Rostering Bonds just wasn’t worth it in ’08

Just when you thought it was safe to go in the pool, here comes Barry Bonds and what might turn into a brand new bout of player v. owners ugliness …


Baseball’s all-time home run king is working on a lawsuit against MLB, claiming that teams colluded to prevent him from playing following the 2007 season, CBS Sports reported Monday.

A U.S. Court of Appeals last month reversed Bonds’ 2011 felony conviction for obstruction of justice in the BALCO case. Bonds had threatened legal action against baseball once the BALCO case was behind him.

In his final year in the majors, Bonds, who made $19.3 million in 2007, hit 28 homers for the San Francisco Giants and led the National League with a .480 on-base percentage and 1.045 OPS. That season, Bonds passed Hank Aaron’s 755 career home runs to become the all-time home run king, finishing with 763.

Before I say one more thing, let’s remember this: In 2008, Bonds was so toxic that the baseball teams in the Bay Area — where by all accounts he was and remains relatively beloved — wanted nothing to do with him.

Tuesday in Joe Sheehan’s newsletter, he filed an amicus brief in support of Bonds, and Joe went into some depth about Bonds’ performance, the market for hitters like Bonds, and the controversy surrounding Bonds.

Performance? That 1.045 OPS says it all.

Market? In 2008, there were 12 American Leaguers who finished with at least 250 plate appearances and spent at least half their time as designated hitters. Milton Bradley, Aubrey Huff, David Ortíz, and Jim Thome were all really good. Minnesota’s Jason Kubel was fifth on the list, with an .805 OPS in 141 games. Cliff Floyd and Hideki Matsui were pretty good, too. After which you’ve got five guys who probably shouldn’t have been playing. Not for a contender, anyway.

So yes, purely in terms of performance, there was obviously a place in the majors for Bonds in 2008.

Especially with the Twins. Yeah, Kubel was pretty good. But they also gave 622 plate appearances to Delmon Young, who was essentially replacement-level that season. The Twins finished one game out of first place. Performance-wise, not signing Bonds cost the Twins a playoff spot.

But would his presence have destroyed team chemistry to the point where his teammates played worse enough to balance his power and his walks? I doubt it. But I don’t have the foggiest idea how to prove it.

Anyway, Joe’s big finish:

It is reasonable to believe that some teams would have found reason to not sign Barry Bonds after the 2007 season. It is even possible that most would have. It is, however, hard to believe that all of them would have, absent an external directive to do so. 

It’s not hard for me to believe. By 2007, Bonds was an awful outfielder. In his last three seasons, he averaged 90 games per season (granted, that figure’s seriously skewed by his 2005, which included only 14 games). He couldn’t really run any more. I’m not saying he wouldn’t have been useful to a National League team. But he was a natural DH by that point, and there weren’t all that many teams that needed a good DH.

Were the Twins one of them? Sure. The Rays did just fine without him, until the World Series when Bonds would have looked better in the lineup than Willy Aybar.

But we’re not really talking about ALL OF THEM not signing Bonds. We’re talking about a few of them not signing Bonds, which seems a lot more believable. Especially when you remember that many, many of the guys who actually played with Bonds really, really didn’t like him. One might guess the same about his managers.

I’m not saying that Commissioner Bud didn’t whisper in a few ears. That might have happened. But my guess is that the single-minded arrogance that helped Bonds perform as he performed might finally have cost him a job when it wasn’t utterly obvious that having a pain in the ass in your clubhouse for seven months was really worth it.