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Should A Major League Baseball Team Hire Barry Bonds As A Hitting Coach?

Submitted by on October 29, 2010 – 11:39 am26 Comments

A funny thing happens once most professional athletes retire from sports: They can’t stay away from their respective game.

It’s to be expected, I guess. Guys spend their entire careers flying from city to city, playing games in front of thousands of people, and then once they finally give up playing the game they love, we just expect them to…go away? It usually doesn’t work like that. A lot of them go into other fields and start businesses with all the money they earned during their playing days, but a good number of them also hang around the fields and courts and rinks long after they’ve played their last minute. For these former players, life without sports—without competition—is unbearable. They need to feel the purpose they did during their peak years.

But it’s funny when you hear that someone like Barry Bonds wants to be back in a Major League Baseball dugout, serving as a hitting coach for a Major League franchise. Not because he wouldn’t make a good coach or because he doesn’t have what it takes to teach young players, but because he never seemed like the type of guy who would want to come back to baseball years after his career ended.

Especially when you consider the way he left things.

After rumors about steroid and HGH use plagued Bonds for the latter part of his career, he abruptly left the game. Not because he wanted to, but because he had to after no MLB team invited him to training camp after the 2007 season. Saddled by bad press and an attitude that didn’t scream, “I still love the game of baseball!” Bonds was seen as a risk for anyone who might sign him. He was seen as an over-the-hill ballplayer with a HUGE ego who couldn’t play anymore, especially without the aid of steroids.

But now, Bonds wants back in. He’s actually not even officially retired from the game of baseball (rumor has it, Bonds is waiting to retire for as long as possible in order to delay his Hall of Fame status, which begins five years after retirement, in order to have a better chance of getting voted in eventually). Yet, Bonds wants to become a hitting coach for a MLB team. But does he deserve that chance?

Conventional wisdom actually says yes. Former slugger/admitted steroid user Mark McGwire served as a hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals last year and, after facing plenty of public scrutiny at the beginning of his campaign, seemed to settle into the role pretty nicely. But McGwire also admitted to his past sins before the start of the 2010 MLB season, asked for the public’s forgiveness and then went about his business on the baseball diamond. Though ridiculed during his playing days for his alleged use of steroids and HGH, McGwire actually seemed to find the forgiveness he’s been looking for and was able to hold down a job as a hitting coach in the process.

That might be too tall of a task for Bonds. For starters, he’s steadfastly refused to acknowledge that steroids had anything to do with his meteoric rise to the top of the food chain in Major League Baseball, where he chomped away at some of baseball’s most revered records of all-time during his career (peep him hitting his 715th home run to break pass Babe Ruth’s all-time HR total in the clip above). He’s also been very snippy with inquisitive reporters. Despite the fact that Bonds was indicted back in 2007 for lying about his steroid use, he allowed the issue to become the elephant in the room during the end of his career—neither accepting not denying most questions about it. He was—pardon our French—a gigantic pain in the ass for the press, for the fans and for Major League Baseball as a whole.

Still, it’s hard for me to sit here, three years after Bonds’ final game, and hold a grudge against the guy. Rather than write him off as a liar, a cheater and one of the examples of what went wrong with baseball, I’d like to see him involved with the game again. Of course, that means that he either needs to come clean about his alleged steroid/HGH use like McGwire did at the beginning of this MLB season or come up with a pretty convincing story to explain why he’s been so closely tied to steroids for so many years.

He can’t be the Barry Bonds that chastised reporters and cut the media off from his life. He can’t be the Barry Bonds that always looked unhappy in the dugout. He can’t be the Barry Bonds that became the most hated man in baseball. He can’t be that Barry Bonds.

But if he’s willing to give baseball a second chance, to right the wrongs from his past, to work with young players and give them a better chance to succeed and to seek redemption for the old Barry Bonds, then I would love to see him involved with the game again.

I just hope he’s ready to do that. Because there’s a final chapter in the great Barry Bonds story that’s ready to be written. It’s up to him to write it.

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