In case you've been living in the cave where he probably keeps all the used needles and unsigned autographs he supposedly denied little kids during his career, Barry Bonds is coming back to Pittsburgh on Monday as part of a Pirates Opening Day ceremony that will kick-off the 2014 season in grand-style, celebrate the 2013 accomplishes in equally fitting fashion and pay respect to some other Pirates greats of the past. (In addition to Bonds, Dick Groat, Jim Leyland and Jack Wilson will also be on hand for the festivities.)
Obviously, Bonds' appearance is getting the most "heat," in terms of media and fan reaction.
The reason for Bonds coming back to Pittsburgh (other than to celebrate his great career with the Pirates) is to help present the 2013 National League MVP Award to Andrew McCutchen.
When I first heard the news on Friday, I was happy. Why? Why on Earth would I be happy that Bonds is returning to the Pirates organization? Because Barry Bonds was the greatest Pirate I ever witnessed in-person, and he provided me with many great memories over his seven seasons in Pittsburgh--including two MVP awards and three straight Gold Glove awards while playing left field better than any Bucco ever has.
In fact, one could argue that Bonds, who won seven National League MVP Awards during his Hall of Fame career, should have won three such awards while in Pittsburgh. (Terry Pendleton took home the honor in 1991, sandwiched between Bonds claiming the award in 1990 and 1992.)
I realize Bonds was a disgusting and entitled punk of a human being while he was in Pittsburgh (and all throughout his entire career) and a pain in the butt as a teammate. I'm also aware of the stories veteran Pittsburgh journalists and sports personalities always tell about Bonds refusing to sign stuff for kids.
I also remember his infamous spring training blow-up with Leyland in '91 and how he left Pittsburgh as a free agent, following the '92 season in a move that signaled the end of competitive Pirates' baseball for 20 straight years.
I'm also aware of the steroids allegations that followed him throughout the majority of his time with the Giants and that his home run records are very clearly tainted.
And guess what? I don't care about any of it, and why? I never met Barry Bonds, so why should I care about his disposition with his teammates, manager or the media?
The sports landscape has always been occupied with guys like Bonds, who think they're God's gift to everyone and should be treated as such. In fact, according to some stories I've heard about Pirates contemporaries of Bonds, guys like Andy Van Slyke and Bobby Bonilla weren't exactly role models and easy to deal with in their own right.
Why is it that we've heard so much dirt about Bonds over the years, but not as much (if any at all) about some of those other guys?
I have VHS tapes of old FSN "Spotlight" shows about those early 90s Pirates, and Bob Walk, a guy who I respect very much and a member of those awesome teams, said Bonds may have done some things that annoyed his teammates, but a lot of other guys were doing the exact same things.
Why were these stories never brought to light?
Why did it take years to learn that Jason Kendall and Brian Giles were malcontents who created a very poor clubhouse atmosphere and were far from the team leaders their talents and importance to the team clearly indicated they should have been?
Lastly, as much as I respect legendary Pirates like Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente, I never got to see them play much (not at all in Clemente's case), and, in many ways, Bonds represents to me what those great players represented to past generations of young Pirates fans.
Unless you were a teammate of Bonds who didn't get along with him, or unless you were one of those little kids he was supposedly rude to during his time in Pittsburgh, why see his return as such a negative?
If you're in your early 40s and younger, there aren't many Pirates eras you can remember and be proud of. Until the 2013 season, Bonds was the face of the only successful era we've had to celebrate since the days of We Are Family.
The Pirates are doing the right thing by bringing Bonds back, and you, disgruntled fans and media members who can't seem to grasp why Bonds coming back is a good thing, save it.
Let the Pirates fans who don't remember Mazeroski's home run, Clemente's heroics in the '71 World Series or Willie's majestic blast in the '79 Series embrace a little of their youth, when baseball was fun to watch for three awesome seasons in the early 90s.
Welcome home, Barry.