Monday, October 26, 2009

Zen Dayley: Where is Bonds' major-league job?

Alex Rodriguez is going to get a World Series ring. Mark McGwire's buddy gives him a job as a hitting coach.

Meantime, Barry Bonds, the one other tainted ballplayer who gets the descriptive "disgraced slugger" according to the Fake AP Stylebook is, well, somewhere, awaiting trial on something.

It's hard not to think of McGwire getting back in the big leagues as a St. Louis Cardinals coach — thanks to the beneficence of Tony La Russa, who was convicted of drunk driving not too long ago — without thinking about Bonds being erased from the sportgeist. It's not clear how much of that is related to time healing all wounds and how much is racial. The fact remains McGwire is back in the game and Bonds is off the grid. Why one and not the other?

The other polarizing pariah of a pituitary case is at least as eminently qualified as McGwire is to be a hitting instructor. Bonds would have the bona fides. Future Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox once said of him, "He might be the most observant hitter I've ever seen. He's on the bench, always talking about the hitters." (Sports Illustrated, July 26, 1993.) That sounds a lot like what a hitting instructor does. It's more consulting than coaching at the major-league level, offering advice, giving people a framework to make good decisions, like teaching hitters how to read pitchers.

It seems like a question worth asking, since ex-greats often do get coaching jobs — although how much coaching is actually involved seems rather dubious. Sooner or later, one of Bonds' old teams, or maybe one of his ex-managers, might invite him down to spring training as a guest instructor, try to get him back in the fold.

Imagine what's going to break out when that happens. It will strain the all that forgiveness and bygones-be-bygones sportswriters are willing to trade in today. The restoring of McGwire's image has begun in earnest. A column on FOXSports refers to McGwire returning from "eight years of a self-imposed exile," as if the public shaming was utterly undeserved.

A column out of St. Louis notes McGwire cannot expect to skate on The Steroid Question, noting "he can’t remain defiant, like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds (or) offer mealy-mouthed recollections, as Alex Rodriguez did." At the same time, the writer, Jeff Gordon, like most of us, notes, "Personally, I’ve come to terms with the Canseco Era. PED abuse was rampant. Hitters juiced up to hit home runs. It was good for business, so commissioner Bud Selig looked the other way -– as did the owners, general managers, managers, player agents and players' association leaders." Four years ago, that was a minority opinion. It is now the majority.

Point being, it is easy enough to say when it's been eight years since McGwire stopped playing and four since his "I'm not here to talk about the past" appearance before the U.S. Congress in 2005, plus he's a white guy.

Meantime, Bonds is wearing the hair shirt. One would like to think it had to do with him being a cold, aloof prick more so than North America's racial politics. At the same time, people don't forget when a public figure who is visible minority who screws up, or has her/his human frailties exposed in a humiliating fashion. Nearly 30 years later, you can still find people making reference to former Montreal Expos star Tim Raines admitting to cocaine addiction, even though he got help and got clean. You never hear about the white jock who did blow, even though there's been a few.

Anyway, there's no beef with La Russa bringing McGwire back into the fold to try to get him into the good graces of the sportswriters who vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Keep an eye on how much his support jumps in January after being around 25% the first two tries, right down in Tim Raines territory, coincidentally enough.)

It just seemed worth pointing out this will come with Bonds before long. There's been scarcely little in the news about the charges he's facing in U.S. federal court, which could lead one to believe that has run cold (Please do not remember who said, "He won't serve a day.) Major League has been trying to scrub away Bonds for the past five years, although people would have yelled rat if he hadn't been allowed to stay one and supplant Henry Aaron as the all-time home run leader. His name popped up a few times in 2008 whenever some team had a crying need for some left-handed home run power, then gradually that faded away as '08 became '09, although he could have done about as well as the .735 OPS the five-years-younger Ken Griffey Jr. posted in Seattle.

The ship's sailed on Bonds playing again, but someone might approach him about doing some coaching. Please keep an eye on how that's received.

1 comment:

Superfun happy slide said...

At first blush it may appear that Barry's surliness wouldn't make him a great candidate for an instructor role but Big Mac was hardly the queen bee of the welcome wagon for the majority of his career either. If you can ignore the steroids, the memory of Mac that comes to me is his jolly jaunt around the bases in 98 after 62 or 63 cleared the fence. However, prior to that, Mac was a moody character at the best of times. The injury-years, prior to his trade to St. Louis revealed him to be anything but a great communicator. However, second acts in life can go a long way towards redefining how people remember. Both Barry and Mac could use a second (or third as it may be) act to get themselves into the Hall.