Was it really worth it, Barry?

BY Ken Rosenthal • April 13, 2011

Barry Bonds’ lawyer says it’s not over.

In reality, it was over a long, long time ago.

A hearing will take place May 20, and U.S. District Judge Susan Illston will rule on the request by Bonds’ legal team to dismiss the guilty verdict against him for obstruction of justice.

Bonds was found guilty only of giving evasive, misleading answers, not lying to a federal grand jury. But at this point, it’s all just a technicality.

No longer is there even a debate about whether Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs. And even though the U.S. government couldn’t prove it, the idea that Bonds used the drugs unknowingly is just short of absurd.

If I could ask Bonds one question — one question after he ends the “dignified silence” requested by his attorney, Allen Ruby — it would be this:

Was your drug use worth all the trouble?

Not that Bonds would ever admit it, but the answer surely is no.

The same also can be said of other admitted and confirmed PED users, but Bonds was the best all-around player of his era. The drugs enabled him to reach heights far beyond what others could achieve. His accomplishments — and arrogance — set him up for the hardest of falls:

• A conviction that could lead to 15 to 21 months in prison according to federal guidelines, but more likely would result in a period of home confinement, or even just community service and/or a fine.

• A trial that included embarrassing testimony from a former girlfriend about, of all things, the shrinking of his testicles due to his alleged PED use.

• A strong possibility that he will never be elected to the Hall of Fame despite his jaw-dropping, five-tool dominance during the first, drug-free part of his career.

Bonds actually could claim victory Wednesday — the jury failed to convict him on three counts of perjury, charges that he knowingly used steroids and human growth hormone and lied about it to a federal grand jury.

But think of all that Bonds has lost.

Respect. Dignity. Millions of dollars in legal fees. And, most of all, his reputation.

Bonds is the all-time single-season and career home-run leader in name only. Many fans consider his achievements a fraud. Others, unable to sort through the complexities of the Steroid Era, are ambivalent at best.

People will believe what they want; the numbers are what they are. But Bonds, according to Jeff Pearlman’s book, “Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero,” turned to PEDs out of jealousy over the attention that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa received during their home-run race in 1998.

Many other players got caught up in the same unfortunate mindset; PEDs helped transform fringe players into regulars, good players into great, great players into immortal. But of all the users, Bonds needed the drugs least, not that he saw it that way.

He got his records. He got his short-lived adulation. And he got his comeuppance from federal investigators who pursued him with such over-the-top vigilance, they turned him into almost a sympathetic figure.


Bonds bullied an awful lot of people during his career — reporters, teammates, managers, coaches and executives.

His abrasive, you-can’t-touch-me personality seemingly left him with only one friend — Greg Anderson, the personal trainer who went to jail rather than testify that Bonds used PEDs.

But Bonds, regardless of whether he is cleared of obstruction, was foolish to bait the government, which has turned on Roger Clemens, another alleged user who denied using PEDs to a House Committee, with a similar vengeance.

Was any of it worth it for Bonds?

The PEDs? The obstruction? The fight?

To the latter question, Bonds might say — again – “Yes, I thought the drugs provided by Anderson were flaxseed oil and arthritis cream. The jury ruled that there was not enough evidence to prove otherwise. I was simply fighting for my good name.”

Bonds, of course, would fare better in the court of public opinion if people didn’t perceive him to be such a jerk. But the truth is, he would have lost his good name even if he had admitted to knowingly using PEDs to the grand jury.

No, he couldn’t win.

Look at McGwire — his admission of steroid use, prompted by his return to baseball as the Cardinals’ hitting instructor, hasn’t helped him in the Hall of Fame voting or swayed fan sentiment heavily in his favor.

The PED use was the original sin, the source of all the trouble. A fan can forgive. A jury can issue a verdict. A sympathetic Hall of Fame voter can ignore facts.

The basic reality doesn’t change.

Bonds wanted to separate himself from McGwire and everyone else. Instead, he finds himself in the same sorry pile.

It wasn’t worth it. Not even close.

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