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August 11, 2010

Joe's Blog

Carlos Delgado/Barry Bonds

by Joe Sheehan

In 2007, Barry Bonds hit .276/.480/.565 in 126 games, leading the NL in OBP for the sixth time in seven seasons. He hit a homer every 12.1 at-bats, was intentionally walked about once every 11 plate appearances -- in 29% of his plate appearances with runners in scoring position -- and played a below-average left field that was far from among the worst in the game.

In 2007, Carlos Delgado hit .258/.333/.448. It was his worst season since establishing himself in 1996. Delgado played in 139 games, two weeks' worth more than Bonds had played, was intentionally walked eight times and led the league in nothing.

In 2008, no one signed Barry Bonds, citing concerns about his durability, his defense and his impending perjury trial. All three of this concerns were easily mooted, given his performance in 2007 and the pace of the legal system. At least three teams, arguably as many as six, missed the postseason in 2008 for want of a credible left fielder or DH.

In 2008, Carlos Delgado bounced back to hit .271/.353/.518, most of that in the season's final four months after a terrible start. The Mets had little choice to retain him after the poor 2007 season -- he was owed $16 million in the last guaranteed season of a heavily-backloaded contract.

In 2009, no one signed Barry Bonds, now citing Bonds' advanced age and missed season as additional reasons to avoid him. The use of the missed season due to industry ignorance as justification for not signing him was noted by some, but most just allowed the matter to pass.

In 2009, the Mets picked up Carlos Delgado's $12 million club option at a marginal cost of $8 million over a $4 million buyout. Delgado hit well, .298/.393/.521, but played just 26 games before a hip injury forced him to the sidelines for the season.

In 2010, Barry Bonds' career is over, although the trumped-up perjury case that served as part of the reason for not signing him still hasn't reached trial (it is scheduled to next spring; coincidentally, so is my triathlon).

In 2010, the Boston Red Sox signed Carlos Delgado, with one good, healthy season in the last four, and possibly one good, healthy hip in the last two, to a minor-league contract that could be worth up to $3 million if he plays well for the team down the stretch. Delgado is a DH, able to stand around at first base but not provide much the way of defensive value.

I spend a lot of time in the book on the Bonds case, as it was arguably the biggest story of the decade, intertwined with the ongoing controversies involving not so much performance-enhancing drugs as the media, executive and Congressional behavior they inspired. The industry's collective pass on Bonds in 2007 remains, in my eyes, a more shameful rejection of competitive principles than anything Bonds or his peers supposedly did. And every time a player who doesn't have the ability or projected value that Bonds did in the winter of 2007-08 gets signed, gets an NRI or gets slotted into a lineup only to kill it, I get angry.

I liked watching Barry Bonds. I liked seeing what he did to baseball games, how he distorted them, forcing managers to simply give up more often than they did with any other player in baseball history. I liked the mechanics of Bonds' swing and the way he knew the strike zone. I liked the fact that he was 21 for his last 22 steal attempts, despite being so "slow" that no one wanted him to play baseball for them. Frankly, I liked his arrogance, his recognition of the parasitic nature of the reporter/player relationship and his open rejection of it.

I was cheated. Not by Bonds and whatever he may or may not have done, but by a baseball industry so cowed by the commissioner and the media and an issue they were complicit in that they let a great player sit idly by while their teams burned outs.
 

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

92 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

HankScorpio

"trumped-up perjury case"?

Seriously?

Perhaps a review of the definition of "perjury" might be appropriate.

Turns out that when you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth in a court of law, you need to tell the truth.

Bonds didn't. Arguing otherwise undermines the credibility of everything written in this post.

Aug 11, 2010 07:48 AM
rating: -1
 
Nowhereman

That's a bit over-dramatic, don't you think? I believe his point was that teams trumped up the idea that Bonds was going to trial and that would be a distraction to the team, when everyone knew that in reality it would take several years to go to court (if it would at all). It was just an excuse they trumped up to cover for the fact that all MLB teams had agreed amongst themselves to not sign Bonds. I'm not sure if this would technically be collusion since the benefit of coordination is not clear, but it clearly violates the spirit of competition. That said, I didn't really care that it happened because Bonds was a d-bag.

Aug 11, 2010 08:06 AM
rating: 3
 
HankScorpio

If he was referring to the teams using it as a BS reason to not sign with him, then yeah. That makes complete sense, and I would agree with that. It just doesn't read that way. At least to me.

At the end of the day, your last point is what really matters here. Bonds was/is a Class A d-bag who treated everyone like crap: his employer, his fans, reporters, the league. Everyone. He thought rules didn't apply to him, and it manifested itself in everything he did, from the way he treated people to what he put in his body.

That said, I couldn't care less what he put in his body. And if you look at how other high-profile PED users (or suspected users) have been treated (Pettitte, Ortiz, Manny, A-Rod, etc.), it seems MLB doesn't really care either. They've all paid a PR price, but then been accepted back into the game. Bonds is the only one that was treated differently. (And Clemens, but he's really just Bonds in cowboy boots with a underage girl on his arm.)

Bonds wasn't forced out of the game because he took PEDs. He was forced out of the game because he was such an unbelievable d-bag that everyone in baseball wanted him gone, regardless of whether he could help their team statistically. At the end of the day, baseball is a business, and baseball made the business decision that they didn't want Bonds any more. I've got not problem with that, as he dug his own grave.

Aug 11, 2010 10:04 AM
rating: 1
 
SC

He was a d-bag (according to you, with no firsthand knowledge), to everyone except the millions of Giants' fans who were made ecstatic time and time and time and time and time again by his success on the field. Did he piss some people off? Sure, but I'd bet that on the whole Bonds created more joy among his fans than he did sorrow among those who were put off by his demeanor.

Aug 11, 2010 11:37 AM
rating: 2
 
WaldoInSC

I'm confused: are we unable to write the word douche or dirt? Or was Bonds an a-bag who got demoted three rungs?

Aug 11, 2010 19:36 PM
rating: 0
 
Nowhereman

I'm just trying to be moderately polite by not typing the whole word =)

Aug 11, 2010 22:08 PM
rating: -1
 
mikebuetow

I wonder if you are too dismissive of the media effect in this case, Joe. Clearly, teams from time to time decide even great players aren't worth the headache: Witness the Red Sox trade of Manny Ramirez a couple years ago. "Cowed" is an aggressive and perhaps not particularly accurate way to frame the issue. "Fed up with" was the problem in Manny's case. The corollary for Bonds might be "not worth the headache" or "worn out his welcome."

Aug 11, 2010 07:53 AM
rating: 3
 
Tynan

The difference with the trade of Manny Ramirez being that the Red Sox got something (Jason Bay, w/ control for the next season) in return.

Aug 12, 2010 07:27 AM
rating: 0
 
bheikoop

And at an extremely cheaper price!!!

Sep 06, 2010 12:02 PM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

I hear you, Joe, but it seems most fans do not like Barry Bonds - and I respect baseball teams for taking to heart what their fans want. I remember being very upset a decade ago when Detroit (run by Randy Smith) traded for Juan Gonzalez. It wasn't so much the value exchanged that bothered me, it was that I was now expected to cheer for a player I didn't like.

Aug 11, 2010 07:56 AM
rating: -3
 
flirgendorf

I would argue that even if most fans dislike Bonds, that they want to watch him play. They may especially like to watch him play for their team. The Giants drew much better on the road with him than without him.
2003: 3rd in % of seats filled in road games
2004: 3rd
2005: 14th (Bonds missed the season)
2006: 8th
2007: 5th
2008: t19th
2009: 10th

Data from espn.com. Note that there was a significant drop leaguewide in 2009- the Giants seats filled % in 2009 would have ranked 17th in 2008. I think the dropoff in 2005 and 2008 shows pretty clearly the amount of fan interest in watching Bonds play.

Aug 11, 2010 08:18 AM
rating: 11
 
awayish

I don't respect the teams for reacting to fans' distaste for bonds, because that distaste is unfounded.

Aug 11, 2010 08:01 AM
rating: 2
 
Nowhereman

It is probably out of line with what he really deserves, given that fans tolerate other players who are every bit as much of a jerk, but it's not like the guy was Mr. Friendly. I don't know that I'd say it's unfounded =).

Aug 11, 2010 08:08 AM
rating: 1
 
awayish

should i simply say, irrationally biased or something? j

Aug 11, 2010 09:01 AM
rating: 1
 
Nowhereman

No, I'm not biased against the guy. I don't hate him. I'm largely indifferent. I mentioned above that I didn't care that he was blacklisted because he was a jerk. I don't have any desire to see him publicly stoned, but if he gets screwed I don't really care.

Regarding public perception of him -- a lot of his teammates had issues with him. I heard he cheated on his wife. He cheated at the game. It's not as if there's no rational basis for labeling him a bad person.

Aug 11, 2010 16:42 PM
rating: 1
 
Nowhereman

I should clarify -- when I said "I mentioned above" I meant in a reply to a post above yours, not in my response to your post.

Aug 11, 2010 16:45 PM
rating: 0
 
awayish

1. i am not talking about you, just the fans. more precisely, a certain segment of the fans with bias against bonds over and above what is usually accorded. all the personality factors etc that you cite cannot explain the supposed degree of negativity bonds receives relative to peers who also have similar personality flaws.

2. when i said i don't respect a team, i am not hatin on teams. i just do not give teams positive respect for playing along with a misguided sentiment amongst its customers.

3. my interest in the bonds business is not a sports interest. no matter what the media or some fans say about bonds, my opinion of him as a player will not change.

however, i care about fans reactions just like i care about say how people react to muslims in their neighborhood or something like that. i don't agree with the condemnation and such because humans are behind the condemnations and they are not being smart/correct/fair etc etc.

4. saying bonds cheated at the game seems to view him as a "baseball player." bonds however would say he was just improving his career, doing what he does but doing it better with some technology. i find any sort of judgmental attitude about "cheating the hallowed game" to be taking the fans perspective too seriously.

5. your response is largely reasonable. i just thought you misunderstood my points.

Aug 11, 2010 17:35 PM
rating: 2
 
Nowhereman

Oh, gotcha. I don't disagree with anything you've said. I don't get particularly ruffled about "cheating the game" the way some do, but some people get super worked up over it, so I could see why they might hate Bonds more than, say, [Ok, it's late and I can't think of a specific example, but insert player with long history of upsetting people but not PED use here, haha]

Aug 11, 2010 22:07 PM
rating: 0
 
flirgendorf

Joe,
thank you for the article. I certainly couldn't have said it better myself.

Hank- I don't know much about lawyering, but I remember reading that when federal charges are brought that they have a high likelihood of conviction. Given the length between the charges and the trial it would seem that there was political pressure to bring charges even though they don't have much of a case. Just my guess and I could obviously be wrong, but if they have a strong case why are they taking so long?

Mike- Manny was making ~$20 million, and other teams were willing to give up prospects to pay him that amount. Bonds offered to work for the minimum. TO was a much worse teammate, IMO, and cooperation is significantly more important in football than baseball, so character/compatability concerns are more relevant. Nevertheless, he did not have a hard time finding employment when he lowered his asking price. Some teams are turned off by the character issues. However, Bonds didn't need the entire league to agree he was worth the risk, he only needed to find one team.

Aug 11, 2010 08:07 AM
rating: 12
 
collins

I for one would have prefered Bonds to Gutierrez or Hafner or Trot Nixon for the Indians in 2007...

Aug 11, 2010 08:07 AM
rating: 2
 
collins

of course he was still playing for someone else. i'm an idiot...

Aug 11, 2010 08:08 AM
rating: 2
 
antoine6

Bonds was never considered a great teammate, and the intense amount of media distraction that accompanied him simply might have been not worth the benefit of his bat in the lineup.

I know you obviously don't believe in these things, but a lot of teams (including smart ones) do. Whether these things matter or not (or, more accurately, how much they matter, because they must somewhat) is something which hasn't been precisely proven. But it seems like there's a lot of teams that would have had huge incentives to add a bat like Bonds. And none of them did, despite, again, some of them being very smart and forward-looking teams. That tells me something.

Aug 11, 2010 08:11 AM
rating: 0
 
bbienk01

I don't really understand where these claims that Bonds was never considered a great teammate come from. I'm not trying to single you out here, its just a sentiment I've seen often but never seen supported by anything. It seems to be the case that opposing fans and members of the media disliked Bonds, and somehow thus believe that his teammates must have disliked him, too. But I don't see how its relevant whether he was "considered" a good teammate by anyone other than those he actually played with.

So far as I can tell, Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds did not like playing with each other. Jeff Kent also had well-publicized incidents with Milton Bradley (ok no huge surprise there) and James Loney. Bonds had no problems with anyone else.

And, while of course it was rarely covered outside of the local sports media (didn't fit the Bonds storyline), teammate after teammate talked up how great a teammate he was, advice he'd give them on their swing or on another pitcher, etc.

Aug 13, 2010 16:58 PM
rating: 2
 
drawbb

I've heard many more anecdotal stories within the industry about how a certain Yankee player is a bad teammate and not well-liked by colleagues for being a phony than I have about Bonds, yet the Yankee player will be employed forever.

Aug 15, 2010 06:37 AM
rating: 1
 
antoine6

Also, the entire article reeks of being written by a Bonds' apologist, instead of the objective analysis you claim to appreciate and want teams to employ. From the dismissal of Delgado's 2008 season--"after a terrible start", despite your constant insistence other places that we look just at final numbers and pay no attention to when they were compiled-- to your claim of a "trumped-up perjury charge" without having any real knowledge of the case or of the legal issues (you certainly don't present any evidence as to why it's "trumped up").

Aug 11, 2010 08:18 AM
rating: -3
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

You're reading into the Delgado line. It was a description, not a judgment.

Aug 11, 2010 08:34 AM
 
antoine6

Fair enough. The tone comes across as though it's judgmental, not descriptive. At least to me. But point taken.

Aug 11, 2010 11:00 AM
rating: -3
 
gluckschmerz

The last season the Pirates played winning baseball: 1992

The last season Bonds played for the Pirates: 1992

The last 30 HR hitter produced by the Pirates system: Barry Bonds (1992: 34 HRs, 39 SBs, 127 BBs, 1.080 OPS)

And Bonds was HATED in this town. Still is...

Aug 11, 2010 08:27 AM
rating: 0
 
Wyomissing

That's not true. Jeff King hit 30 in 1996.

Sep 03, 2010 21:20 PM
rating: 0
 
Richie

Joe really, really likes Barry Bonds. As he 'fesses up to in his second last paragraph, BECAUSE of the way he treats other human beings. In part, anyway.

Given Joe's long years here, why is this news to anyone??

Aug 11, 2010 08:31 AM
rating: 1
 
gluckschmerz

Amen.

Aug 11, 2010 13:09 PM
rating: 0
 
Matt

I think Joe wrote specifically about how he treats _reporters_.

Aug 12, 2010 11:38 AM
rating: 3
 
John Carter

Sure, most fans still wanted to see Bonds - to boo him. Generally only Giants fans cheered him. He had been with them so long, he was their beloved bad guy.

Aug 11, 2010 08:32 AM
rating: -2
 
flirgendorf

I think a more likely explanation is that Giant's fans were willing to overlook his faults because he was producing runs/wins for their team.

Aug 11, 2010 08:36 AM
rating: 1
 
bbienk01

Thanks for the dismissal of Giants fans. Maybe you should ask one of us why we continued to support Bonds instead?

My two cents: most of us Giants fans were initially upset that Bonds had cheated, but the way he was singled out made us much angrier at those using him as scapegoat for an entire era of baseball or for cheap political points (see Justice Department). Plus, yeah, he had and continued to play great for us.

The federal government has already spent more than $50 million of our tax dollars prosecuting Bonds for lying under oath about something he did to perform better in a game. Most of the case has already been thrown out, and an acquittal is likely (the prosecutor was so incompetent that he failed to pin Bonds down, so he never directly stated that he did not use steroids, making a perjury conviction almost impossible).

If that waste of OUR money just so we can pretend the game is now being played cleanly doesn't make you sick, what would?

Aug 13, 2010 17:07 PM
rating: 7
 
gaborde

This isn't entirely true, at least from the few times I saw him in Florida.

Aug 22, 2010 15:19 PM
rating: 0
 
goraffe

Could not agree more.

Aug 11, 2010 08:36 AM
rating: 2
 
Patrick Ferrington

Are you reading BP? This is what I miss. Not so much the topic or even if I agree with it. This is a columist not a scientist or reporter.

He has firm opinions, sometimes agreeable sometimes crazy. He isn't afraid to say what he means. Any topic vaguely related to baseball is fair game as long as the author cares about it.

It doesn't have to be Joe I think most of the BP staff could do this if they would pull up an imaginary stool in an imaginary bar and start talking as if we were sharing the peanut bowl while watching a game.

When I read a daily column I want to see the author as someone I am confident I'd have fun agreeing to or arguing with while watching a game.

Find a columnist please I miss it.

Aug 11, 2010 08:40 AM
rating: 26
 
BillJohnson

Even though I disagree with Joe in this particular case -- the front offices aren't so Neanderthal but what if ANYBODY had thought Bonds was worth the trouble, he'd have had a contract -- and sometimes find his analysis rather arrogant and high-handed, I completely agree with you: agree with him or not, Joe always writes things that get you thinking and are worth reading even when they make you mad. (Ironically, it's not unlike the way Bonds played: do what you do, as well as you can, and if people don't like it, they can lump it.) Getting him back more than occasionally would be good, and more articles like this are needed.

Aug 11, 2010 08:55 AM
rating: 5
 
antoine6

Agreed. I comment in response, often trying to argue the other side, but that's the point. I rarely comment on anyone else's articles. Joe is an intelligent, thought-provoking columnist who writes pretty well, and that's about all you can ask.

Aug 11, 2010 11:03 AM
rating: 1
 
Richie

Why do you come to BP looking for emotion-laden arguments?? For goodness' sake, that's pretty much the opposite of what they try to be about.

Aug 11, 2010 08:46 AM
rating: -3
 
BillJohnson

Because baseball, more than maybe anything else in our society, is a place where objective analysis and emotional involvement not only collide, but coexist, and I would even claim, are essential to it being worth while.

Aug 11, 2010 08:56 AM
rating: 13
 
Patrick Ferrington

Besides - whatever they may be about don't loose site of the fact that Joe was a founder. As much as objectivity has been a part of the BP fabric so has impassioned fanship and brinkmanship on hot button issues in the sport.

I love the objectivity feel like they are in danger of loosing the impassioned fanship and especially the brinkmanship.

heh - think of it as the beer and taco's debate but not with Scouting and Stats but with Opinion and Fact. BP still serves up someof the meanest fact tacos around but if I'm forced to eat them without a opinion beer to wash it down I can only handle a couple at a time. Throw in a six pack and I'll have a night I'll remember fondly and my wife will complain bitterly about for the next several days! Without the beer neither of us will remember in fondly however good the tacos were at the time.

Aug 11, 2010 10:12 AM
rating: 1
 
Nate W.

More blog posts from Joe please! I miss this.

Aug 11, 2010 08:49 AM
rating: 1
 
jlefty

Not to agree or disagree with Joe (I'll echo others in that a strongly opinionated column, regardless of how it aligns with my own opinions, is certainly missed in these parts), but we don't really know what Bonds' asking price was, do we? He was arrogant by Joe's own admission and I don't think he would have agreed to Delgado's penny contract. It's quite possible Bonds is just as much to blame as the industry.

Aug 11, 2010 09:38 AM
rating: 0
 
flirgendorf

We do know what his asking price was. Zero.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3460993

Aug 11, 2010 09:43 AM
rating: 4
 
Rob Moore

Joe, your thoughts mirror mine exactly. I'm a lifelong Dodger fan but I still loved watching Bonds play - he was the most dominant athlete I've ever seen play in any major sport. I've been blessed to watch several great players on my teams and others - Pedro, Maddux, Piazza, Fernando - but none riveted me like Bonds. It was incredibly frustrating to see him frozen out the last few years.

Aug 11, 2010 10:07 AM
rating: 4
 
klipzlskim

It seems pretty simple to me - if my team signed Bonds, I'd be less likely to go to their games. I don't want to see my team succeed based on his efforts, and I certainly wouldn't get any joy out of booing a player on my own team. I think many fans feel the same way. It's a business, and you can't blame owners for wanting to cater to the fans.

Aug 11, 2010 10:18 AM
rating: -3
 
SaberTJ

I don't think as many fans felt the way you are thinking. I know Albert Belle was just as much as a trouble with the media as Bonds was. Heck, he even had troubles with some local kids. But there wasn't a day I didn't want to watch the man hit a baseball. I think most all of Cleveland would feel the same way. He got robbed of an MVP award, that was a landslide in his favor statistically because of his attitude. Since when did your attitude mean anything in regards to your basketball performance?

Lebron James gave Cleveland the rope-adope, and many people now dislike him even outside of the region. But that doesn't mean we don't want to watch him play the game.

Aug 11, 2010 10:28 AM
rating: 3
 
SaberTJ

that should say *baseball* performance

Aug 11, 2010 10:30 AM
rating: 0
 
Rob Miller
(162)

Why the personal dislike? Our opinions of him are colored by the media, which openly detests him because he doesn't play their game.

Just so we don't mix issues, let's go back to the early to late 1990s (before all the PED rumors)... Why on earth did fans dislike Bonds then? What did Barry Bonds do to you personally that you would boo him (while he's leading your team to the playoffs no less)? Why boo one of the best baseball players ever?

I guess I'm an idiot (but not Brian Sabean) and I just don't get it.

Aug 11, 2010 10:33 AM
rating: 6
 
ostrowj1

I am sure it is just instinct at this point, but I am not sure how bashing Brian "I am the only person to sign Barry Bonds to an MLB contract in the past decade" Sabean is warranted in this case.

Of all the GMs you can blame for not signing Bonds in '08, I think Sabean deserves the most leniency. He knew the joys of employing Bonds more than anybody else, and he also knew the status of Bonds' health. It seems that Sabean was happy to employ Bonds when Bonds was (in Sabean's mind) worth the trouble.

Aug 11, 2010 11:03 AM
rating: 0
 
Rob Miller
(162)

The Sabean comment was a poor choice as it was confusing. I was asking if I was an idiot and Sabean was the first who came to mind... not because of his not signing Bonds in 2008 (but you can add that to the list I suppose), but his incompetency in general.

Aug 14, 2010 09:43 AM
rating: 0
 
SaberTJ

I loved watching Bonds play. I don't think there's been an article by you that I've agreed more with. He was a phenomenal talent, and I wish I got to see him play another year or two.

Aug 11, 2010 10:24 AM
rating: 11
 
Guilhem

Agree

Aug 11, 2010 13:21 PM
rating: 0
 
yekkel

I whole-heartedly agree. As a fan, I feel it is a travesty that I have been deprived of the opportunity to continue watching one of the greatest players ever.

Aug 11, 2010 13:32 PM
rating: 1
 
Sciential

Decades from now, fans too young to remember Bonds will watch men who can hit a baseball as well as Pujols or A-Rod or Junior Griffey and believe that they must be seeing the best ever, or least his equal. As good as that man may be, it will still seem possible for a right-handed pitcher to throw him a pitch besides a ball or a home-run and it won't feel like a minor miracle just to retire him with the game on the line.

Aug 11, 2010 22:18 PM
rating: 3
 
Luke in MN

I just don't feel this way. He was insanely good, but I just don't know how insanely good he would have been had he not--and I know people don't like this word--cheated. Given that, how can I care how well he played?

Aug 24, 2010 13:49 PM
rating: 0
 
ncimon

The point Joe makes in the article that I think is right on target, is the commissioner's and the media's role. There's still a process for establishing guilt and it doesn't include Bud Selig's distorted value judgements. Selig and his crew are directly complicit in the tacit ok ballplayers received as they aimed for better living through chemistry. That makes the overbearing righteousness that has since emerged from his office unbearable.

The media played much the same role. Trumpeting the home runs, ignoring the rumours, then turning on many of those same ballplayers. There's lots of blame to go around but it's all being shoved in one direction.

Aug 11, 2010 10:25 AM
rating: 5
 
antoine6

I have a question regarding the last paragraph of the column. I get the idea that the industry was colluding in some sense not to hire Bonds--but where does the idea that it was due to being "cowed by the commissioner." Did Selig ever speak publicly on this issue, urging teams not to sign Bonds? Were there any reports at the time of Selig doing so privately?

I'm honestly asking, I don't remember from the time.

Aug 11, 2010 11:06 AM
rating: 0
 
Chomsky
(103)

Come back Joe. BP is colorless without you.

Aug 11, 2010 11:15 AM
rating: 2
 
abcjr2

In 1987, Dave Kingman hit 35 homers and had 94 RBI but no team offered him a contract the next year, as I recall. True, he hit .210 with a ton of Ks, but to me he's the example that first comes to mind of a guy who was offered a contract by no one, in part because he was such a jerk no one though he was worth the headache.

In Bonds' case, mention should be made of how he treated the Giants the last year, ditching the home run derby, declining to play the last several games after the team indicated it would not be offering a contract the next year, etc. And it seemed pretty clear Selig put out word that baseball did not want him back.

I don't believe the reported stories that he would have played for any offer. His agent was looking for $10 million according to other stories I read at the time. Saying he'd play for nothing was just posturing agent talk.

Aug 11, 2010 11:35 AM
rating: -2
 
tdrury

Wasn't post-1987 a collusion offseason though? Maybe not the best example.

Aug 11, 2010 12:20 PM
rating: 0
 
Joe D.

Or precisely why it's a perfect example. :)

Aug 11, 2010 14:16 PM
rating: 2
 
bbienk01

This sounds like more projecting from someone far removed from the Giants. If you are in fact a Giants fan I apologize.

I don't recall Giants fans at the time considering that Bonds mistreated the team or city in his last year. I recall a lot of people upset that the Giants waited until he broke the home run record, milking as much $$ as they could out of him, and then unceremoniously dropping him. I remember that pissing off a lot of Giants fans who wanted to keep watching him play as long as we could.

Aug 13, 2010 17:15 PM
rating: 2
 
Vilica

Amen, Joe. Nobody has given this subject nearly enough attention and Bonds has to be the most unfairly hated player in the game. He made mistakes, but nobody has achieved the same level of dominance that he has for a looong time, if ever, and the fact that he hasn't played the last three years is an absolute abomination. Excellent comparison Joe, really glad to see you writing on here again.

Aug 11, 2010 11:59 AM
rating: 2
 
John Carter

The owners got in big trouble for their commissioner sanctioned colluding in the late 80s. No way would they make that mistake again over Bonds. I believe each team individually decided his considerable talents were not worth the headaches, team disharmony, fan backlash, health issues, legal hassles, and all else they perceived to be his non-saleried costs.

On the remaining talent portion of the equation, I'm sure many organizations figured Bonds could no longer get away with whatever PEDs he was using and that his talents would resultantly be greatly diminished. He was, afterall, 43.

Aug 11, 2010 12:01 PM
rating: -2
 
ofMontreal

Yes, these are all valid thoughts that existed at the time. But I still believe that Bonds was 'persona non grata' in the MLB offices and that was certainly open knowledge. That no team would go against this isn't surprising. I also believe Bonds wanted 9-10 mil per and that was too big a risk when combined with the whetted appetite of the media. The promised circus was just too great. A team would have had to close the clubhouse practically and that would have been it's own s**tstorm. Too many negatives attached I'm afraid.

Aug 11, 2010 13:32 PM
rating: 0
 
bbienk01

Its been noted above, but Bonds made clear that he would play for the minimum salary during the off-season.

Some people in this thread have just discounted this as posturing, and that he must have secretly been seeking more money. Maybe that's true. I'll stick with the only evidence we actually have, which has not been disputed by any contrary evidence. So the claim that it was his asking price that was the issue is false.

Aug 13, 2010 17:19 PM
rating: 1
 
Clemente

Bonds' amazing 2007 was three years into PED testing. A rational team would figure it was more likely than not that his results were not PED-influenced.

I agree teams made the decision the negatives outweighed the positives---I agree with Joe that I think this was a miscalculation. I don't know how orchestrated it was, but I'm sure some weight was given to media reaction and I think teams way overrate their local media's influence over fan attendance.

As to Bonds---having watched perhaps 5 or 6 hundred at bats, many in person behind the plate, the remarkable fact was not the power but the pitch selection. He wouldn't flinch at balls just off the plate.

Along with PEDs to make himself stronger and game ready (able to workout longer and recover more quickly), I think by late 1990s he entered the Ted Williams' 'zone'---where he could calmly just wait on the pitch he wanted with utmost concentration and discipline. This later attribute had nothing to do with PEDs.

Joe is right---we were cheated of seeing him play a season or more, and teams miscalculated in not having him on their team.

Aug 11, 2010 13:34 PM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

Well, MLB settled with the MLBPA for $12 million for alleged collusion from 2000 to 2003. I don't think the fact that they got caught colluding in the late 80s is evidence they wouldn't do it again.

Aug 11, 2010 20:38 PM
 
John Carter

The biggest mystery of the decade to me is not that no one would give Bonds a contract, but that the Yankees chose to keep Jeter at shortstop over A-Rod.

Aug 11, 2010 12:03 PM
rating: 6
 
alanbw
(111)

With you 100% Joe, and I can't help but believe that somehow Selig & Co made it very clear that any team signing Bonds would pay for it dearly and for a long time. And yes, I know there's no evidence to support this. But then again, I think Bud is at least as much of a D-Bag as Barry.

Aug 11, 2010 12:23 PM
rating: 0
 
Wyrm22

In 2008 Barry Bonds was 44
In 2008 Carlos Delgado was 36

I agree that some of the hatred of Bonds is over the top, but this is also a piece of it.

I'd be reluctant to pay $8-10 Million (I'm not believing that Bonds would play for the minimum) on a player who could fall off the cliff at any time. Combine that with him being a D-bag and the negative attention that it would bring, and I'd say you could make a case that it wasn't worth the hassle.

Aug 11, 2010 14:39 PM
rating: 0
 
bheikoop

Bonds was 43 in 2007 (Joe's first point)
Delgado was 35 in 2007 (Joe's second point)

The fact is, they were both old. It's tough to imagine that Bonds, who was better in 2007 was going to suddenly fall apart while Delgado would AT BEST stay the same.

The point was, public opinion won out her. Fans were open to the idea of their favorite team not making the playoffs because of the person they envisioned Bonds to be.

Sep 06, 2010 12:05 PM
rating: 0
 
gluckschmerz
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Here's a thought, maybe Bonds brought some of this on himself: being a world class jerk, treating so many people so poorly (family, teammates, media etc.), taking illegal drugs and then you people write that you admire the guy?

Just because he played baseball?

Get over it already.

Crocodile tears.

Aug 11, 2010 18:59 PM
rating: -7
 
krissbeth

I'm afraid I can't agree with you. Granted, he got into juicing after McGwire and Sosa did and he saw the industry hypocrisy and the media hagiography. I will grant you that he didn't start us down that path and he didn't do anything as reprehensible as Clemens did, who just breaks my heart with that underage girl thing. He didn't lie to Congress or play the fool to them to avoid trouble either.

But his use did distort the game as much as the above players' did. Juicing has serious health hazards that he was a part of promoting. Baseball is cut-throat competition and he was a part of setting an attitude that you had to cheat to survive. They promoted a culture of bad sportsmanship. He and the other juicers not only promoted an activity that endangers people, they made it more difficult for people like Frank Thomas to get their due.

And that's wrong. Frank Thomas deserves credit that he'll never get precisely because of what McGwire and Sosa and Palmeiro and Bonds injected into their bodies, let alone Pettitte and Clemens and the other pitchers.

Frank Thomas was right: there's no place in baseball for this kind of drug use.

Aug 11, 2010 19:19 PM
rating: 2
 
redspid

exactly

Aug 11, 2010 19:29 PM
rating: -1
 
gluckschmerz

+1

Aug 12, 2010 04:55 AM
rating: 0
 
Matt

Except that confirmed steroid users aren't kicked out of baseball for good. They get suspensions and resume playing. Why treat Bonds differently?

Aug 12, 2010 11:53 AM
rating: 3
 
mikebuetow

*Says* "he got into juicing after McGwire and Sosa did and he saw the industry hypocrisy and the media hagiography..."

Aug 12, 2010 16:15 PM
rating: 0
 
Luke in MN

This gets it right. Deservedly, Bonds is a symbol of what was wrong with baseball for a generation (and surely to some extent is ongoing). As a fan I don't want him on my team for that reason, lost WARP be damned. I assume most feel the same way. It's clear, simple logic and I find it mystifying that it could infuriate anyone.

Aug 24, 2010 13:38 PM
rating: -1
 
bheikoop

Frank Thomas didn't juice?

What evidence do we have of this?

Sep 06, 2010 12:11 PM
rating: -1
 
jcjividen

Joe's always been entirely right about Bonds; by WARP3, he was still the very best player on the SFG roster in 2007, and the organization made a conscious choice to go without a bat rather than pay their best player a minimum salary. That's not "he took up too many lockers" - that's a decision to hang him and him alone for the supposed sins of the era.

Aug 11, 2010 19:30 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

Bonds getting escorted out the door of baseball reminds me a bit of Jose Canseco getting pushed out. Canseco was productive in his last year, but still couldn't find work after the White Sox. Of course, Canseco says he was blackballed and Canseco says a lot of weird things, but he could've been useful to some team or another. On a less controversial note, Kenny Lofton also went quietly into that good night even though he was also productive in his last season.

Maybe many fans didn't like Bonds, but I'm sure those same fans like pennants more. Bonds made the Giants a playoff team and made Dusty Baker look like a genius manager.

Aug 12, 2010 02:22 AM
rating: -2
 
Dan W.

Fwiw, Lofton went (or didn't go) "gentle", not "quietly".

Don't mess with combination Dylan Thomas-Kenny Lofton fans... I imagine I'm not the only one out here.

Aug 12, 2010 07:31 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Quite true, and he did rage against the dying of the light. I thought he should've gotten a job somewhere.

Aug 13, 2010 11:17 AM
rating: 0
 
Dan W.

Poets often have a hard time getting work.

Aug 13, 2010 14:06 PM
rating: 1
 
Ira

As a fan of the Texas Rangers, I would have loved to see Bonds here in 2008, even though the team wasn't really expecting to go anywhere.

Considering that the Rangers had 8 different players play left field and 11 different DH's (not to mention 7 different first baseman) I think there was room for a Barry Bonds in Arlington. I guess the team couldn't afford the liability insurance. After all, fans sitting out in the right field seats could have easily gotten seriously harmed by his constant battery.

as far as signing him in 09? let me say this simply. The Rangers signed Andruw Jones coming off a season where he hit .158/.256/.249 and let him DH for them. I'd take the press problems and legal problems to find a DH who could crack .550 OPS.

Aug 12, 2010 08:00 AM
rating: 2
 
kritik1

Good article. There are a lot of aspects to the whole Bonds' story and it's rare that we can avoid the strange visceral hate that he inspired in some people. I'm an admitted Giant fan and a Bonds' fan. When this whole story is finally looked at a little dispassionately, I am sure that it will be shown that the whole situation was very complex and very nasty. What I always found strange was that fans rarely talked about Bonds' actual talent and his performance: for example, it is very revealing to look at the pitchers he hit home runs against in his record hr season. When did we really see in depth articles about what actually happened on the field?

Aug 25, 2010 18:10 PM
rating: 0
 
Rob_in_CT

I was hoping the Yanks would sign Bonds in 2008, when injuries took their toll on the team (heck, I think I wanted him in the '07/'08 offseason). I figured hell, the team is hated anyway. So why not go get a productive player? With Bonds (assuming reasonably health), they might have made things closer.

He had become the boogeyman, though, so nobody would sign him. But Andy Pettitte (who I like and all...), oh he's fine. Gary Sheffield - sure! But not big bad Barry.

Aug 26, 2010 06:45 AM
rating: 0
 
tkoegel

Interesting post and thread. Since one's perspective is important here, my background: long-time Giants fan, holder of partial season-ticket plan in the 'Stick from '88 to mid-90s, re-connected with the team as a full seasonticketholder at the new park in 2000. I tend to be skeptical of the media as generally unable or unwilling to put the time into a topic necessary to really understand it. Hoped against hope (and logic) that Bonds was clean notwithstanding the dramatic increase in size from his first appearance in a Giants' uniform. As he reached 755 and beyond, I was strangely detached from the whole thing. I didn't despise the man and his taking the record the way that non-SF baseball fans, on the whole, did. But I didn't exult in it. It just seemed like a sad distraction at that point to the giant hole into which Giants' management had dropped the franchise.

Oh, and I'm a lawyer. Not claiming any special privilege or insight from that. Just identifying a bias (shared more strongly, I believe, by lawyers than the general population) against lies under oath.

I think Joe is either forgetting, or eliding over, the situation with regards to Bonds during the 2007 season and the immediate post season.

To recap: in Spring 2007, Bonds returned to camp defiant in the face of an ongoing perjury probe. The media circus that was the procession to 756 was endless, and by all accounts hugely distracting, and greatly intensified by the oddity of the player involved being accused of cheating and likely subject to federal criminal charges.

As the year went along, the G's, no doubt expecting that it was impossible to sign Bonds to a San Francisco contract for small money, and not unreasonably expecting that he would be facing federal criminal charges that might go to trial during the 2008 season, made the decision to cut him loose.

Bonds gets indicted on November 15, 2007. The indictment has many counts, but it is focused on two different areas of perjury in Bonds' testimony. One has to do with Bonds' knowledge about what he was getting from his assistant, Greg Anderson. He claims NOT to have known he was taking steroids. The second has to do with WHEN he was taking steroids. Bonds, one suspects to protect the 2001 single-season HR record, was adamant that he never got the cream or the clear until 2003.

It is the latter type of claim that seems most problematic to me--at least so long as Anderson continues to refuse to testify against Bonds. One could prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Bonds knew he was taking steroids just with circumstantial evidence. But proving that he "must have known" seems awfully difficult absent Bonds coming forward or another witness materializing to say that Bonds admitted it. (I don't believe that Bonds' mistress, Kimberly Bell, has him admitting to his own knowledge of what he was taking.) But it seems easier to prove that Bonds was in fact taking the cream or clear during a period (2001 and 2002) when he very clearly denied such use. The feds apparently have positive test results for steroids from the 2001 and 2002 period, and they have other information such as the BALCO calendars with his initials. His best defense to the counts about denial of 2001-02 use is probably legal--that he either did not remember when he began use, or that his false statements about the timing were not material to the federal investigation that was ongoing.

But back on the owners in off-season 2007-08. You've got a player who has a reputation of being an extreme prima donna to the extent that the treatment he requires is disruptive to the team's relationship with other players. He is coming off serious injury problems in prior seasons. And he may well be consumed by legal problems (and a trial) during 2008. It just doesn't seem to me to be a smart decision to make the investment. Even if Bonds would sign for the MLB minimum, which I find doubtful, you are committing your team to a distracting circus that might heighten in the middle of the baseball season.

The thing I most disagreed with was the notion that the perjury charges are "trumped up." Maybe it's semantics, and Joe really meant that Bonds walked into a perjury trap that was aimed at snaring athletes unwilling to admit to their uses of PED. But (as the first poster noted) the perjury charges as filed by the U.S. are not at at all unsupported or even weak. Joe (and many others) may think that the government's perjury trap, which snared so many athletes unwilling to admit PED use, is a trap that should not have been sprung. And one can have a debate on whether the feds should be chasing the issue of PEDs--either their manufacture and distribution, or their prevalence and use in sports generally--as opposed to terrorism or financial fraud. But if you want to have that debate, let's tee it up that way.

BTW, I find it fascinating how strongly the sabermetric community (admittedly through my unscientific review of sabermetric writings) wants to ignore the impact of PEDs and generally supports players who used them (like Bonds). I'm not going to vilify someone like Bonds for using them when they were so prevalent in the sport. But I am very uncomfortable ignoring their use and the impact that the use had on the standard of play. And the fairness toward players who did not use them. And the difficulty of knowing who was clean and not. And how to assess the stats of the era in light of their use.

Sep 06, 2010 13:21 PM
rating: 2
 
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