According to John Shea of SFGate.com and several other published reports, Alex Rodriguez has been working out with baseball's other great super-villain of the 21st century, all time home run leader and non-Hall-of-Famer Barry Bonds. Bonds - not quite the pariah among players that he is for the media - has notably mentored Dexter Fowler and Michael Morse in the past year along with several other San Francisco Giants. Fowler set career bests in OBP and wRC+ this year and Morse rebounded from a down 2013 to help Bonds' former team win a World Series crown. Now it's A-Rod who Bonds has taken under his dastardly wing. The two hit the cages together at their secret lair of evil (the Future Prospects facility in San Rafael, CA), a tomb of darkness hidden deep in an ominous and menacing mountainside (never been to San Rafael, but I'm sure this is an accurate depiction).
Listening to talk radio yesterday, the usual suspects had the usual opinions on the pairing of the two notorious MLB scofflaws. If A-Rod wants to prove he's clean this isn't how to do it. A-Rod looks bad again. Michael Kay called it a "bad optic" and the New York Post corned it up with "This can't be a Barry good idea." BALCO joke here. Biogenesis reference there. The vultures are out in force and this story is a rotting carcass with easy pickings for all.
While Bonds is arguably the greatest hitter to ever live, there probably isn't much he can teach a 39-year-old A-Rod about putting bat on ball that he doesn't already know. He's not going to help Alex channel 2002 or 2007 or any other great year of his before 2011. But no Yankee fan should be upset about A-Rod turning to Bonds because he's the perfect person for him to talk to. Both of them enjoyed huge swaths of success early in their careers. Bonds won three MVP's before his 30th birthday and A-Rod was the youngest player to hit 300, 400 and 500 home runs. Neither player was able to win the hearts and minds of the baseball viewing public and quickly fell into the "love to hate" category for many fans. Both were unfairly slapped with "choker" labels when they were unable to replicate their superhuman regular season numbers in the playoffs. Both ultimately succumbed to PED temptation and managed to get themselves pegged as the faces of the steroid era. If there's anyone alive who can relate to the trials and tribulations of being Alex Rodriguez, it's Barry Bonds.
What A-Rod can learn from Bonds falls into those areas where their similarities end. Unlike A-Rod over the past few years, Bonds managed to stay remarkably healthy in his late 30's and early 40's. From 36-43, he played in 125 or more games in seven of eight seasons. He may, of course, have had some chemical assistance in that endeavor, but we've seen other players with PED connections pretty much snap in half near the ends of their careers. Bonds got accused of "dogging it" but that's something A-Rod, who's always gone full throttle all the time, might benefit from. Maybe Bonds can impart that he shouldn't want to play third base at this stage and that he should look at DH duty and days off as an opportunity, not an insult. If the National League had a DH spot, Bonds might still be playing.
Bonds has always seemed to have a knack for not caring what anyone thinks of him, while A-Rod is burdened with a need to be liked that's often set him back. From his jealousy-fueled rants against Derek Jeter in 2001, to his suggestion that he was more heavily criticized than Mike Mussina and Jason Giambi because of his race in 2006 to his "man from Milwaukee" interview with Mike Francesa last year, A-Rod's always felt the urge to plead his own case - and it's never worked. Perhaps Bonds can convince him that all that's over now. A-Rod's not getting a Jeter-style retirement tour in three years and the Hall of Fame's a long shot. He can't prove to everyone he's clean and he can't win most fans back because he never had them. Bonds never let the haters get to him, at least not publicly. He was defiant to the very end. That's the same approach A-Rod should take when he gets back on a big league field this spring and for whatever time he has left.