SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – One of these days, Barry Bonds will look in the mirror and see what the rest of us see. Nothing.
None of this matters anymore. He can't undo the lies, the injections, the arrogance, everything that follows him today and tomorrow and beyond. The home runs he hits will be ignored, the records he sets empty. To the baseball world, Bonds is dead. And, much like Bruce Willis' character in The Sixth Sense, he's the only one who doesn't realize it.
To Bonds, it was just another afternoon at Scottsdale Stadium on Wednesday. He stretched on the grass, then hit a home run, then blew off the media – all part of the Bonds program – oblivious that it had been one week since he lived to read his obituary.
An excerpt from the book Game of Shadows itemized the steroids Bonds took. Details filled crevices where any doubt existed. The tangible proof was right there, down to the cubic centimeter, as indicting as a positive test, the final needle mark.
And Bonds did what he does. He shrugged.
"Can we just talk about baseball?" Bonds said this week. "Please? Can we? I appreciate it."
For so long, he has insulated himself from accusations, because that's all they were. Confronted with evidence corroborated in another book, he budged not an inch. They were playing a baseball game that day, and that's all that seemed to matter to Bonds.
It's sad to watch a man who let jealousy fuel his actions create a world where denial buffers his fall.
Yet that's where Bonds has lived the last seven years, slowly killing the great baseball player by turning himself into a caricature, a Venice Beach freak, a user of the worst kind.
One who took drugs to become what he already was.
Had Bonds waited out the steroid era instead of joining it, he would not only be hailed for his accomplishments, he would be regaled for the nerve to do right in a time when wrong ruled. He would have been remembered as the best player since his godfather, Willie Mays, the limitless talent who did everything.
Early this spring, the Giants held a contest. Coaches drew two small boxes, one along the first- and third-base lines. Each player had to drop as many bunts as he could into the boxes, and, of course, Bonds wasn't going to participate in some trivial spring-training drill.
Most of the Giants struggled. Their bunts were too hard or soft, too far to the right or left. Bonds, still taking batting practice, stepped into the box to take his swings.
On the first pitch, he squared to bunt. Pffft. Right in the box.
Next pitch, same thing. Perfect bunt.
He turned around and left the cage.
The ultimate baseball player became the inevitable repercussion of what Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire wrought. Players who never needed steroids used them anyway, and now Bonds is a pariah, a legacy in tatters – a ghost. Turns out Bonds is, in fact, this generation's ultimate icon, for all the home runs that have disappeared and all the hollow ones to come.
The Giants are Bonds' co-conspirators, promising a ceremony when he passes Babe Ruth for second on the all-time home run list, which is like Enron throwing a birthday bash for Ken Lay.
While fireworks go off in San Francisco Bay and 715 flashes on the scoreboard, Bud Selig will be into his planned investigation of Bonds. Whatever it uncovers is simply window dressing for Selig's ramshackle handling of the entire steroid problem.
The damage is evident. Bonds can pass Ruth and Hank Aaron – even break his own single-season record of 73 home runs – and it would register as an accomplishment where, exactly? Barry's world, because it's the only place that will bother to recognize him.
There, perceptions don't exist. There is no public that judges. Victor Conte doesn't flip on him. Documents recording every dose he swallowed or shot or rubbed aren't there. Kimberly Bell isn't calling him a sociopath. It's a place of nots, a safe place.
Until the day comes when Bonds tires of hiding, when he steps over to that mirror and his heart breaks. He won't see a home run king, a record holder, the greatest hitter of all time.
He won't see anything.