SAN FRANCISCO – In today's episode of The Home Run Chase That Will Never End, we learned about our protagonist's childhood.
Barry Bonds enjoyed riding Big Wheels. He used baseball and football cards as wallpaper. He looked up to his grandfather, a boxer and pool shark. And he used to love hitting baseballs that would smash windows, even with the whooping that usually accompanied it.
All of this wasn't groundbreaking or compelling, but it was another sliver of a window into Bonds' psyche, the one that, about an hour earlier, looked shattered.
What got Bonds through his toughest times was always his resolve. He shut out the steroid allegations, the government investigations, the boos, the death threats and everything else that accompanied his run to the single-season home run record and, now, Hank Aaron's all-time record, and he turned it all outward, his bat the manifestation of his anger.
So to see Bonds sounding, dare we say, fragile on Thursday afternoon was either a sign that the latest slump – 18 homerless at-bats and counting – is chafing at Bonds' fortitude or evidence that Bonds, the thespian, has a post-baseball career.
"It's hard to explain what's going on inside," Bonds said. "It's more complicated than that. There are too many things."
"I've just got to take myself back a little bit."
Who knew he meant his childhood?
The reminiscing followed Bonds playing pitcher for the Wiffle Ball game that broke out on Giants family day. When Dave Roberts' tiny daughter had trouble connecting on a pitch, Bonds offered his hand as a tee – and got whacked upside it. When Rich Aurilia's son crowded the plate, Bonds wound up and dusted him with a fastball, – all in good fun, of course.
For much of the 20-minute game, Bonds wore a big smile. His daughter Aisha vamped for the camera that broadcast onto the Jumbotron, and his son, Nikolai, limped a bit, still recovering from two torn ligaments in his left ankle.
It was all a temporary respite from a slump in which Bonds popped to third base and catcher in his first two at-bats, fly out to left field in his third and poke a "double" – it was really a broken-bat single that was horribly misplayed by Andruw Jones, allowing Bonds to move to second – in the seventh inning before Fred Lewis replaced him as a pinch hitter.
"I want to get it off the ground," Bonds said. "Get a line drive. Because eventually it will go."
At this pace, maybe by the time a new president is elected.
OK, so he's not exactly at the Jason Tyner level. Bonds' two home runs a week ago in Chicago exhibited his marvelous strength. Still, every power hitter in a slump uses the line-drive-turning-into-homer excuse.
Barry Bonds, circa 1986-2004, needed no excuses.
Now, Bonds is 43, like an old sports car still capable of pumping out a great quarter-mile before sputtering at the half-mile mark. After taking three days off last week to rest, he looks – and sounds – tired again, talking about how he looks forward to elucidating the heir to his soon-to-be record, Alex Rodriguez.
"I can't wait to talk to Alex about it," Bonds said. "I can't wait – because it's something crazy."
Bonds should know better. With The Home Run Chase That Will Never End, things usually are.
- Barry Bonds