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I am, in one word, shocked.
Here it is July 25, just a week away from the second-to-last full month of the regular season. The contenders have separated themselves from the pretenders. Those contenders are looking to pad their rosters before July 31's non-waiver trade deadline.
And Barry Bonds is nowhere to be seen.
Shocking. Unbelievable. Good for the game?
Well, maybe. The fact that every team's owner has passed on signing Bonds to a minimum prorated contract worth a bit more than your split-level house is morally strong of them. Who wants a pariah like Bonds in the clubhouse? Who wants an indicted man setting a bad example for the youngsters?
Good job, owners. You should be proud of yourselves. You're great citizens.
But, c'mon. We're talking about professional baseball. Not the college level, not even the minor-league level. Professional baseball! Before the season, the Washington Nationals had no problems adding Elijah Dukes to their roster. Forget that he threatened to kill his wife. The Nationals, apparently, were enamored with his .190 batting average in 2007.
Bonds' absence from a major-league field is completely character-related. There's no denying this. How else can you explain passing on a guy who had the best on-base percentage of anyone last year at .480. Other stats to consider -- in 126 games, he still managed to blast 28 homers and drive in 66 runs. And he walked 132 times compared to just 54 strikeouts.
I don't care if the guy's 42 and off the 'roids. He can still play. And he would be a valuable addition to just about any team's lineup.
The most obvious team is the Yankees. With Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada done for the year, the Yanks have a void at designated hitter. Can you imagine Bonds hitting third ahead of Alex Rodriguez? Pitchers would have to throw him strikes -- something that never was the case in San Francisco. Convince me that Bonds wouldn't do some damage in New York, especially with Yankee Stadium's short porch in right field.
Plus, Bonds is reportedly close to Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. For a team that has always prided itself on one thing -- winning -- adding Bonds for a season makes perfect sense.
OK, say it's not the wealthy Yankees who want Bonds. A cheaper team like the Diamondbacks, maybe. Did I mention that his agent, Jeff Borris, has said that Bonds would play for a minimum salary. We're talking six figures, people. And no guaranteed money to him after this season. What's the risk in that?
Not only that, but Bonds would donate his salary to charity. No, I'm not trying to make him into a saint. He could donate his entire bank account to charity, and he still wouldn't reach that status. Some things are irreversible.
But major league baseball is about winning. And on the field, Bonds would undoubtedly improve a team's chance of winning. That's not hard to figure out.
Would there be clubhouse issues? That's hard to tell. Of course there would be more cameras before and after games -- at least for a while. Of course Bonds would sapp some attention away from other deserving players. That could cause some rifts. But we're talking about professionals here. They should be able to work things out.
As long as he didn't get the special treatment he received in San Francisco, I don't think there'd be many issues. No special trainers in the clubhouse. No special managers. That would need to be specified before he signed. Lay out the rules very clearly.
Yes, there's the pending indictment. But again, let's consider the timeframe here. I'm talking about signing Bonds for two months, maybe three if a team plays in the postseason. How much can go wrong -- at such a cheap price -- during that time? No trial involving Bonds will take place during the season. That's all stuff for the offseason.
Which is when whoever signs Bonds could easily part ways with the slugger. Look, teams can do as they please, but when their GMs are complaing in late September that they lacked that strong, left-handed bat, that they needed a middle-of-the-lineup guy for the stretch run -- well, they should look themselves in the mirror and point their index finger at that mirror.
The thing nobody is talking about is Bonds' desire to get back in the game. Yes, he's a surly, arrogant, cocky SOB. But this season has to have been a bit humbling for the man with the home-run record. He couldn't have thought that almost four months into the season, no team would be interested in him, no offer would be on the table.
Say what you want about Bonds' dispacable influence on baseball, about the substances and the lying. It's all true -- he's not a dignified man. But he loves baseball, and I gurantee you he's itching for one thing: to get out on a field and prove, once again, that he's one of the game's best hitters. All the other fodder, the locker-room and legal issues, isn't what Bonds truly cares about.
The man just wants to play.
Will I be happy if he continues to go unsigned? Yes, a bit. The owners would be sending a strong message that an athlete's on-field performance isn't the lone factor in determining his worth. (Altough the players' union is expected to file a grievance saying owners acted in concert by not going after Bonds.)
But if I'm a fan of a team that's in contention, that's one big bat away from possibly making that leap into first place, then I'm writing letters to my team's owner. "Sign Barry," they read. "Just for these next two (hopefully three) months. Just for this season."
Sounds simple enough, right?
But Barry Bonds remains nowhere to be found.