Greg Anderson, as usual, is taking the hit for the boss, Barry Bonds
Bonds and Anderson are friends dating back to their youth outside San Francisco
Anderson, Bonds' former trainer, has served more than a year in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating perjury accusations against Bonds
There is no surprise here.
Oh, maybe from the general public; from far-away newspaper columnists and baseball fans sitting before their televisions, dumbfounded by such misplaced loyalty. But for those who were around Barry Bonds and Greg Anderson in San Francisco back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the athlete-trainer relationship makes perfect sense.
The athlete calls the shots.
The trainer listens.
That's how it worked with Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee; how it worked with Marion Jones and Trevor Graham; how it worked (and continues to work) with nearly every other athlete-trainer duo. There is no Kid 'n Play-esque dynamic in the world of sports, where two people team up as 50/50 equals (and go on to make three albums, three movies and a Saturday morning cartoon). A trainer might urge his client to take performance-enhancing drugs, might even hold them out in his palm, alongside a tall glass of water and promises of eternal greatness. Come day's end, however, it's the superstar who makes the final call.
It's the superstar who's the boss.
So it goes even now, nearly 1 1/2 years since Bonds' final swing as a major league baseball player. At age 45, with no endorsements, no job, no screaming fans and no hope of a comeback, one would think Bonds -- forever baseball's most prickly participant, but far from a dumb man -- has had time for a personal and spiritual metamorphosis. It has happened to most retired jocks over the decades ... the painful-yet-important transition from me-first existence as "the Man" to life as a [fill in the blank with restaurant owner, teacher, car dealer, window washer, broadcaster, coach, etc]. As Pat Jordan writes at the end of his classic baseball memoir, A False Spring, "Suddenly, it occurred to me, with a chill, that I had no career. What would I be without baseball? I could think of nothing."
Barry Bonds, sadly, is no Pat Jordan. Four years ago, while researching the Giants slugger for a biography, Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero, I interviewed 524 people, ranging from Bonds' childhood friends and Cub Scout troop cohorts to his high school, college and professional teammates. In the aftermath of the book's release I was asked on more than one occasion whether I had tried to dig up dirt, and my answer was always the same: "Dirt? I just wanted someone to say something nice about the man."
Indeed, over the course of two years of reporting, mostly all of what I heard was one disheartening story after another. Barry the arrogant kid. Barry being voted off of Arizona State's roster for his stubborn refusal to treat people with base decency. Barry declining to advise teammates, should they one day turn into opponents. Barry cursing out some baseball employees asking his help in raising money for accident victims. Barry berating his son and cheating on his wife.
To this day, those who know Bonds describe him with the same harsh terminology as his teammates did back during the glorious times. Selfish, arrogant, rude, condescending, prickly and, in the purest of ways, just plain mean. As Pete Diana, the Pittsburgh Pirates' former team photographer once told me, "Personally, I hope Barry dies."
"Uh, what?" I said.
"I mean it," Diana responded. "I want Barry to die. He's that horrible."
Yet of all Bonds' transgressions through the years, nothing -- absolutely nothing -- compares to what he has done to Anderson. Chums dating back to their youth outside of San Francisco, Bonds and Anderson were inseparable during most of the Giants years. Whenever Bonds trained, Anderson was nearby. Whenever Anderson was receiving praise for his miraculous work, it was coming from the lips of Bonds. You saw one, you saw the other. Anderson ate with Bonds' family, rode in his car, slept at his house. Maybe it was merely an act, but Anderson even seemed to (gasp!) like the man.
Now, however, with the legal burner turned to EXTRA HOT, Bonds has treated Anderson as if he were a dying fish, alone on the dock and haplessly flailing. Anderson has already served more than a year of jail time for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating perjury accusations against Bonds, and on Friday he again refused to talk during Bonds' imminent trial and could again wind up behind bars. (In response to Anderson's refusal, prosecutors will appeal a key ruling, which could delay the trial for several months).
Were this a movie, some Hollywood film about loyalty and dedication and friendship, Anderson would be the hero -- a strong-willed toughie standing up for comrade (cue: John Williams score). In real life, though, I see only one thing: A poor schlub (Anderson) taking the fall for a bad man (Bonds).
"It's the classic case of a powerful person taking advantage of a person without any power whatsoever," says a former Giant who played with Bonds for many years. "The question here isn't whether Barry paid Anderson off not to talk, but how much money did he pay him. Think about it: Anderson's career as a trainer is done. Done. Over. Finished. Barry, though, still has millions in the bank. It's the only possible reason he's not talking."
Whether Anderson is going to jail for financial reasons or some sort of warped ode to Mother Teresa, Anderson is (and this is odd to say of a steroid dealer) a victim here. He is the one person who can guarantee -- for good or bad -- that Bonds receives a just hearing, and yet he somehow feels compelled to protect his client.
Well, here's some advice: Greg, I spent too much of my life researching Bonds, and I can absolutely, positively tell you that, were the tables turned, he would never do the same for you.
Send a comment to Jeff Pearlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.