Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Trouble With Barry

Orange, Beetle, or Jamba?

In three weeks I'll be making my annual pilgrimage to Scottsdale, Arizona to watch my team gear up for opening day. And being a Giants' fan seems to carry a certain stigma around the country, as if the team has somehow facilitated the diminishing of Ruth's and Aaron's legacy by organizing itself around the perceived cheater, Barry Bonds, who is likely to surpass both men in the record books.
But this post isn't an apologia for Bonds. Barry will have to live with his legacy and his kharma. And I think the full truth will out over time. The trouble with Barry is he's a damn good ball player, absolutely riveting to watch, and his talent can't be simply dismissed as steroid-enhanced. Asterisks, doubts, and before/after pictures will forever be associated with Bonds' career, but whatever his sins, you're not likely to see them displayed in the shards of a corked bat or a bookie's betting slips. Whatever line was crossed, it will remain elusive and unquantifiable.
And Barry has made it difficult for fans to rally behind him. His aloofness, underlying shyness, and perpetual chip on his shoulder doom him from ever being the people's favorite. But I've watched him for too long to not appreciate the intensity with which he plays, and the physical genius of his performance at the plate.
When you sit in the right field boxes at Giants Park (no corporate names for me), near the visiting player's bullpen, you need to bring your glove for protection. Bonds' line drives are vicious, and you need some defense from that change-up that he tags just a little too early. Barry has to live with his actions, but his critics will also have to live with what I expect will be another record-breaking season. And that's the trouble with Barry.
UPDATE: Bonds' press conference here: