At the end, all you could do was laugh. Eight years, tens of millions of dollars spent, Congressional hearings, trials, convictions, and here’s what justice looked like for Barry Bonds:
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Home confinement for 30 days. Two years of probation and 250 hours of community service. And, of course, a $4,000 fine.
That’s got to be my favorite part. Bonds earned more than $188 million over 22 seasons in the major leagues, or roughly $15,000 per plate appearance. Heck, a $4,000 fine doesn’t even amount to a single strike in the career of Barry Bonds. Perhaps obstructing justice just isn’t what it used to be.
But finally, after so many years of calling him a steroid user and a liar, it might be time to tip our caps to Bonds. If nothing else, Bonds is a patient man. He famously once challenged the government to investigate him, and it did, taking down BALCO and a litany of famous athletes, and forever damaging the credibility of both baseball and some of its most hallowed records.
Damage was done, reputations were ruined and, in many cases, justice for many around Bonds was harsh. But Bonds was the white whale of the BALCO investigation, his steadfast refusal to admit steroid use despite a mountain of evidence against him raising the legal stakes at every step in the government’s pursuit. And now that it’s over, now that judgment has been rendered and punishment given, let’s give Bonds some credit. He outlasted the feds, he outlasted the public’s outrage and, frankly, he’s outlasted me.
I just don’t care anymore.
Three or four years ago, I would have been outraged that the government wasted everybody’s time and so much taxpayer money to get a conviction on a technicality: that Bonds gave evasive and misleading testimony to a federal grand jury, not that he perjured himself about steroid usage. I would have seethed about the farce that is a 30-day confinement sentence at his six-bedroom, 10-bath house, complete with gym and a swimming pool. And I certainly would have been furious at the audacity of Bonds’ legal team pledging to seek a reduction in his pathetic punishment through appeal.
But I just don’t have it in me. Having a strong opinion about the Penn State scandal? Easy. The Chris Paul trade? Piece of cake. The BCS? Don’t even get me started. But Bonds? I’m over it. I’ve been over it. No more outrage left in the tank on that one. Really, the only thing to be mad about now is that I just can’t get mad about it anymore.
You win, Barry. Go ahead and appeal that sentence, which will push off your debt to society for another year or two. Who cares? You clearly have all the time in the world, and we’ve waited this long for nothing. So what’s a few hundred more billable hours between friends?
After arguing for a 15-month prison sentence and then seeing federal Judge Susan Illston hand out a toothless sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Parrella used words like “slap on the wrist” and “almost laughable.” That’s undoubtedly true. But it doesn’t feel like the public really cares anymore, even as it validates Bonds’ strategy of stonewalling and denying and simply waiting out everyone else.
Some would suggest that Bonds, once the appeal is finished and his sentence served, admit that he took steroids like others have done — Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, etc. — and walk back into the warm embrace of Father Baseball.
But why should he? As a society, we’re over steroids in baseball. Let the Ryan Brauns of the world take the heat — the little that remains — for juicing up. There’s no debate anymore about whether Bonds used steroids. There are no serious legal consequences for him now. Bonds has simply outlasted the public’s bloodlust.
He is never going to be thought of as a warm, fuzzy figure anywhere outside the Bay Area. By letting this play out in the courtroom, detail after excruciating detail, there’s no real mystery about what happened or what kind of person he is; he can only rehabilitate his image so much. And whether Bonds gets in the Hall of Fame or not, at this point, seems like a silly reason for him to admit anything. The fact is, all the steroid users are going in or none of them are. You can’t pick and choose.
Me? I’d put them all in. It’s the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Integrity. Bonds was the biggest attraction and best player in baseball for nearly a half-decade, won seven MVP awards and hit 762 home runs. He is, for better or worse, part of the history of the game and he should go right into Cooperstown alongside a full recounting of the BALCO trial. What’s funny, though, is that the Baseball Writers Association of America, which votes on the Hall of Fame, will have the power to administer a more meaningful punishment than the court system.
Most of us would take 30 days of confinement at the Bonds mansion and call it a vacation. But Bonds wants total victory, so he’s going to appeal. For eight years and counting, he has admitted nothing and conceded less. Why should he change now?