- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2006

There’s a weariness that surrounds Barry Bonds now and everything about him. He sits in the corner of the visiting locker room at RFK Stadium, talking to teammates. Then he slowly pulls a couple of bats out of his bat bag, and slowly swings them while sitting on the folding chair from which he has not moved for nearly an hour.

Then he slowly rises, grabs his glove, puts on his Giants hat and walks slowly — almost lumbering — through the clubhouse, through the tunnel and out to the visiting dugout, where he sits some more.

Barry Bonds seems tired, and everyone seems tired of Barry Bonds.

When he finally walked out to take batting practice before last night’s series opener against the Nationals, there was a smattering of applause and cheers from some Giants faithful standing behind the dugout, among the few people who were in the stadium at that point.

No matter what you think of Bonds — even if you believe his success has been artificially inflated — batting practice is usually a show worth watching. But it might as well have been Barry Gibb in the cage taking swings for all the buzz that was going through the empty stands.

Bonds sent a few over the right field fence and one into the upper deck, though far short of the monster blast he hit here last year. And while there was a handful of cheers with each blow, it was hardly befitting of a man who, based on numbers as they stand today, is the second greatest home run hitter in the history of the game.

It’s almost as if everyone is at the point of saying, “Wake us up when he is in handcuffs.”

Bonds can still stir up the masses, though. When he came up to bat in the first inning, the crowd gave him a good booing, and cheered when he grounded out. But the anger Bonds had been the target of last year and earlier this year seemed to be missing.

The probe into steroid use that has targeted Bonds for reportedly lying to a grand jury in the BALCO investigation — and for tax evasion as well — is beginning to take on a Whitewater flavor, leaving a trail of subpoenas and testimony that comes to a dead end. One grand jury has come and gone, and prosecutors have said they will start another one to continue the investigation. It is starting to get old.

Now, when an indictment does come, it will likely put a spring in everyone’s step, even Bonds’. It may even approach Barbaro-like status on cable news networks. ESPN may even revive its reality show on Bonds, or just add another channel called “ESPN Juiced.”

Bonds might have seemed physically worn down, but his spirits appeared to be up. He seemed to enjoy talking to his teammates, and was particularly glad to see his former teammate, Nationals pitcher Livan Hernandez, on the field during batting practice. They shook hands, hugged and spoke for several minutes.

When he came to Washington last year, Bonds spoke glowingly of Livo, saying he would love to have him on his team and what a smart pitcher he was. Alas, there is no speculation of Livo winding up with the Giants — the Red Sox or Mets, maybe, but not the Giants. Despite his record — 7-8 with a 5.80 ERA — this is why those teams would still want Livo, because he is still a smart enough pitcher to impress Barry Bonds, who is not easily impressed.

Bonds also must have gotten pleasure before the game, the type that comes from putting out a piece of cheese for mice and then pulling it away.

There was a Barry Bonds watch that started around 4 p.m. in the Giants clubhouse, with a group of reporters looking for a chance to interview baseball’s No. 2 home run hitter and No. 1 pariah. The word from the Giants’ public relations staff was that Bonds said he would talk, and he would let them know when.

He didn’t say it would be yesterday.

Two hours came and went, as the crowd grew and thinned and grew again, following Bonds out to batting practice and back to the clubhouse, which was then sealed off. That was fun.

What might I have asked Bonds? Did he get a chance to see any of Washington while he was in town? Did he stop at the Justice Department and sign any autographs?

Actually, I did ask him the last one. But I did it real quietly, and the door was already closed to the clubhouse. I’m no mouse.

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