Saturday, July 28, 2007

For Bonds, Swings of Mood and Bats

Sports of The Times
July 29, 2007


His pendulum mood swings can be hypnotic. Back and forth Barry Bonds went Friday night after he moved to one home run behind Hank Aaron, swaying from edgy to indifferent, from introspective to terse, from clarity to confusion.

You feel yourself getting sleepy, very sleepy.

This is what Bonds does to people, even those close to him. He wears them down, leaves them spent. There is an attrition factor to Bonds’s inner circle of supporters that apparently includes the Giants’ owner, Peter Magowan. He remains devoted to his most lucrative ballpark draw but appeared almost fatigued when describing the drain Bonds’s record pursuit has put on the rest of the Giants.

“I think we’ll start winning more consistently once this is behind us,” Magowan said.

You put fender benders and bad dates behind you, but historic journeys?

Magowan longs for the end. The Giants crave closure. But the one Bonds confidant who could have expedited or terminated what has been a slow-drip plod toward the inevitable statistical sham is behind razor wire. Greg Anderson has been cut off from his A-list client, imprisoned across the San Francisco Bay in Dublin, Calif., since November for refusing to divulge for the feds the secret recipe behind Bonds’s body.

His loyalty is baseball’s loss. If Anderson had chosen to dish dirt instead of peeling prison potatoes, a grand jury would most likely have handed up an indictment against Bonds, allowing Commissioner Bud Selig at least an opportunity to keep Aaron’s record safe.

His loyalty is also Bonds’s loss. Anderson’s eight-month absence from the scene — actually, it’s about a year given the three months he served in prison for steroid distribution in connection with the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative — has paralleled the sporadic breakdowns of Bonds’s body.

Basically, Bonds has about the same work week as some flight attendants — three days on, two days off — and without the duty to be friendly. Throughout his cranky season, Bonds has performed with striking agility in one game and in need of WD-40 during the next.

Or maybe he simply requires a good hit of flaxseed oil. Whatever Anderson once provided Bonds as his personal trainer — a workout regimen or steroid solutions (bingo!) — the missing ingredients to the youth potions have left the expandable slugger without the reliability of resilience.

“Forget the steroid allegations for a moment,” said Victor Conte, Balco’s founder, in an e-mail reply last week. “I believe that Barry Bonds received great benefit from routinely being trained by Greg Anderson. People seem to think athletes can simply take steroids and improve their performance. Steroids don’t significantly enhance muscle size and strength by themselves.”

With Anderson by his side, Bonds ballooned and took off, without looking his age as he neared 40 with spring in his cleats. Now, at 43, Bonds has been aging as if photographed by time-lapse cameras. His size is still formidable as an everyday sighting, but the elasticity of his limbs and levitating power of his swing come and go.

“It’s my understanding that Barry didn’t weight train with anywhere near the same level of intensity before he began working with Greg Anderson,” Conte added.

“It’s my opinion that the effectiveness of Greg’s weight-training methods took Barry to an entirely new level of explosive strength. It’s also likely that having Greg as an everyday trainer helped Barry maintain a higher level of overall strength throughout the season and be less prone to injury.”

Bonds is more vulnerable without Anderson in many ways. Anderson was not only his daily trainer, but also his tolerant friend amid an ever-shrinking network of those who can endure the whiplash of Bonds’s mood swings.

Was Barry’s 754th home run a relief or a burden? It was difficult to tell.

At first, Bonds was not sure what sentiments to assign to the moment he came one home run short of tying Aaron. “It’s very hard to explain right,” he said, “because I can’t really tell you every emotion that’s going in my body right now and everything that’s going on.”

A few minutes later, this brief bout of reflection jackknifed into indifference when Bonds was asked about his fist-pumped reaction as he began his home run trot. “I wasn’t caught up in the moment,” he said.

This is Bonds. He all at once fights fame and courts it, recoils against attention and feeds off it. The contradictions are wearisome to everyone but him. He has no plans to stop, no matter how far ahead of Aaron he may be.

“My last season is every last year of my contract,” Bonds said. “I’ve had a bunch of those last seasons, but this is not going to be my last season. I don’t think so — as a Giant or in baseball.”

What makes Bonds think he has enough resilience in reserve to keep going? Some day, Anderson will be released.



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