This is the song that never ends. This is a bad blind date and dinner with crabby in-laws and Paris Hilton's career. No matter how much we ignore Barry Bonds and his lawfully wedded partner, steroids, they are not going away, not for a long, long time.
So ready those earmuffs, because here's the latest: With a grand jury investigating Bonds for potential perjury or tax-evasion indictments expiring Thursday, federal prosecutors are expected to convene a new grand jury to further explore charges against Bonds, the San Francisco Giants slugger who may have lied about using performance-enhancing drugs and possibly didn't pay taxes, but the government really is not sure about it, at least not sure enough now for an indictment, and maybe never sure enough for one.
Which leaves Bonds where he has floated for almost three years: in limbo, the kind where his name and legacy get dragged through fields of cacti, where he constantly finds himself on the brink only to skate with his records still intact, wearing clothing of his choice and not prison issue.
It's the kind of life that would grate on even the most righteous man, and aside from the occasional lamentation and poor-poor-pitiful-me monologue, Bonds has handled it, publicly, with a stunning amount of composure. So far, at least.
That caveat is the only lesson, aside from the prosecutors' inability to make a case, reinforced today: As much nonsense about Bonds percolates right now, it's nothing compared to the years of debate and conjecture that lie ahead.
Because he is a free agent this offseason, and with a fairly weak class, much of the attention will turn to Bonds, even if he is 42 and runs like the producers in the TV truck are playing a slo-mo trick.
And then, if he chooses to retire this offseason, as Major League Baseball surely would love him to do, innuendo will chase him into whatever corner of his narcissistic world he settles. Even if the steroid issue is played out – and for all of the Congressional saber-rattling, the public seems to think it is – Bonds makes news because of his celebrity, and celebrity sells.
And then, five years after his retirement, Bonds will come up for Hall of Fame induction. Already the talk has started: Vote him in for what he did (play at a superior level for 20 years), don't vote him in for what he did (allegedly take steroids), penalize him for what he might have done (wait a year or two, then cast a yes vote) or penalize him for what he never did (admit the truth, whole truth and nothing but).
For those sick of Bonds – well, sorry. All of this would end with an admission that Bonds knew full well he was pumping his body full of chemicals – which the book "Game of Shadows" alleges, a book that Bonds has not publicly decried – but that would be admitting that he lied to the first grand jury summoned for the BALCO case, and even a pre-law student would advise against admitting perjury.
Baseball, not bound by the law, already has rendered the breadth of its judgment: Bonds is persona non grata. While his records still stand – those are the last things MLB could strip, and, oh, how it would love to – Bonds' 715th home run, which sent him past Babe Ruth for second on the all-time list, was celebrated with the equivalent of a bottle rocket and grape juice instead of fireworks and Cristal.
Meanwhile, Bonds toils through his 21st major-league season with a poor batting average (.250) and a mediocre home run total (13) yet with a .972 on-base-plus-slugging and 44 runs scored and 41 RBI, all in the top five for players with 290 or fewer plate appearances. Until he approaches Hank Aaron's home run total – Bonds has 34 more until 755 – he'll just be another fading player.
In the government's eyes, however, Bonds is the prey, the face of steroids – a political goldmine. As such, it's the feds against Bonds in one of those old-school heavyweight fights, the ones that lasted 15 rounds and were as much about stamina as anything. Bonds is ahead on the scorecard.
Did you use steroids, sir?
I thought they were flaxseed oil and arthritis balm.
Round one to Bonds.
Did you lie about steroid use?
No. And I'd like to see you prove it.
So far, round two to Bonds.
And so it will go. When IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky busted Jason Grimsley with human growth hormone, he asked about Bonds, according to Grimsley's lawyer. Though Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, was freed from jail when the grand jury's term expired Thursday, he will be called to testify again, and if he refuses again, he'll likely land right back in the clink.
The exercise will continue because this is Barry Bonds, and not Armando Rios or Bobby Estalella or Benito Santiago, others who were named in the original BALCO case. This is no longer as much a case as it is a cause, and one that will keep repeating itself, ad nauseam – with emphasis on the nausea.