When new Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly chose Barry Bonds as his batting coach, it was considered a bold move. Bonds, after all, is simultaneously baseball’s all-time home run champion, holding both the single season and career records, and its biggest cheat, having achieved both records while being secretly, illegally and unethically assisted by steroids. In addition to knowing how to cheat, Bonds undeniably knows how to hit (he was a great hitter before he decided to mutate himself), so this was a chance at redemption for Barry, as well as an opportunity to soften some of the sports media antipathy toward his conduct and character which has so far kept him out of the MLB Hall of Fame.
Asked this week how Barry Bonds was doing as batting coach, Mattingly replied,
“Him getting used to the coaching part of it is a work in progress from a standpoint of the amount of time and the preparation. You see [assistant hitting coach Frankie Menichino] still doing a lot of the prep work. Barry is still getting into the routine of the ugly side of coaching — being here at 1, and studying video, and studying on the plane and you don’t get a chance to watch movies, and things like that. It just depends how good you want to be as a coach. If you want to be a really good coach, you’ve got to do the work.”
Translation: “So far, Barry’s been lazy and isn’t doing his job. His assistant is doing it for him. The job requires a lot of hard, tedious work, and Barry hasn’t shown that he’s willing to do it. At this point, he not a good coach.”
Ethics foul. Mattingly was a fool to hire Bonds, and MLB is wrong to let this sport-wide ethics corrupter set foot in a clubhouse. Bonds is a living, breathing advertisement for the proposition that cheating pays, and should not be trusted not to promote that proposition to young players. Having hired Bonds, however, Mattingly still is obligated to treat him fairly and professionally.
It is not fair and professional to make a negative job review public by communicating it to the news media. Mattingly gave a critique of Bonds’ performance that should have passed from him to Bonds, and only from him to Bonds, in private. Attacking Bonds—and it was an attack, if a passive aggressive one—in the press is unfair, irresponsible, disrespectful, a betrayal of trust, and also cowardly.
Mattingly’s job is called “manager,” and this is atrocious, unethical management. He owes Bonds an apology, and if I were Marlins management, I would be thinking very hard about whether Don Mattingly is qualified for his job.