Mariotti: Bonds still a bum, belongs nowhere near Hall

So now we can expect the Incredible Shrinking Barry Bonds to hit up his Instagram feed — if you need a good laugh, check it out — and take a retaliatory selfie. Maybe he thumbs his nose. Maybe he signals that we should shove it where the syringe doesn’t stain. Maybe he resends his self-portrait bearing the inscription, “99 PROBLEMS BUT A PITCH AIN’T ONE.”

But he’ll do something raw. Because today, technically, Bonds can tell the world that his record is clean, that he never has been convicted for an offense related to performance-enhancing drugs. Thanks to a hometown ruling seemingly hatched in a booth down the street at Dottie’s True Blue Cafe, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Bonds’ felony conviction for obstruction of justice, with 10 of 11 judges concluding that his long-winded answer during a 2003 grand jury proceeding wasn’t material to the government’s probe into steroids.

Which means Bonds can launch what surely will be a loud, aggressive campaign for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Which means the Giants, who have worked cautiously in bringing Bonds back into the organization, now can make him an ambassador or a roving minor-league coach or — if their hitting problems persist — a batting instructor without having to address criticism about a felony conviction. Which means Bonds’ legions of Bay Area fans, who wore blinders about BALCO and the Steroids Era while the bloated Barry was passing the honorable Henry Aaron as the sport’s all-time home run leader, now can hoist him as the Power King without legalities usurping their joy.

Said Bonds in a statement: “Today’s news is something that I have long hoped for. I am humbled and truly thankful for the outcome as well as the opportunity our judicial system affords to all individuals to seek justice. … I am excited about what the future holds for me as I embark on the next chapter.”

Let him bask. In my mind, as a longtime member of the voting group known as the Baseball Writers Association of America, nothing changed Wednesday. Bonds still is a bum who symbolizes an era we’re trying to purge from our collective consciousness — a treacherous period of cheating and lying that irreparably damaged the public’s trust in sports — and anyone who thinks he suddenly belongs in Cooperstown is a bigger dope than the dopers themselves.

“I think at the end of the day, America knows the truth and who the real home run record holder is, who did it the right way, and it’s obviously not Barry Bonds,” said Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, who told The Associated Press the decision was “almost meaningless for the real issue, which is whether he used performance-enhancing drugs to cheat the fans of baseball.”

This isn’t a time to celebrate as much as a reason to wonder how the justice system works and how many taxpayer dollars are wasted in flip-flop cases. Clearly, Bonds gave a rambling, evasive answer when asked if his trainer, Greg Anderson, ever gave him steroids, human growth hormone or “anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?”

Bonds: “I’ve only had one doctor touch me. And that’s my only personal doctor. Greg, like I said, we don’t get into each others’ personal lives. We’re friends, but … we don’t sit around and talk baseball, because he knows I don’t want — don’t come to my house talking baseball. If you want to come to my house and talk about fishing, some other stuff, we’ll be good friends. You come around talking about baseball, you go on. I don’t talk about his business. You know what I mean?” Prosecutor: “Right.”

Bonds: “That’s what keeps our friendship. You know, I am sorry, but that — you know, that — I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don’t get into other people’s business because of my father’s situation, you see.”

Prosecutor: “And, again, I guess we’ve covered this, but did [Anderson] ever give you anything that he told you had to be taken with a needle or syringe?”

Bonds: “Greg wouldn’t do that. He knows I’m against that stuff. So, he would never come up to me — he would never jeopardize our friendship like that.”

Prosecutor: “OK. So, just so I’m clear, the answer is no to that, he never gave you anything like that?”

Bonds: “Right.”

Shrewd and calculating, Bonds waited out the pitcher. He didn’t swing and took his bases on balls. Now, years later, he somehow gets a complete pass, with Judge Alex Kozinski writing, “Making everyone who participates in our justice system a potential criminal defendant for conduct that is nothing more than the ordinary tug and pull of litigation risks chilling zealous advocacy. It also gives prosecutors the immense and unreviewable power to reward friends and punish enemies by prosecuting the latter and giving the former a pass.”

So Kozinski is suggesting Bonds has been wronged by a corrupt prosecutor. What a world, huh? I side with the lone dissenting judge, Johnnie B. Rawlinson, who wrote: “I cry foul.”

The smell is foul, too.

Jay Mariotti is sports director and lead sports columnist at The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at Read his website at

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