Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds, with more than 1,400 home runs between them and two of the biggest figures when it comes to baseball's performance-enhancing drugs era, are taking quite different approaches to rehabilitating their public images in the wake of scandal.
A-Rod, trying to come back with the Yankees after serving a PED-related suspension in 2014, is on a public apology tour. The latest stop Tuesday was saying sorry to fans with a handwritten letter that reads, in part: "I take full responsibility for the mistakes that led to my suspension for the 2014 season. … I accept the fact that many of you will not believe my apology or anything that I say at this point."
It made me wonder how Bonds reacted in the wake of the BALCO scandal and leaked grand jury testimony that implicated him in wrongdoing. That led to a simple Google search of "Barry Bonds apology," which led not so much to an apology but an interesting study in contrast from a news conference with Bonds almost exactly 10 years ago (Feb. 22, 2005). Here's a back-and-forth with a reporter, as transcribed by MLB.com:
Q: Jason Giambi felt the need to make an apology. Is there anything that you need to apologize for?
BARRY BONDS: What did I do?
Q: Well, he talked about the grand jury testimony.
BARRY BONDS: Yeah, but what did I do? I'm just sorry that we're even going through all this rerun stuff. … We want to go out and do our job. But what's your purpose and what you're doing it for, rewriting it, writing it over and over and over and over again, what's your reasoning? What are you going to apologize for when you're wrong?"
Bonds, who had won four consecutive NL MVP awards, missed most of the 2005 season. But he came back strong in 2006 and 2007, breaking Hank Aaron's record by finishing with 762 home runs.
The difference in the two cases is that Bonds never was suspended by MLB, and his conviction for obstruction of justice still is weaving its way through the appeals courts. So Bonds could maintain defiance while A-Rod feels the need for repentance.
Still, it also feels like something larger is at play: a legacy. Bonds has remained a villain, not even gaining half the votes needed for enshrinement in Cooperstown in three tries.
Rodriguez has been a villain for much of his career. What a strange scene it would be if his final act included redemption with fans.