Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bonds Last Remaining Lunatic in Cactus League

UPDATE: The Phoenix Business Journal has reported that Arizona Governor Janet "I love Softball" Napolitano has created "The Arizona Baseball and Softball Commission". The goal of the commission is to expand the Cactus League and promote baseball and softball tournaments in the state to help bring more tourist revenue. Looks like the exodus of baseball stars to the Grapefruit League may have officials worried. Perhaps we can arrange to trade the White Sox and Royals for the Twins and Dodgers. Why the Blue Crew insists on staying in Vero Beach while the majority of their fans could make spring treks to Arizona with much greater ease escapes me.

While I'm certain there are some aspiring crazies working their way up their respective team's depth charts, Barry Bonds is now the sole remaining lunatic left in the Cactus League. Arizona has always played second-fiddle to Florida in terms of showcasing colorful characters for the simple reason that big-spending east coast teams like the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox have always attracted the most colorful characters with their big payrolls and even bigger PR departments that need interesting players to write about.

In recent years the Cactus League has lost Ken Griffey, Jr, Alex Rodriguez, Curt Schilling and now in 2005, Randy Johnson, David Wells and Sammy Sosa. All good for self-serving quotes and a good amount of pot-stirring. But, alas, they are gone to Florida like a retired parent. Strolling around the ballparks from Tempe to Tucson it is looking more like the 1950's with clean-cut players who strike more of a resemblance to Gary Cooper than Alice Cooper. Who did the Cactus League get this year in exchange for the talented malcontents shipped to the Sunshine State? Well the Angels exchanged the newly graduated anger-management attendee Jose Guillen for Steve Finley. Technically Finley was a Grapefruit League guy during his 1/2 season with the Dodgers despite never having to actually train there. They also picked-up Paul Byrd, about as threatening a guy as your average librarian. The team with the most new players, the Diamondbacks, lost Johnson but added Shawn Green, a player who created controversy last season by wanting to observe his faith and not play on Yom Kippur. The Padres lost Wells, a bear of a player who admits in his autobiography (Perfect I'm Not! Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches and Baseball) to having taken the mound "half-drunk" while playing in New York and got Woody Williams back instead. Williams is a pitcher so bland he makes Adam Kennedy look like a rock star. Speaking of which the CL still has Sandfrog lead man Scott Spiezio but with the M's acquisitions of Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre he looks to be a bench player at best. Besides, for a rock 'n roller he still comes across as a guy who gets tucked in with warm milk and cookies every night.

But the Cactus League still has the trump card, the epic example of insane ball players: Mr. Barry Bonds. In a rambling press conference, King Barry talked about some things that were bothering him. Things like the dirty rotten lying media. One of Bonds' first comments was directed at former Arizona Republic columnist and current ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez, a very well respected and liked journalist who Bonds acknowledged with "hey Gomez, still lying?" Ohhhkay, I guess Barry's in one of his "moods". Bonds then went on to try and portray himself as a martyr by talking about the difficulty of a black man chasing down Babe Ruth's career home run mark. Uh, I thought Henry Aaron held the record for most home runs. Since when does anyone care when the person in second-place for a particular record gets passed? Are the neo-nazi's trying to protect the Babe's place as the second-most-prolific-home-run-hitter in history? Wow, I must have missed that 60 Minutes episode. Reality check Barry: People hate you because you are a jerk, not because you’re black. Jerks come in all sizes and colors (see: Cobb, Ty) Bonds' pulling of the race-card is a desperate act of misdirection where the issue most people care about is not the fact that a black man is going to pass a white man for second place on the all-time home-run list, but that a roided-out egomaniac with a freak-show size head is going to become the all-time home run King. The fact that one of the good guys, Hammerin' Hank, will be relegated to second-place while the biggest bully in sports will get baseball's most illustrious record.

Jason Giambi gave a vague and ambiguous apology and the fans in Florida along with the media are falling over themselves to cover this "feel good" story of a contrite ball player trying to make good. The media covering Bonds gave him every opportunity yesterday to offer a similar ambiguous apology but in an incredible display of defiance Bonds stared down one reporter who had the nerve to ask if he was sorry and asked "what did I do?" Well according to some Grand Jury testimony it sounds like you injected yourself, rubbed-on and drank prohibited drugs to enhance your body which has allowed you to hit an unbelievable number of home runs. It also has allowed your body to heal from injury much faster giving you more playing time than you normally would have had. Bonds is like Bart Simpson holding a bat in front of a broken window with a baseball-size hole in it, stating with a straight face "I didn't do it". Bonds congratulated Bud Selig on his drug-testing policy (it’s been great for you, eh Bare?) and pleads with the media that we should all "move on" and "go forward". Quit prodding around in the past you pesky reporters. Ignore the BALCO representative behind the curtain. Look reporters, Barry is holding something shiny! Quick rub on the 'Clear'!

Yes, Barry Bonds remains in the Cactus League for all our amusement. Over the years he steadily denied any use of steroids despite the fact we could literally see his head growing like the animated Ken Griffey, Jr. on the Simpsons sucking down Mr. Burns' Brain & Nerve Tonic. Now we get to watch tough-guy Bonds try and slap down the media. Good idea, that should make them stop digging into your sorted past.

The Cactus League might look like a giant "Got Milk" ad campaign but we still have Barry and that's enough baggage, denial and psychosis for any league.


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