Barry Bonds said he'll be watching out of the corner of his eye when the National Baseball Hall of Fame announces the results of the writers' votes for the Class of 2013, but he doesn't intend to be paying close attention.
The all-time home run leader might be near his home in Los Angeles enjoying his most recent passion, cycling for miles along the beach. Or he might be out of the country on vacation, a trip he tentatively planned before he knew the importance of the date.Wherever he is, Bonds said he's holding his first go-round on the ballot at arm's length. "I do really care," Bonds said. "I may say I don't, but I do really care. I've been through a lot in my life so not too many things bother me. Making the Hall of Fame, would it be something that's gratifying because of what I've sacrificed? Sure. Baseball has been a big part of our lives. We've sacrificed our bodies. It's the way we made our living." Bonds knows he is considered one of the most polarizing players in baseball history. For 22 years, he did things his way, ruffling feathers inside and outside of baseball. The end of Bonds' career was marked by the BALCO investigation, suspicion of performance-enhancing drug use and the federal court case that resulted in one guilty count for obstruction of justice (currently on appeal and scheduled to be heard on Feb. 13). Bonds says that he wishes he had done some things differently. "But I can't turn back the clock now," he said. "Time has passed. Wounds for me have healed." Even so, he wishes some people, including eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who cast their ballots in December, would forgive if not forget. "I don't even know how to explain it. The world has become so negative," Bonds said. "One day, I'll be able to say things the right way. But it's tough when you have so many people out there who don't want to turn the page and want to be angry at you forever. I don't understand why it continues on. What am I doing wrong? "I can sit here and say, 'You know what? Baseball is great. I love it.' I can sit here and say in a very kind way that I'm sorry about the way things ended. I can sit here and say that I respect the Hall of Fame, which I do. But I don't understand all the controversy we're having about it. For what reason? What's there to be gained by all of this? What's the point?" On paper, Bonds would undoubtedly be a first-ballot Hall of Fame contender simply on merit. Playing his first seven seasons for the Pirates and his last 15 for the Giants, Bonds holds the all-time records for homers in a career (762) and a single season (73), as well as walks (2,558) and intentional walks (688). In the popular metrics of today, Bonds is third in overall Wins Above Replacement behind Babe Ruth and Cy Young, third in offensive WAR, sixth with a .444 on-base percentage, sixth with a .607 slugging percentage and fourth with a 1.05 OPS, which combines on-base and slugging percentages. He won the National League MVP seven times -- three times before 1998, the demarcation line for when many believe the steroid era began. The son of the late Bobby Bonds and the godson of Giants icon and Hall of Famer Willie Mays, Bonds is the only player in MLB history to amass more than 500 homers and 500 stolen bases, finishing with 514 steals. No one else is close -- not even Mays, who had 660 homers and 338 steals in 22 seasons. When his career ended in 2007, Bonds finished 65 hits short of 3,000, four RBIs shy of 2,000 and with 2,227 runs scored. Hank Aaron, who Bonds passed on Aug. 7, 2007, to take the all-time home run lead, is the only player to amass more than 700 homers, 3,000 hits, 2,000 RBIs and 2,000 runs scored. Bonds, 48, said he's well aware of all the stats as well as the physical pounding his career took on his body. This year alone, he had surgery on his back to remove a bulging disc and two more on a hip to reattach a tendon that tore away when he was challenged to a foot race by someone much younger. Bonds said he won the race, but at a heavy cost. "As an athlete you only have so much time," he said. "The window only has so much time and then it closes. You have to take care of yourself the best you can. After that we all sit in our houses or hotels or whatever at 20 years old, at 30 years old or 40 years old and try to figure it out. I never even read a book before. What do I do now? I picked a career that only lasted half my life." Bonds says he yearns to get back into baseball as a hitting instructor. "I'm an expert in baseball, and I don't even have a job," he said. "I'm an expert, more so than a lot of people out there. It should be my career until I'm dead. I should be one of the instructors. I think I've earned it." Right now, he's thinking about this alternative: "I'm going to go back to the Bay Area, this is my thing, and I'm just going to open my own school of baseball," Bonds said. "Find a facility, find a place and just teach kids. That's what I want to do. There's no opportunities for me in the game, but there are opportunities for me to give to other people. That's how I look at it." Meanwhile, he'll await his first opportunity at the Hall of Fame. He knows by rule there will be at least 14 more times on the BBWAA ballot. It's a closed club, he's says. "And I'm trying to say this in the most diplomatic way because I'm not the most diplomatic person," he said. "It doesn't belong to us. It's like a neighborhood that doesn't accept anyone under the age of 20 because they're worried that they're going to tear the place down. It's supposed to be a town for everyone. I want to be part of Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame, but I don't want to be part of the kind of Hall of Fame that's based on voters' beliefs and assumptions. "If you believe I'm a bad person, if you believe I'm a drug person, then I don't need to be a part of it. If you don't want to put me in for those reasons then that's fine. No worries. I'm OK with it. If you want to put me in for what I did as a player, that would be great. I'd love to be in there with everyone else who deserves it."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.