Miami Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds has made strides toward rehabilitating his image in recent years. The fact that he's back in the game speaks to the progress he's made in that area. A few years ago, it seemed crazy to think Bonds would ever return to baseball. On top of all that, he's thriving in his new role and seems happy.
Things weren't always that way, though. During his playing days, Bonds was perceived as surly and rude. In an interview with Terence Moore of Sports on Earth, Bonds not only admits that was the case, but says he has no one to blame but himself for that persona.
"Me. It's on me. I'm to blame for the way I was [portrayed], because I was a dumbass. I was straight stupid, and I'll be the first to admit it," said Bonds, nodding in the visitors' dugout at Turner Field last week, when he was in Atlanta during his first year as the hitting coach for the Miami Marlins. "I mean, I was just flat-out dumb. What can I say? I'm not going to try to justify the way I acted toward people. I was stupid. It wasn't an image that I invented on purpose. It actually escalated into that, and then I maintained it. You know what I mean? It was never something that I really ever wanted. No one wants to be treated like that, because I was considered to be a terrible person. You'd have to be insane to want to be treated like that. That makes no sense.
That's a pretty honest assessment, and a revealing quote from Bonds. It's rare to see any player openly reflect on their career like this, especially someone as controversial as Bonds.
As for why Bonds felt the need to create a combative persona, he blames early career expectations when he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"I was a 20-something-year-old ballplayer in the middle of veterans, with Van Slyke and Bobby and all the rest of them, and it just came to this big, huge pressure on me," Bonds said. "I was almost shocked by that. I knew I had good talent, but I was a fruit of a tree, and I wasn't ripe yet. Not at that point of my career. The expectations were just thrown on me to carry that whole team, and I was too young to handle all of that. I took it personally, and I was offended by it. I also was really disappointed, and I allowed my emotions to get involved. That sort of escalated everything."
Whether that was the right way to handle things is up for debate, but it does give an interesting look into how some hugely-hyped players deal with pressure and expectations. For Bonds, it meant carrying a massive chip on his shoulder and shutting out everyone around him. That approach led to great success on the field, but came at a cost of him being labeled a jerk away from the game.
Though some of that has changed since Bonds has returned to baseball, he hasn't fully rid himself of the reputation he carried during his playing days. Questions about Bonds' personality emerged in May after Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson claimed the 51-year-old slugger ignored his request for a picture.
That incident may not have been a huge story if a different player were involved, but due to Bonds' reputation, it received plenty of attention.
Given Bonds' polarizing nature, this admission will do little to change his public perception. Some critics will never fully buy into Bonds' image rehabilitation based on the missteps he made during his playing career. As Bonds will tell you, he has no one to blame but himself for that.
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