"I picked a career that only lasted half my life"

All over baseball, Bonds' PED contemporaries have found forgiveness, often the kind that comes with employment opportunities. Matt Williams, cited in the Mitchell Report six years ago, just became the manager of the Washington Nationals. Jason Giambi interviewed for the Rockies' job last year. Mark McGwire, the first man to leave the fingerprints of synthetic hormones on a home-run record, became the hitting coach in St. Louis, then in L.A.

Bonds has made it clear that he, too, wants back into baseball as an instructor or adviser, just as he had made it clear that he did not want to retire in 2007, when the Giants let him go. No team has responded, then or now. "What do I do now?" the 49-year-old said plaintively in an MLB.com interview early this year. "I picked a career that only lasted half my life."

When a federal jury found Bonds guilty of obstruction of justice two and a half years ago, but failed to reach a verdict on three meatier perjury counts, conventional wisdom declared the prosecution a bust. The same wisdom had said before the trial that the government could never get a guilty verdict against Bonds in San Francisco, so the interpretation was more self-serving than accurate.

For Bonds and his Murderers' Row of lawyers, however, even that one felony conviction was an absolute defeat. It immediately cut Bonds off from hunting, his pre-cycling passion, and it may forever prevent him from owning a gun. It enables a freeze-out from baseball that has not applied to others who committed the same basic offense against the game. He's a convicted felon; they're not. It nourishes the people who despised Bonds long before he followed McGwire's lead.

Read More | "The King in Limbo" | Gwen Knapp | Sports on Earth