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Barry Bonds can still hit. So what.
By GARY SHELTON
Published February 26, 2008
Some answers are easy. Some reactions come quickly. Sometimes, you cannot help but swing away at the first pitch.
And so the notion of Barry Bonds, Tampa Bay Ray, floats in the air, and before you can think about it, your response has risen in your throat and flown out of your mouth.
After that, perhaps you give the idea time to sink in. You reconsider things. You ponder the batting order. You think about the record book. You consider the clubhouse. You weigh the chemistry. Then, and only then, will the proper answer strike you:
A thousand times no.
This is no longer the time of Bonds, and no, this should not be his place. Even with the power that remains in his bat, the arguments against adding Bonds to the Rays' lineup are heavier than those in favor of it. The risks outweigh the rewards.
Yes, you can understand the temptation. Whatever else he may be, Bonds is a fascinating figure. Even at the age of darned-near-44, there is no franchise in baseball that would not be more intriguing with him on the roster, no batting order in baseball that would not be more potent.
With Bonds, the Rays would be more watchable, more relevant and, perhaps, even more successful.
It is easy to argue that a healthy Bonds could be the difference between Tampa Bay winning, say, 77 games and having a winning record.
Despite all of it, the Rays should say no. Not because they should worry about Bonds' past, but because they should be wary of how he might affect their future.
Over the years, the Rays' clubhouse has been a bad place, an awful place, for a young ballplayer to work. It has been a place where apathy devoured ability, where some veterans scoffed at enthusiasm and effort. Only now has it been scrubbed clean of the sour influences.
So it's a good idea to thrust the Godzilla of sour influences into the room?
In any discussions - even the informal, internal discussions that teams have about every available free agent - there are a few questions that have to be answered about Bonds.
What would he mean to the clubhouse? Odds are, it wouldn't be good.
The more you wonder about what he would mean to this team, which won 69 last year without Bonds, the more you have to consider the quotations of the Giants, a team that won 71 with him. This spring, different Giants have talked about a more relaxed atmosphere in their camp without Bonds. So what does that suggest about the team that signs him?
What would he mean to the batting order? That's the good news, of course.
Imagine the pop in this lineup with Bonds. Imagine Aki Iwamura followed by Carl Crawford followed by B.J. Upton followed by Carlos Pena followed by Bonds followed by Cliff Floyd (or Rocco Baldelli) followed by Willy Aybar (and eventually, Evan Longoria) followed by Dioner Navarro followed by Jason Bartlett. Yeah, it would be interesting.
What would it mean to the grandstands? Yes, there would be a boost in attendance, and not all of them would be federal investigators.
But would the increase be enough to offset Bonds' contract? Even if you assume Bonds would work for as little as $5-million a year (he was paid $17-million last year, but this year, no one is knocking on his door except attorneys), that's about 2,500 fans a night paying about $25 for tickets. The merchandising, we can assume, would take care of incentives.
What would it mean to the roster? That's a tougher question. The Rays already have two designated hitters in Floyd and Jonny Gomes. Carrying three is a luxury. And if Baldelli is injured again, who plays rightfield on an everyday basis?
What would it mean to the new stadium? Unless Barry is paying for it, almost nothing.
What would it mean to the kids? Again, that's the big issue here. Who needs the distractions? Who needs the headlines? Who needs a course in how to become a prima dona?
In other words, the Rays would be asking for a lot from Bonds. They would ask him to be a ballplayer, not a star. They would be asking him to work cheap (by comparison). They would be asking him to cut out the perks. They would be assuming that his court case would not get in the way. They would want the best of Bonds without any of the baggage.
In the end, it seems like too much to expect. They should say no.
When it comes to Bonds, after all, the safest strategy always has been the intentional pass, hasn't it?
[Last modified February 26, 2008, 00:19:14]