Barry Bonds has been victimized again, and you can imagine his disgust.
One more burden to drag along on the way to Aaron. One more question to answer, or evade. One more bullet for the misguided, the suspicious, the haters.
Surely, he can't believe this keeps happening to him.
People he knows, people he trusts, just keep handing him stuff, or leaving it around, and he does what any grown man would do. He puts it in his mouth or rubs it on himself. Then somebody goes and blabs about it.
Besides, wasn't this supposed to be Mark McGwire's week?
The theme of the latter half of Barry Bonds' career persisted with Thursday's revelation that he not only tested for amphetamine use last season, but, in a scenario he denied later Thursday, tried to hang it on teammate Mark Sweeney.
The New York Daily News reported it all out, including the part about Sweeney confronting Bonds about what he told the players' union, and Bonds telling Sweeney the union misconstrued the conversation about greenies that eventually led, quite naturally, to a completely unrelated mention of Sweeney. It was this minor misunderstanding, according to the Daily News, that caused the union to call Sweeney and tell him to hide his amphetamines.
See how these things get turned around on Bonds?
Sweeney's agent said Sweeney didn't use or possess amphetamines. What Sweeney did possess was unusual and admirable patience. When "Game of Shadows" hit last spring, drawing dozens of reporters, Sweeney handled every inquiry, usually while other players fled. He pledged his support to Bonds, spoke of team over turmoil, baseball over distraction, and momentarily softened Bonds' image by including him in the American Idol knock-off show, the one in which Bonds dressed as Paula Abdul.
Sweeney had met him a few days before.
"He is both my teammate and my friend," Bonds said in a statement. "He did not give me anything whatsoever and has nothing to do with this matter, contrary to recent reports."
Then he sort of confessed.
"I want to express my deepest apologies especially to Mark and his family as well as my other teammates, the San Francisco Giants organization and the fans."
Let's catalog the inequities, as they have been alleged and foisted upon Bonds:
He unknowingly accepted and consumed designer steroids, for which his best friend is now in prison.
He unknowingly entered into a business arrangement with the founder of a laboratory that provided designer steroids to numbers of athletes.
And he unknowingly – so the story goes – secured a bottle of something from a teammate's locker and swallowed its contents.
That's the short list, and it means Bonds is by far the unluckiest man in sports, other than always having the San Francisco Giants around to love him. Sometime soon, Bonds will ask incredulously how he – of all people – would be stupid enough to intentionally take a banned substance, now known in legal circles as The Rafael Palmeiro Defense.
On Wednesday night, the Giants learned of the positive test. On Thursday afternoon, they issued a statement. They are, as it turns out, "strongly opposed to the use of performance-enhancing substances, including stimulants … " They will, they promise, "continue to be supportive of Baseball's efforts in this area."
A fair question is, will they continue to be supportive of Bonds' efforts in the Bay Area?
They don't have a contract yet. How close they are to agreement depends on who you talk to. The Giants, apparently, are trying to get their clubhouse back. Bonds has chained himself to the recliner, the big-screen and three members of his posse.
One person says, "The deal is almost done." Another says, "There are still a myriad of issues, some significant issues."
The Giants have benefited from Bonds. Then they tried to sneak one final season, 22 more home runs, out of a relationship that has been financially rewarding, baseball rewarding and everything-else awkward. They almost certainly believed they'd at least get to the signing before the next embarrassment, before the federal investigation closed in, before George Mitchell called.
But, here they are, a contract half drawn, spring training a month off, a new crisis on their hands, their own fans beginning to wonder if it's really worth it.
Owner Peter Magowan could back out. The guess is he doesn't. They'll get the contract done. Bonds will bat third and play left field. He'll pass Hank Aaron over the summer and Sweeney, the good teammate, will stand in front of the dugout with his hand extended.
Baseball will blush a little and privately root against him.
Then Bonds will retire, secure in the belief he was the victim all along.
- Barry Bonds