The Goods On Barry

September 19, 2004

Not all the Barry Bonds letters I get are written in blood, crayon or words cut out of magazines.

For instance, there's one, from Taylor Pruitt, who writes, "Get over yourself. Give Barry Bonds the respect he is due as the best player of his generation."

Give up criticizing Barry Bonds? Would a lion give up meat? Tammy Faye Bakker her eyeliner? Why, I'd get a facial tic! Still, since I recently joined Up With People, my perspectives have changed. I hereby vow to try.

It won't be easy. Bonds is a suspected steroid cheat, has the personality of an unfed water buffalo and treats his teammates like Jehovah's Witnesses at the door. He is three of my least favorite people.

Still, I promise, the next 700 words will be all rose petals to Bonds. Hold all calls from Jeff Kent. (Inhale. I can do this.)

barry bonds has never been arrested. Or named in a paternity suit. Or wound up in The Star with three "interns" wearing page 11 of the Frederick's of Hollywood catalog.

Barry Bonds is not just fricasseeing the record book--coming soon: homer number 715--he's doing it in one of the toughest home run ballparks in the country, SBC Park, which is to lefthanded hitters what Spam is to the great chefs of Europe. SBC is fourth worst in the National League for home runs hit by visiting lefties. Somehow Bonds is growing orchids in a sidewalk crack.

Barry Bonds is in miraculous shape. At 40 he still takes fewer nights off than a 7-Eleven. Do you realize he'll be the first 40-plus outfielder to play more than 120 games in a season in almost 60 years? So what if he has the range of an Avis bus? (Sorry. That was uncalled for.)

Barry Bonds can be generous. When Bonds hit his 61st homer in Denver in 2001, a clubhouse kid dived into the chilly pond beyond the centerfield wall and retrieved it for him. Bonds bought the kid a motorcycle.

Barry Bonds has become a good family man. He added miniature video cameras to his laptop and home computers so he can see his little girl, Aisha, before she goes to bed. Last week he flew commercial from San Francisco to L.A., attended her first day of kindergarten the next morning and then raced back to the airport to make a flight for a game that night. Sweet.

Barry Bonds can be a good friend. For instance, federal agents raided the home of his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, as part of the BALCO steroid investigation, yet Bonds has not distanced himself from Anderson. So that's something, right?

Barry Bonds really cares about his website, Barrybonds.com. He writes a compelling diary on it, posts pictures of himself as a kid and once in a while sends a fan an e-mail with a little [smiley face]. No, he does!

Barry Bonds is smart. Recently, he was going to be out at home by 15 feet. Instead of just giving up, he noticed where the catcher was positioned to take the throw and changed his path so the ball would hit him in the back. Score the run.

(This is rough. Still 340 words to go.)

Let's see.... Barry Bonds is not a phony. The other day a New York Times reporter asked him if he'd ever hit a home run like the one he hit the other night, a pop-up that left Coors Field. "I've been doing this since before you even thought about f------ writing," Bonds growled, and walked off. Hey, at least he's not a suck-up. Bonds could fake nice and make another $20 million a year in endorsements, but he doesn't. He is who he is.

Barry Bonds doesn't fake humility, either. Once, when asked to describe his greatness, he shrugged and said, "It's called talent. I just have it. I can't explain it. You either have it or you don't." He has it. You don't.

Barry Bonds has invented a new stat: OTWS, or off-the-wall singles. These are shots that get to the wall like an Estes D-model rocket. The ball is already on its way back to the infield when Bonds has barely gotten to first. This year he's had at least five OTWS. Most players don't have one in their careers. Is this because Bonds wanders down the first base line like an octogenarian nun?

(Stop it! Only 138 words to go. O.K., what else?)

Oh! Barry Bonds strikes out every other syzygy. This season he's struck out only 33 times. Jose Canseco used to do that in one night at the hotel bar. Bonds could finish this season with more home runs than strikeouts, which is rarer than steak tartare. And so what if umps won't ring him up unless it's down the freaking zipper, and so what if he's allowed to come to bat in Sir Lancelot's body armor and hang over half the plate? What are you, a cynic?

(How many words to go? Still 40? Damn!)

Uh (foot tapping), Barry Bonds (eye twitching) seems to have (hands wringing) no trouble adding bulk and muscle (can't stand it!), especially in the forehead area.

Oops. Guess I blew it there.

Does this mean I don't get a [smiley face]?

If you have a comment for Rick Reilly, send it to reilly@siletters.com

Barry Bonds is three of my least favorite people. Still, I promise, the next 700 words will be all rose petals to him.

COLOR PHOTOPETER READ MILLER

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)