I don’t know how the rest of you are coping with the realization that not everything we read on Barry Bonds’ website is 100% accurate, but the unsentimental Neil Hayes of the Contra Costa Times has come to the grim conclusion that the Sultan Of Surly is going, going gone.
You won’t find any reference to it on Barry Bonds’ Web site, but a late-August retirement announcement is a more and more likely scenario, which means the Home Run Counter on BarryBonds.com will be forever frozen at 703.
Bonds underwent his third knee operation since Jan. 31 on Monday. The latest arthroscopic procedure was to combat an infection that could delay his rehabilitation for two more weeks.
There’s no upside to this if you’re Bonds or the Giants. Bonds has found a way to respond to virtually every challenge during his career, but this may be insurmountable. Suddenly, the worst-case scenario seems most plausible.
Even if he does make it back for the final two months of the season, the days of him being an everyday left fielder likely have ended.
It’s not the ending anybody envisioned at this time last year, but these things can’t be scripted. Ted Williams homering in his last at-bat is the exception. More often, it’s Babe Ruth huffing and puffing down the line wearing a Boston Braves uniform or Willie Mays striking out as a New York Met.
At least Bonds wouldn’t have to worry about looking vulnerable or embarrassing himself if this is indeed the end. He would maintain some dignity if he ended his career with an MVP season and his second batting title.
Vindication, however, will be more elusive. It may be impossible to prove whether he took performance-enhancing drugs, but he is the face of the Steroid Era. The only way he can escape that fate is to continue hitting homers at a torrid pace while being subjected to a more stringent testing program.
Even then, some will claim that he is ingesting undetectable designer steroids. It’s plausible enough. The NFL didn’t detect players using THG until after the fact. Still, it was Bonds’ only hope of finishing his career with numbers that didn’t generate mass suspicion.
That possibility seems more remote every day. Players with bad knees have been productive late in their careers. Harold Baines, Ellis Burks and Andre Dawson come immediately to mind, but none of them was out this long this late in his career and none created such high expectations.
We all can agree that Bonds’ late-career success has been largely attributable to his legendary workout regimen. He usually ratchets up the intensity of his workouts around the first of the year and by the time he shows up for spring training he is a finely tuned machine.
This year that routine has been altered dramatically. He underwent his initial surgery to remove cartilage Jan. 31. Except for a rare spring-training batting practice, he hasn’t done much of anything since.
People like to talk about how quickly he bounces back from injury. While that may have been true in the past, it’s obviously not the case this time. Whether that can be attributed to age, the severity of his injury or the side effects of long-term steroid abuse is irrelevant at this point.
The fact is, Barry Bonds can’t count on being Barry Bonds anymore, and the Giants can’t either.
(though in terrific pain, Barry chuckles at the thought of Pedro Gomez having to get a real job).