Barry Bonds was introduced to the 36,911 fans at Marlins Park and was met with resounding cheers before the Miami Marlins 2016 MLB opener on Tuesday night.
The team's new hitting coach has officially matriculated back into the game that had labeled him a cheater and was his main adversary for the past decade, before his 2011 obstruction-of-justice conviction concerning his 2003 testimony on PEDs was overturned by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in April.
That small piece of vindication put an official end to the Bonds PED saga, opening the door for his re-entry into baseball. He's back with the boys, where he belongs.
Keeping in tune with the South Beach swing, the Marlins have decided that if they aren’t ready to win games, they will at least have the hottest name-brand coaches in the business and enough story lines to make it through another miserable season.
(Photo Credit: USA Today))
One thing you know about Bonds and new Marlins manager Don Mattingly is that they aren't going to go out without a fuss. Mattingly, a former Yankees legend and Dodgers skipper, couldn't get it done in LA. Too many high-priced prima donnas. To put it simply, the team lacked chemistry.
Mattingly took the hit, but he did nothing to disprove the notion that he's a top MLB skipper and handled the Hollywood lights and robust personalities well for a guy who'd never managed before.
The Marlins seized an awesome opportunity to bring in some high-powered names in hopes that their regal presence and baseball knowledge will turn the franchise around. When you think of "Donny Baseball" you envision Yankees pinstripes, the game's best hitter at his peak and a tenacious gold glove wizard at first base. All-time home run king Bonds is a name synonymous with majestic homers, incomparable dominance at the plate and controversy.
The sellout crowd was obviously feeling the new additions to Miami’s leadership clique. Miami doesn’t usually pack the house like that for baseball games. The franchise has been one of baseball's most anemic. They haven't won 90 games since winning the World Series in 2003. The franchise hasn't had a winning record since 2009 and has taken the torch from Pittsburgh as baseball's Saigon.
The debut of Miami's hot-shot head masters was almost a success as they recovered from a 5-0 deficit to lose 8-7 in 11 innings. It did symbolize a fighting spirit that has been absent in a squad that hasn't been remotely competitive in that last five years.
It has been a long and often demeaning road, but when Bonds ran onto the field after being introduced on Tuesday night, fans gave him the ovation befitting a home run king who has unbelievably humbled himself following the PED whirlwind of the last 15 years that took him from mythical seven-time MVP and the guy who broke Hank Aaron’s coveted record, to a vilified, loathed cheater who will forever be considered the face of the PED era.
Last August, I did a story for Bleacher Report and interviewed younger players on the Mets and Cardinals to see how the new generation felt about Barry Bonds and to what extent they would welcome the disgraced baseball titan back into the game in some capacity.
At the time, Bonds had done a few cameos as a guest hitting instructor for the San Francisco Giants and received rave reviews. This excerpt summarizes the overall feedback I received from some of the young stars I spoke to:
"Now that the public outcry about steroids has subsided, some of baseball's fallen legends (Bonds included) are reintroducing themselves to a younger generation and getting back into the game in some capacity. So far, nobody's objecting to it—regardless of their parents' past or present feelings about the entire PED drama.
Ballers like Jon Jay and Matt Adams of the St. Louis Cardinals and Lucas Duda and John Mayberry Jr. of the New York Mets were all high school standouts with big league dreams when Bonds was accumulating homers as fast as he was enemies. Now they are the tastemakers and veterans of the same league Bonds once dominated. They were in awe of Bonds as baseball babies, and the respect for his prowess remains intact..."
A consensus opinion among all players interviewed was that regardless of his PED soiled past, Bonds’ hitting acumen was incomparable and his intelligence would really benefit any young hitter who had the opportunity to learn from the ball blaster on an everyday basis.
He seemed very much in his element on Tuesday night and this could be the start of something special.
The Marlins already have a couple of nasty bats in NL batting champ Dee Gordon and $325 million man Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton has returned from a broken hand that caused him to miss the second half of last season and he's back on his BS, launching one of his patented moonshots on Tuesday night off a Justin Verlander meatball.
Stanton already has ridiculous power. It’s almost scary to see what kind of all-around hitter he will become with Barry Bonds there to advise him and guide his ascension to the most feared hitter in the league.
It is rare that a hitting coach makes that significant an impact in the performance of the hitters. In Bonds’ case, however, his mere presence adds a swag to the Marlins’ bat attack. NY Mets announcer Ron Darling once told me that he can’t see Bonds as a hitting coach because baseball’s all-time homer king has better things to do than be some team’s hitting coach.
Darling was spot on about Bonds’ greatness, but he underestimated Bonds’ pure love for the game. As egotistical, edgy and competitive Bonds was as a player, he has exhibited the patience, poise and supportive approach that a coach should possess.
Darling felt Bonds should be working for baseball in a high executive position or in an ambassador capacity getting his just due as the most dominant hitter of his generation. He didn’t see how it could work or why Bonds would even want to do it.
That’s how special it is for the Marlins to have the black Babe Ruth lugging bats, working closely with players and being the voice of reason when it comes to hitting. Setting the philosophy for a young, talented team that is looking to finish the season with a winning record
(Photo Credit: zimbio.com)
Regardless of how the season turns out, Miami will be doing it in style and their celebrity coaching staff guarantees that something interesting related to Miami Marlins baseball will keep the team in the headlines.