- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2006

The joylessness of Barry Bonds has become a joy all its own.

Bonds beat the prospect of a federal indictment yesterday, although much investigative work remains.

Maybe there is an undeclared $100,000 in one of Bonds’ tax returns. Or maybe he oversold the medicinal benefits of arthritis balm and flaxseed oil in his testimony before a grand jury.

At least he kept grandma’s homemade chicken soup out of it.

The lack of an indictment is certainly no signal for Bonds or baseball to celebrate.

Both wish the subject of steroids would go away.

If not, baseball would settle for Bonds going away.

He has become the house guest who has overstayed his welcome and cannot take a hint.

He is taking up too much space in baseball, with Babe Ruth down and Hank Aaron to go.

His pursuit is devoid of the usual celebratory air.

It is not what he does. It is what he did or did not do.

It is consuming the season, deserving as that is, considering how the lords of the game pretended not to know the home run glut was the work of a syringe.

This is the game’s penalty of sorts, this wallowing in the odoriferous draft of Bonds.

His hat size is as debatable as his interpersonal skills.

His relationship with arthritis balm and flaxseed oil is as convoluted as his one-time relationship with a mistress.

He is a punch line who no longer is a first-ballot inductee into the Hall of Fame, if he ever is inducted at all.

Yet he tries not to betray concern as he twists in the BALCO-driven wind.

His career numbers do not amount to much, riddled as they are with asterisks.

The dwindling true believers cling to his pre-hulk production, as if the before/after Bonds can be separated. His legacy is destined to be BALCO, positioned in the first paragraph of his obituary. He is Bud Selig’s legacy, too.

Bonds is the leading face of baseball’s steroid era, although Jose Canseco is trying to usurp him.

Infamy sells, too, in America’s age of shamelessness.

Canseco is only too eager to detail his love affair with steroids. He was the Dr. Feel Good of his day. Now he is the tell-all paragon of truth.

Alas, his buck-making honesty wins few supporters.

Of course, Bonds is no more guilty than all too many ballplayers who dipped into their pharmaceutical bags for help. He just happened to be better than all the rest, too big to hide and too stubborn to take a hike.

Bonds kills the questions if they veer to his legal plight. He just wants to talk baseball, quaint as that notion is.

That is his prerogative, and great fun, too.

You figure the feds should have better things to do than to encourage others into confirming their suspicions of a baseball player.

The resources being diverted to an aging ballplayer who lost his way to envy could be better used to deal with Hezbollah’s friends in America.

Bonds probably is asking himself a question everyone is asking: How long is this darn investigation going to take?

Perhaps as long as it takes the feds to lean on Greg Anderson, who served more than two weeks in a federal prison after refusing to testify against his old buddy.

He embraced Carmelo Anthony’s don’t-snitch plea, and all he has to show for it is the specter of another appearance before a new grand jury.

At this rate, Bonds eventually could become a sympathetic figure.

It is not paranoia if someone really is out to get you.

Bonds always has felt unloved and unappreciated, and there was a reason for that. He just was not the huggable sort.

He will have a book in him one day and possibly a fight not unlike the one before Pete Rose.

He already has lost the battle in the court of public opinion.

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