Barry Bonds, right, celebrates his 500th career home run with Hall of Famer Willie McCovey on Tuesday April 17, 2000, at Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco. (Ben Margot/AP)

Barry Bonds, right, celebrates his 500th career home run with Hall of Famer Willie McCovey on Tuesday April 17, 2000, at Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco. (Ben Margot/AP)

New Bonds is the same old phony

Miami Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds returns to AT&T Park this weekend, where several thousand idiots will roar at the sound of his name again. But this isn’t the same Giant cheater who turned the record book into a complete and utter joke later in his career.

Miraculously, Bonds is 40-something pounds lighter and two hat sizes smaller than the monster who last played nine years ago. He has also dropped his trademark scowl and replaced it with — of all things — an occasional smile. Funny what can happen when a narcissist needs baseball more than it needs him, isn’t it?

Well, don’t be fooled again. Physical attributes aside, this still is the same Bonds who spit in the face of real fans and baseball alike all those years.

“No, that’s my Cove,” Bonds recently told USA Today in reference to the area beyond right field, where he deposited a record 35 splash home runs. “It just has [Willie McCovey’s] name on it. I love Mac, but that’s my Cove. He never played there.”

Yet how much longer Bonds cons the public remains to be seen. The fourth-place Marlins rank third-to-last in home runs and runs scored in the league. He has even managed to ruin one-time stud Giancarlo Stanton, who took a .224 batting average and 20 strikeouts into the series.

The sooner Bonds realizes that he can’t cheat his way to the top any more, the faster he can ride his bicycle into irrelevance.

JUST ASKIN’: So how long will it take the Giants to erect a statue for the biggest fraud in the history of professional sports, anyway?

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: The 49ers have more holes than McKinnon Street and the seventh pick in the NFL draft this week. So what’s general manager Trent Baalke to do?

Now that quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are all but accounted for at the first two picks, why not trade down in the order for a slew of them? In a defense-heavy draft, the Niners could address several areas at that side of the ball.

The Cleveland Browns went that route with the No. 2 pick, which got them a pair of first-rounders, a second-rounder, a third-rounder and a fourth-rounder from the Philadelphia Eagles in return. Now, the Browns can throw darts at five more quarterbacks and hope one of them sticks.

YOU MAKE THE CALL: In seven starts last season, North Dakota State Quarterback A passed for 1,651 yards and four interceptions and ran for 294 yards. In eight starts, Quarterback B totaled 1,144 yards and four interceptions in the air, 498 yards on the ground.

Quarterback A was Wentz and Quarterback B was a freshman named Easton Stick. So was Wentz really that good? Or was the senior also a product of the system and dominant talent around him?

Balls is no Mel Kiper Jr., but if it’s the Rams, then it takes Goff over Wentz at the No. 1 pick. Almost every pro scout will tell you that Goff is far more ready to play at the next level, and if the Rams want to make a big splash in Southern California, it can’t wait a couple or three years to do it.

DUMB AND DUMBER: The Houston Rockets have been a pathetic disappointment this season, so after they squeaked out a victory over the Stephen Curry-less Warriors in Game 3 of their playoff series, one supposed they would take the low road afterward.
Wrongo. General manger Daryl Morey chastised Andrew Bogut for his arm bar on Dwight Howard in the first half, hardly the first time the two bigs had exchanged pleasantries over the years, while owner David Barron took ex-Rocket Charles Barkley to task for justified criticism of the team.

Morey was brought in to build a championship team as the face of the metrics era, but like too many numbers-crunchers, he pays little if any attention to intangibles. (See Lawson, Ty.) When ballhog James Harden put his team ahead the final seconds the other night, exactly one teammate clapped his hands on the bench.

Now Morey and Barron may want to consider this metrics formula: bad contracts + bad karma + zero leadership = unemployment.

WHERE IS THE LOVE? First, the best defender on the best defensive team in the league finishes a distant second in the Defensive Player of the Year vote. That was Draymond Green, of course. Now the best reserve on the deepest team in the league is overlooked for Sixth Man of the Year honors

Jamal Crawford beat out Andre Iguodala for the Sixth Man award, and other than the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers’ gunner shot the ball a lot and scored some points, Balls can’t think of another reason for it. He connected on just 40 percent of his 2-pointers and 34 percent of his 3’s and pretty much treated defense like it was an incurable disease.

Iguodala was solid at both ends, a fact that went over the heads of too many voters. He outdid Crawford in Offensive Win Shares (2.3-1.8), Defensive Win Shares (2.1-1.5) and virtually every other metric across the board.

C’mon, does Barkley have the only vote in these things?

PURPLE REIGN: Balls never did meet Prince, who checked out far too early the other day, but it did get close to him at the 1998 NBA All-Star Game. His Airness Michael Jordan was selected Most Valuable Player in New York that day, but only His Royal Badness could steal the show.

JUST SAYIN’: Paging Brandon Crawford! Paging Hunter Pence! Paging Denard Span! The regular season has started already …

The sooner the Giants realize that Matt Cain has an 8.74 earned run average after the third inning the last two seasons and move him to the bullpen, the better they’ll be for it.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr says it’s time for his team to take the next step, but with wise heads Justin Tuck and Charles Woodson no longer around, who’s gonna lead them?

And no, Lyle Alzado and Aldon Smith are not options.

According to sometimes reliable sources, if the Sharks didn’t finish off the Kings in Los Angeles on Friday night, the first 10,000 fans were to receive the Heimlich procedures at Game 6 at the SAP Center.

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to pladd@aol.com, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.Barry BondsBruce BochyMiami MarlinsPaul LadewskiSan Francisco Giants

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