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SAN FRANCISCO – Since Barry Bonds is sure to take a public flogging for almost hitting into a double play when he failed to run out a pop-up, I will refrain from ripping him for the act itself. Surely Bonds knows what he did was wrong, much like the 3-year-old who chucks silverware across the dinner table.
Difference is, children have parents who dole out punishment and make the kid apologize and, hopefully, learn from the mistake. Barry Bonds, the biggest child in baseball, doesn't seem to care, and he has done such a magnificent job of shielding himself from everybody except the yes-men and stooges in his employ, he no longer understands the meaning of accountability.
To his teammates.
To his manager.
To his fans.
Surely all of Bonds' slights are borne from a self-centeredness that seems to have been rubbed with a dab of the Cream. Not that Bonds ever has been a great teammate or an easy player to manage or a peach to the fans who pay to see him or a man the sport can be proud to support.
With this latest mishap, he managed to disrespect himself.
Even the most myopic Bonds devotees will have trouble defending him here. You are taught to run out pop-ups and ground balls for a reason: Fielders are fallible, and in this instance, Jeff Kent, Bonds' former teammate and nemesis, dropped a routine pop.
Bonds, of course, did not realize this because his back was turned. It was the eighth inning, in his third at-bat of the night, and Bonds was facing a journeyman named Joe Beimel. Bonds lifted a fly ball at Kent and took exactly eight steps down the line before pirouetting toward San Francisco's dugout. Not until someone yelled at Bonds did he start running again, and Los Angeles shortstop Rafael Furcal barely missed turning a double play after he'd received the throw from Kent for a force out.
On the field, Bonds was seen asking about the infield-fly rule. Boy, that's fresh. A ballplayer in his 21st year who doesn't know the infield-fly rule.
No, this was simply another red herring in a long line of them. Blame the media. Blame racial discrimination. Blame ignorance toward the rulebook. Blame, blame, blame until the story has morphed about the issue at hand into another episode of Angry Barry.
We fall for it, all of us. Because we're disaffected in that way, too. Shucking responsibility would make things so much easier. Imagine screwing up a cursory job at work that embarrasses your co-workers and company, then not having to explain it to the boss.
Bonds slogged into the dugout at the end of the inning, the Giants on their way to an ugly 6-1 loss, and didn't say anything to Giants manager Felipe Alou.
"I've got to talk with him," Alou said.
Alou threw out the idea that Bonds might himself address the bungle.
"No," Bonds said, "I'm not talking."
Someone asked whether he'd play Saturday.
"Still ain't talking," he said.
That is Bonds' prerogative. If he doesn't mind watching all of the attention on him funneled to teammates tired of talking about Barry, Barry, Barry, and to a manager so weary of the chase for Bonds' 714th home run that he regularly plays him in the ninth inning of blowouts, bully for him.
It simply reinforces Bonds' disconnect. When you're hitless in your last nine at-bats, you don't dog the 10th, even if it is a pop-up. When you're batting .231, slugging .487 and swinging through 90-mph fastballs you used to pop like Pez, you answer why. When you're moving like Abe Simpson in the outfield and can't help on a misjudged fly ball in the gap, you owe a reasonable explanation, at very least, to center fielder Steve Finley, who looked pretty silly without any help.
"We know (Bonds) has a lack of range," Alou said. "It didn't lose the game for us tonight."
That's not the point. The Giants have created the same kind of enabling environment for Bonds that baseball in the late 1980s and particularly the '90s created for steroid users. While there is no outward condoning of the actions, there is a passive acceptance. Barry being Barry, goes the lame excuse.
All of this happened the night the Giants celebrated Willie Mays' 75th birthday. Before the game, they presented Mays with a cake and commemorated his career and released colorful balloons. Bonds, his godson, admired the ceremony from the dugout before he went out and added another tick mark to the list of reasons fans loathe him.
In a way, it was sad to see this 41-year-old man, beaten down by injuries and pressure and who knows what else, hobbling through a nine-inning game. Because it was obvious that when the game ended, Bonds wasn't going to own up to any mistakes, miscues or missteps.
He had thrown his forks and knives, and he would go unpunished again.