So Barry Bonds wants to be a hitting coach. To most of America it's a ludicrous notion, until he returns to AT&T Park for pregame festivities, and we see just how beloved he still is in San Francisco.
When Bonds "retired," he was still a better hitter than — well, pretty much everyone on this Giants World Series team. But he wasn't offered a contract with the Giants, or with anyone else. You had to figure he was persona non grata, and we wouldn't see him again save for the occasional court appearance. But we forgot that fanlove is unconditional on a local level.
When he threw out the first pitch before an NLCS game, or appeared with other Giants legends last night, I'd estimate he received 99 percent cheers. The other 1 percent were either Rangers fans, or people saying "Boo-onds."
Can the rest of us learn to embrace, or at least accept Bonds for what he was as a product of his times? As we come to grasp the pervasiveness of steroids at the turn of the millennium, why did we reserve so much vitriol for him specifically? Every single team had a player implicated in the Mitchell Report or the Gang of 104 that did something great once upon a time, and we've forgiven them (unless their name is Roger Clemens.)
Bonds has the record, sure; but so did McGwire. Bonds was considered a general asshole by everyone who covered him; but since when did we care about who was mean to beat writers?
So we come to hitting coach. Hard to picture putting the development of young hitters in the hands of a man who turned to chemicals to get better? Maybe, but we got over that when they hired McGwire in St. Louis. Dudes were both great hitters before they ever got on the juice. They know what they're doing. Nothing personal against the current guy, but if I'm Buster Posey's agent, I'd rather have Barry Bonds tutoring him than Hensley Meulens.
It won't happen for a while. Whether stipulated by the league or his own image rehabilitation specialists, Mark McGwire wasn't getting the Cardinals job without first admitting to PED usage. Bonds can't do that because of his looming perjury trial, unless he wants to coach a prison softball team.
It will happen. Someday, with the Giants and only the Giants, where he's enough of a local hero for the hire's cachet to outshine the taunts and jokes. At least until the rest of us figure out that Barry Bonds isn't some bogeyman come to corrupt and dope up our children, but one cheater of hundreds. Sure he's a jerk, and sure, he broke the rules, but damn, was he a good hitter.