that large elephant in the room, you still do not have a persona worthy of what Glanville suggests. 

Bonds has a history of distrust with the media.  He has been accused of tax fraud.  There have been stories of his having been an adulterer.  For as big a star as he was at one point, he never did things to bring his fans closer (One example being his disallowing use of his name in any video games that the players association endorsed.)

Once Bonds focused on statistics and stopped just being a great player, his play suffered.  There were no allegations of slackening play early in his career, but in the late years in San Francisco, Bonds was one of the new group of prima donna players who didn’t need to run hard to first if they didn’t feel like it.

If you think of all these things like pieces of a collage, it’s hard to imagine an arrangement that would look appealing to the world at large—especially one that is skeptical of Major League Baseball.  Isn’t that, after all, why the game might need an ambassador in the first place.

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