If the American public could eventually forgive Richard Nixon, what are the chances that the equally cuddly Barry Bonds might find understanding? From Lee Jenkins in Wednesday’s New York Times :

Mike Paul, an expert in reputation management who works with MGP & Associates Public Relations in New York, said he had spoken with several players involved in the Balco case. Paul said that he had not been contacted by Bonds, but that he would offer him the same advice he gives others.

“The solution I would give Barry Bonds that cuts through all of the noise is truth,” Paul said. “I’m not talking about spin, I’m talking about a statement like this: ‘I’ve made big mistakes, especially mistakes with steroids, and I feel horrible. Sadly, this is part of our sport, and I hope it’s part of our sport that can be cleaned up. I want to be part of a committee of leaders and be part of the solution.’ This is not legal work or mind work, this is heart work. For Barry Bonds to change his heart, he has to think of something bigger than himself to get there.”

The notion that Bonds would consider altering the approach he has used for much of his life, and his entire 19-year major league career, is mind-boggling to those who know him. They say he will report to spring training silent and stone-faced, focused only on the home run records in front of him.

“Maybe he will view this as an opportunity to present himself in a better light,” said Russ Bertetta, who taught and coached Bonds at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif. “But I think he’ll probably just retreat into his little cocoon and be even less accessible than he is right now.”

Bonds has his own wing in the Giants’ home clubhouse, has withdrawn from the Major League Baseball Players Association licensing program and is among the least accessible athletes in all of sports. He has not issued a public comment since receiving his fourth consecutive Most Valuable Player award last month, when he responded angrily to questions about steroids, and said, “Can’t I just be good?”