Bonds could provide a lot as Giants coach
Despite everything -- with an emphasis on everything -- let's give Barry Bonds a break. Not when it comes to Cooperstown, where he still has issues regarding that section on my Hall of Fame ballot that speaks of "integrity" and "character," but when it comes to his wish to work in a meaningful capacity with the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants are receptive. Bonds has a slew of knowledge when it comes to succeeding in baseball.
Why not? I mean, if Mark McGwire can return to the game during his post-playing career and even prosper despite everything -- with an emphasis on everything -- so can Bonds.
Consider, too, that those running the Giants these days have been splendid at using their former great players. You rarely can walk through the Giants' clubhouse during Spring Training or the regular season without seeing some combination of the two Willies (Mays and McCovey), Gaylord Perry, Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal.
There also is Will Clark, the former All-Star first baseman who hasn't played in the Major Leagues in 12 years and for the Giants in 19. Even so, he is so revered by a Giants organization that featured his first start in the Major Leagues in 1986 that he still has his own locker in the home clubhouse.
J.T. Snow is another former player who works for the club, and according to the Giants' media guide, "The six-time Gold Glove first baseman has a wide variety of duties in his role, including personal appearances, broadcasting on the radio side, serving as an instructor during Spring Training, a roving instructor for the Minor League clubs and advising general manager Brian Sabean on an as-needed basis."
To which Bonds laughed, saying to reporters on Monday while attending a Giants home game at AT&T Park, "I think my role is a little higher than that. I love J.T. a lot, though."
Well, Bonds is saying Giants officials shouldn't do something along the lines of that old Seals and Crofts song from the 1970s by making him "The King of Nothing." You know, like having him shooting T-shirts from cannons to fans from the top of the home dugout between innings, or greeting kayakers in McCovey Cove, or even following in the front-office paths of Clark and Snow.
This will be a little tricky for Giants officials. After all, the high-profile Bonds would have a tendency to suck the oxygen out of their clubhouse as a coach of any significance.
Then again, when Tony La Russa announced after the 2009 season that he was adding McGwire to the St. Louis coaching staff after years of La Russa having to deal with the McGwire's previous controversies involving performing-enhancing drugs, disaster was predicted -- disaster as in Big Mac-related distractions for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals were so distracted last season that they won the World Series. Even now, with a franchise in transition without former Cardinals icon Albert Pujols, La Russa and others, McGwire has the Cardinals leading the NL in hitting.
The thing is, McGwire is more low key than Bonds.
Way more low key.
Nevertheless, Bonds suggested to reporters that he is seeking forgiveness for "everything." He wants to work for the same Giants franchise that he helped prosper on the field and at the gate during the last 15 years of his career through 2007. He slammed the last of his record 762 home runs with the Giants after starting his big league career with seven wonderful seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
That's the good part of the Bonds story.
As for the bad, Bonds talked of going "through the system" -- otherwise known as U.S. Federal Courts -- after his involvement in the scandal surrounding the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. It eventually led to accusations that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs, but as he pointed out, "I was never convicted [by the feds] of steroids."
Bonds also is correct in saying, "I'm a convicted felon for obstruction of justice, and that's who I am. I live with it."
He lives with that, along with the fact that his home runs will always carry an unofficial asterisk in the minds of many. Then there is his reputation in public. Let's just say he never was considered warm and cuddly. It was a negative image that stretched from reporters to fans to managers to teammates.
Bonds has much to overcome, but here's the thing: He knows it, and he sounds willing to deal with it.
"I gave my life and soul to that game. That's what's heartbreaking. That's the hard part of it," Bonds said, reflecting on all of his mostly self-imposed conflicts despite winning seven National League MVP Awards, making 14 trips to the All-Star Game and winning eight Gold Gloves.
When Ken Griffey Jr. wasn't mentioned as the best player of his generation, Bonds was.
Still, you had those conflicts for Bonds.
"My [reputation] was kind of iffy anyway," Bonds said. "I created that guy out there for entertainment only. Whether you hated me or liked me, you were there. And I only wanted you there. I just wanted you to see the show."
As for the new Bonds, he is five years removed from facing his last Major League pitcher, and he is 47, presumably more mature now than he was, say, a decade or so ago, when he had no problem alienating those around him either accidentally or on purpose.
He also is recovering from a couple of surgeries within the last two months involving a disc injury and lower-back problems. So even though he never has officially retired, his body and his age are telling him emphatically that it is time for him to view his baseball passion outside of swinging, fielding, running and throwing.
He wants to serve the game with his mind, and Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Bonds, "We have a great hitter here who has really accomplished so much."
A great hitter with so much to give.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.