SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — For the first time in more than a decade, Barry Bonds is in the clear.
His conviction overturned on appeal, baseball's home run king is no longer a felon. Yet his reputation might have been forever tarnished and the Hall of Fame's doors could remain shut. Despite a decision that he didn't break any laws, many fans — and even some baseball peers — concluded the ex-San Francisco star cheated by using performance-enhancing drugs.
Fellow Bay Area product Jimmy Rollins, now with the rival Dodgers, doubts Bonds will ever completely repair his image. Fair or not.
"Mud in water. No matter how clean it is, it will still be remembered as muddy water," the Los Angeles shortstop said Wednesday at Bonds' former AT&T Park home. "Presumed guilty, you're always going to be guilty regardless of a ruling. That's just the way it is, that's the way society is. That's the world we live in. He would definitely rather be remembered as one of the greatest ballplayers that ever played, because that's what he was."
Bonds' obstruction of justice conviction was thrown out Wednesday by a federal court of appeals, but that doesn't necessarily mean much when it comes to his legacy and the allegations of steroid use that will always surround his every accolade and accomplishment.
That doesn't mean new Commissioner Rob Manfred wants Bonds to stay away.
"I think that it's important for former players, quality former players, to be engaged with the game," Manfred said Thursday. "People develop hero worship for great players like Barry and I think in terms of keeping fans engaged, it's important to have those players around."
For 15 seasons, former Triple-A left-hander John Yandle threw Bonds' batting practice sessions, from the time he joined the Giants in 1993 through his record-setting final season of 2007. Bonds broke Hank Aaron's all-time home run record on Aug. 7, 2007, with No. 756 and went on to finish with 762.
"It's good to have this chapter behind and to have him cleared of all charges, so hopefully people can remember him for the baseball player that he was and not all these other things that surrounded his persona," Yandle said. "All I can say is he gave us a lot of stand-up-from-our-sofa, yelling-at-the-top-of-our-lung moments during his years here. That's what I certainly remember and appreciate all the time I was able to spend with him throwing."
Yandle communicated with the 50-year-old Bonds by text message on Wednesday following the ruling, "and I think he's relieved, too, he's got to be relieved that it's all over with and hopefully this is where it ends and taxpayers' money can be used for better purposes now."
In his third year on the Hall of Fame ballot, Bonds received 202 votes for 36.8 percent from the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Rollins, for one, counts him as a Hall of Famer.
"Through and through," Rollins said. "But the Hall of Fame is obviously more than just numbers. You can't debate his numbers. There's nothing to debate."
"Yes, for what he did for the game of baseball, I'd say so," said former Giants teammate Tim Lincecum, the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner whose first season was Bonds' last. "It'd be kind of hard to argue it. When you're found innocent, it's hard to argue with that either. ... It's probably a load off his shoulders."
The seven-time NL MVP worked with the Giants in spring training in 2014 and has been more of a regular at AT&T Park, something that could continue — especially now.
What's next for Bonds, nowadays an avid cyclist, in baseball and beyond is unclear.
His power stroke remains plenty fresh.
"Just seeing Barry play, you saw how good he was," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Look at the talent, incredible player."
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.