Not retired? Better check again, Barry

Michael Rushton, MLB Contributing Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It is time for Barry Bonds to have an epiphany that perhaps his ego has been preventing him from experiencing. Mainly, Bonds needs to figure out that sometimes it's not up to you when you retire.

Since the beginning of the season, after the San Francisco Giants announced last year they would not be bringing Bonds back for the 2008 season, the slugger has been searching for a job.

He was linked to Tampa Bay at the start of the season; Los Angeles and New York were also thought to be good destinations. Some thought that any American League club that needed a designated hitter might eventually go after Bonds.

Yet when Bonds returned to the spotlight on Saturday, making somewhat of a surprise appearance at San Francisco's AT&T Park in a ceremony honoring past Giants' outfielders, he remained without a job.

Though Bonds' appearance was rumored, but never confirmed, it seemed likely that baseball's all-time home run leader would show. After all, San Francisco is still one, and perhaps the only, city that hasn't turned its back on him amid allegations of steroid use, recent perjury and obstruction of justice charges and the public's overall bitterness towards baseball.

For one day, all of that was forgotten as Bonds stood on the same field as his godfather, Willie Mays, and addressed the crowd.

"I want to thank the Giants for inviting all these great guys. It's weird for me not to be in uniform with the Dodgers right there. You heard me (Dodgers manager Joe) Torre, I beat you before and I can beat you again," Bonds told a roaring crowd.

And like all great entertainers, after aiming for and receiving cheap applause that rivaled the work of a WWE wrestler, the left-handed slugger didn't stop before delivering a nice little pull quote.

"I haven't retired. Thank you."

Really? Bonds hasn't retired? That's funny, because at last check the seven-time MVP and owner of 762 career home runs isn't on anyone's active roster.

Many question why that is, yet it is easy to see why Bonds is without a team. See, like any bad employee, baseball has wiped its hands clean of Bonds. Baseball is sick of the lies, the self-pity and the bad attitude that Bonds has displayed over the twilight of his career.

For example, with his speech, Bonds was able to turn something that wasn't entirely about himself into a platform for his bid for a job. In the process, he overshadowed the celebration of many San Francisco greats, his godfather included.

Bonds has something in common with fictional Sopranos character "Feech" La Manna. Both stepped on too many toes and both were forced into early retirement. Feech, played by Robert Loggia, got an easier hint, as he was set up and hauled off to prison for violating his payroll.

Bonds, meanwhile, has gotten a few subtle hints himself, with the biggest one being the lack of an acceptable contract offer.

Still, the 14-time All-Star refuses to acknowledge that he has no one to blame but himself for the lack of interest in his services. He even went as far as asking the Players Association in early May to consider filing a grievance because of the lack of offers.

This, from the same Bonds that pulled himself out of the MLB Players Association's licensing agreement prior to the 2004 season so that he could market himself during his upcoming run for the all-time home run crown. Not surprisingly, he was the first union player ever to not sign the agreement.

Even at 44 years of age, there is probably little doubt that Bonds can still hit in the major leagues, but obviously most teams believe he is not worth the circus that will undoubtedly follow him wherever he goes.

After all, who would want to sign a player who is the poster boy for baseball's current steroids era and was indicted on charges of lying to a grand jury with a pending trial?

It is easy, and also fair, to subscribe to the argument that Bonds shouldn't be held off rosters because of his (key word here) alleged steroid use in a country that believes in innocence before proven guilt. But Bonds is at fault for more than that. He is guilty of being selfish, a bad teammate and a distraction. All good reasons not to sign any slugger to a deal.

As the season gets deeper into August, it gets tougher to imagine Bonds landing on a roster for the stretch run. Even a career .298 hitter needs some time to get back in the swing of things and for whatever reason you pick, the interest in Bonds just isn't there.

Whether he knew it or not, Bonds almost seemed to be begging for a job this past weekend when he was reminding us all that he is still out there, not yet retired. A sad state for someone who should be remembered as one of the greatest of all time.

That isn't likely to happen, however. Bonds will always be remembered just as much for the alleged steroid use, the lying, the bitterness and the woe-is-me attitude as for the home runs and the fear he used to put into opposing pitchers.

Bonds isn't blacklisted. He just isn't worth the hassle anymore.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Michael Rushton at
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