Barry Bonds has long been a controversial figure in the baseball world, and it’s got nothing to do with his alleged steroid use during his playing days. Sure, the BALCO case and everything that goes along with that certainly haven’t helped matters for Bonds (and his Hall of Fame chances), but there was always something else that plagued him throughout his playing career. Barry Bonds was a jerk. That seemed to be the general consensus among his peers, and that even included a lot of his teammates. Bonds played 22 seasons between the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants, and among other adjectives could be described as rude, obnoxious, arrogant, surly, selfish, and extremely combative during his career.
Since Bonds left baseball in 2007, he was essentially disassociated from the game that brought him fame and fortune, but has made strides in rehabilitating his tarnished image. Bonds accepted the role of the Miami Marlins’ hitting coach this past December and is enjoying his new role as a mentor to young players. And in a recent interview with Terence Moore of Sports On Earth, Bonds revealed who’s to blame for his past behavior… himself.
“Me. It’s on me. I’m to blame for the way I was [portrayed], because I was a dumba**. I was straight stupid, and I’ll be the first to admit it. I mean, I was just flat-out dumb. What can I say? I’m not going to try to justify the way I acted toward people. I was stupid. It wasn’t an image that I invented on purpose. It actually escalated into that, and then I maintained it. You know what I mean? It was never something that I really ever wanted. No one wants to be treated like that, because I was considered to be a terrible person. You’d have to be insane to want to be treated like that.”
Bonds says that he kicks himself now as he realizes that a different attitude back then could have brought him more endorsements and a better public image, but states that really wasn’t what he was about. He was set in doing things in his own certain way and says that even when he did give in a little that things didn’t get any better, even citing a specific example from his days in San Francisco when he was pulled aside by a few teammates. If you’ll recall, Barry was very secluded from the rest of the team in the clubhouse, even having his own section with a lounge chair and a big-screen TV.
“The guys came up to me, and they said, ‘Barry try,’ you know what I mean? And I did change. I was nice, and I was saying, ‘Hello’ to folks and I was very calm. But I was like 0-for-21. And the first thing those teammates said to me was, ‘We want the old Barry back.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but y’all don’t like the old Barry.’ And they said, ‘We don’t care. We want the old Barry back.’ But the media never knew that was happening, and I was still being cooperative with [reporters] during that stretch, and they were still writing crazy stuff about me, but in that new role, I didn’t care.
“We weren’t doing well, and I wasn’t doing well, but I still clapped my hands and saying, ‘That’s OK, man. We’ll be fine.’ But my teammates didn’t like that person. They wanted the ogre back.”
Bonds had a few public spats during his time with the Giants, including a fistfight in the dugout with second baseman Jeff Kent. However, Bonds says that the spark for what he calls “the fire around me” started during his days with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“The expectations on me at a young age is what got me. During the Pittsburgh days, when we were starting to win a little bit, it was like it was all my fault that we didn’t win.”
Armed with a number of veterans, award winners and All-Stars, those Pirates teams of the early ’90s certainly had the pieces to make a run at multiple World Series titles, but always seemed to fall short when it mattered. And Bonds, who won the first two of his record-breaking seven MVP awards in Pittsburgh, always seemed to be the one who was blamed.
“I was a 20-something-year-old ballplayer in the middle of veterans, with Van Slyke and Bobby and all the rest of them, and it just came to this big, huge pressure on me. I was almost shocked by that. I knew I had good talent, but I was a fruit of a tree, and I wasn’t ripe yet. Not at that point of my career. The expectations were just thrown on me to carry that whole team, and I was too young to handle all of that. I took it personally, and I was offended by it. I also was really disappointed, and I allowed my emotions to get involved. That sort of escalated everything.”
While Bonds is admitting his wrongdoings as far as his attitude is concerned, the allegations regarding his alleged steroid use, which many think will always keep him out of the Hall of Fame (he’s been declined induction on his first four attempts), will likely never go away and Bonds maintains his innocence on that front.
“The one thing that I would never, ever reflect on and talk about changing from the past is my ability with what I did out there on the field. When it came to [preparing for and playing the game], I did that right. But as far as my attitude and the way I handled things, I just didn’t do it the right way. There were times during my career when I really did try, but I wasn’t given the benefit of the doubt, because I had already created the monster.”
That monster will likely always plague Barry Bonds as far as the public is concerned. Years and years of the kind of behavior that Bonds displayed will be looked at by many as irreparable and there’s nothing that he can do about anybody else. All he can do is continue to move forward. Barry Bonds is a bit of a loner and probably always will be.
“It’s something I’ve tried to tell people, but they haven’t been able to understand that, because of my (past) actions.
“Even now, I take a shower, dress quick and just go home. I’d rather play sports and be active than to really hang out with people. I don’t know how else to explain what I just said, but that’s who I really am.”
[Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images]