Barry Bonds managed to land his 2,559th walk in his professional career Friday, four years after last stepping foot in a batters box.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston sentenced the San Francisco Giants slugger to 30 days of house arrest, two years of probation, 250 hours of community service and $4,100 in fines and court costs after he was found guilty for obstruction of justice in August.
And Bonds doesn’t have to worry about spending his holidays trapped inside his two-acre Beverly Hills home as his sentence was stayed, pending an appeal that likely won’t be heard for at least a year.
WATCH: NBC Nightly News — Bonds gets probation, house arrest
That’s a far contrast from the 15 months behind bars that prosecutors wanted Bonds to serve.
During the 2003 Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) investigation, Bonds attempted to mislead the grand jury by purposely answering questions about steroids with rambling non sequiturs.
The government went after Bonds for eight years, and the end result is nothing more than a slap on the wrist for the man who will go down as the face of the steroids era in baseball.
Talk about a swing and a miss.
Bonds is the 11th person convicted in the ongoing steroids investigation and by far was the government’s biggest target. Unlike fellow baseball steroid abusers such as Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, Bonds not only lied while under oath, but he was also chasing the most prestigious record in the sport — Hank Aaron’s all-time home run mark of 755. He retired from baseball in 2007 with 762 home runs, a number that many baseball purists acknowledge with a hypothetical asterisk.
Next: Bonds’ redemption possible?
There’s still an opportunity for Bonds to redeem himself if he takes a page out of the McGwire playbook. “Big Mac” came clean in 2010, admitting that he used steroids throughout the ‘90s during the peak of his professional career with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Yes, he never lied while under oath to a grand jury, and doesn’t come close to having the reputation as a jerk that Bonds does, but McGwire was in complete denial while fans were noticing the growth in his home run numbers and bicep size.
By the time McGwire came clean, he had been out of the spotlight long enough for not only the fans to forgive him — but also his former team in the Cardinals. The reigning World Series champs hired McGwire in 2009 as their hitting coach.
While keeping a low profile over these past four years, Bonds has managed to accomplish some goodwill that has gone mostly unnoticed by the media. Most notably, the 47-year-old has been a vocal advocate of Bryan Stow, the Giants fan that was brutally beaten outside Dodger Stadium in March. Bonds agreed to pay for the college education of Stow’s two children and recently filmed a PSA to help with his cause.
However, Judge Illston noticed that goodwill, as she cited Bonds’ low-profile work for charitable causes as one of the reasons why he didn’t receive jail time.
“The thing that was striking to me was that most of that was done out of the public eye and privately,” the judge said Friday.
Coming clean could also assist in Bonds’ pursuit of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013. There’s a long list of players that have used steroids (McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez) that have no shot at Cooperstown as a result, but only Bonds had the Hall of Fame credentials before the cloud of suspicion followed him.
He was arguably the best player of the ‘90s, hitting at least 30-plus home runs in all but one season (1991) and won the National League MVP award three times. With a blinged out diamond cross earring dangling from his left ear and his short, compact swing, Bonds was the epitome of swag, long before the term became popular.
A first-ballot induction in Cooperstown is out of the question at this point. But considering that the Baseball Writers Association of America just unknowingly voted Ryan Braun, who reportedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, as their 2011 NL MVP, there’s a chance that the lines between cheaters and non-cheaters have become so blurred that Bonds will be voted in as a result.
Time heals everything — especially in sports.