Good to see Bonds back in game

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If Jhonny Peralta can sign a $53 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals after being suspended for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, there is no reason Barry Bonds should not be able to work with the San Francisco Giants this week as a roving instructor.

After all, Matt Williams, named in the Mitchell report, is managing the Washington Nationals. Mark McGwire, who admitted to steroid use, is the Los Angeles Dodgers' hitting coach. Jason Giambi, linked with Bonds to BALCO, is still playing for the Cleveland Indians and is a managerial hopeful. Andy Pettitte, an acknowledged user of HGH, was also welcomed back as a guest instructor with the Yankees this spring.

So if Bonds wants to work as a coach, he should be able to do so. Whatever PEDs he used were not against the rules during the vast majority of his career, unlike doctoring the baseball, which several Hall of Fame pitchers did even though that has been specifically prohibited for almost a century.

The more pressing question for Giants fans is whether Bonds can be effective as a coach, both this week and whatever follows down the line.

"Not everyone is suited for the job and I may not be either," Bonds said. "I don't know. I have seven days to find out if I am."

While several all-time great players have become successful coaches, many have also struggled in the role as they've had a hard time explaining how they were successful to players who are not as skilled as they were. As Yogi Berra once told a player about hitting, "Just watch me."

Bonds also was never known for being particularly helpful to teammates when he was a player. He says that was due to one simple reason: Players often change teams in baseball and he didn't want opponents to gain any edge.

"We don't work together all the time, sir. They can be traded. You're not going to know anything that I do when I'm playing. That's not how it works," Bonds said. "It was never personal. It was, 'Why am I going to tell you something when you might be on the Rockies or someone next year and you'll tell their pitchers?'

"This is a business. And I treated it like a business. That was the only reason. It was never to not socialize on that level with my teammates. It's just that it's a business and I saw a lot of players come and go."

Bonds was much more welcoming in his news conference Monday than he often was as a player. He said he's become a calmer person in his six years away from the game. He also said even if players are intimidated by his presence, he would break that barrier through one-on-one conversation. And he welcomed players to ask him anything about baseball (though hopefully not about PEDs).

"You didn't have to ask me to go pick Willie Mays' brain. I did not. I probably didn't get all the answers I wanted, but I did it," he said. "He helped a lot. My dad helped a ton. I have this philosophy: Two eyes are OK, but four eyes are better than two. So, if you have them, utilize them."

Bonds isn't sure where this week will lead, if it will lead to anything. He did say he does not want to become a manager.

"I think it's too hard to be a manager," he said. "What Bruce Bochy does is too hard, to be honest with you. You need a level of patience with that."

Unlike McGwire when he became the Cardinals' hitting coach, Bonds was unwilling to discuss any PED use, saying he addressed that issue in court and no further comment is necessary. It would be good if he came completely clean, but there is still time. Pete Rose didn't admit to betting on baseball until he had strenuously denied it for 15 years. Perhaps Bonds will be more honest and revealing as time passes, as well.

In the meantime, it's good to see Bonds back in the game. He was always viewed as a villain more for his personality than for whatever he did on or off the field. This move probably won't affect his chances of getting voted into the Hall of Fame -- McGwire's return to the game hasn't improved his chances -- but that really isn't the issue.

If Bonds is serious about this role, perhaps he can give back to the game. And that is far better than having the game's all-time home run king sitting at home as a pariah who hurts the game's image.