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Will Bonds Eventually Become a Designated Hitter?

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Bear with me here. Let’s play a game. Pretend, just while reading this, that Barry Bonds never did steroids. But he hit No. 714 this past weekend just the same. So all you have to go against the guy on is that he’s a dink (great word to describe him, by the way). He hit the bomb cleanly, but acts like a jerk, and now baseball – and Bonds himself – has to decide what to do next.

I saw Bonds play in person just last weekend. And let me tell you something. He’s done. Finished. Over. That doesn’t mean he can’t still mash. It means his body isn’t going to let him continue playing any longer. He’s done. So what does he do next?

Obviously, he’ll get that 715th home run, and obviously he’ll have Hank Aaron in his sights. But how does he continue to play through the obvious pain he’s in and through his body’s obvious signals that it doesn’t want to continue? Home run No. 755 is not going to happen this year. No way. So that means it’ll take another year entirely. That’s the rest of this year, an offseason of constant media scrutiny, spring training, and another 120+ baseball games before Bonds is sniffing 755. Can he do it?

On one hand, I have to say he can. If the guy can live through what he’s already lived through coming into this year, he can do just about anything. And people should admire that. Again, forget why he’s going through it, just understand that he is going through it. How do you not admire that? With the ability he’s shown to disregard all that’s around him and still hit bombs, you have to think that if he decides to come back, it’ll only be because he trusts his body to do so. But that’s the major issue.

On the other hand, I don’t think his body will allow it. I’m no doctor, and I don’t even pretend to play one on the internet, but my eyes tell me he’s finished. Fly balls to left field at AT&T Park are a crapshoot. He barely gets to a jog chasing them down, and it’s beginning to cause problems for the Giants. Plus, he generally isn’t able to play nine innings consistently, and in close games, he’s often removed for a defensive replacement. All of this points to the fact that he’s completely breaking down physically.

There is, of course, that other option – the American League. The American League will let Bonds play as a DH for an entire year. Forget his inability to track down fly balls in the gap, and forget his inability cut off balls down the line and hold hitters to singles. He’ll need a bat and nothing else.

So here lies the question. Again, I feel like I’m shoving this down your throats, but bear with me. Presume he never did steroids. Does his moving to the American League taint the chase? Does not playing the field make the achievement less pure?

Basically, the question becomes whether his home run chase is valuable enough to a team to eat his liability on defense. If he’s that bad defensively, shouldn’t a team have to weigh that with the potential windfall that becomes a home run leader and his team? And if a team can’t handle that, should the player even be on the field anymore?

That is the question I pose to you readers. Is a move to the American League the same as if he finishes in the National League and has to play the field every day? Or is it just a way he’s gaining an advantage?

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About mrjerz

  • sal m

    good item…

    if bonds continues to hit home runs at the pace he is currently on, he wouldn’t be able to break aaron’s record until early 2008 which means two full seasons from now. it ain’t happening.

    if you look at what happens to a 40+ slugger there’s no way that bonds is going to be able to hang around. guys like aaron, mays, robinson who didn’t have the big injury at the end of their careers fizzled out bigtime. given bonds’ state of physical deterioration, his productivity fall off will be even more drastic.

    as is the case with guys who come off the juice – especially older guys – the end is quicker and uglier than if one just decided to age gracefully and fade away.

  • Bonds would make the perfect Oakland A because of his on base percentage.

    His line this year: AVG .242 | HR 6 | RBI 15 | OBP .486

    That last stat is first in the NL. Aberration, schmaberration. That’s a hot OBP.

  • Sal,

    I see him picking the pace back up a bit. I think the pressure of sitting at 713 got to him, but he’ll right his hitting. Not hitting one for 9 games or whatever it was artificially deflated his pace. He’s going to hit them more frequently than that. I liken his deterioration to a cliff effect with the juice. He was able to play so much longer because of it, but now it’s gotten to a point that he’s just done, and you can see it.


    Bonds has been the prototypical Moneyball player for a long time. Astronomical OBP and astronomical SLG. I’ve even heard staunch Moneyball guys actually say he’s worth the $18 mil he makes every year. That’s saying a lot about his numbers.

  • first Bonds already has 10 home runs as a dh in interleague play

    second Aaron spent the end of his career as a DH

  • By gum, you’re right — the last two years of Hank’s career was spent back in Mill-e-Wah-Kay.

    But it looks like he had 733 before he became a DHer. Therefore, if Barry hits 19 more this year and then … oh, snap, that’d be scary.

  • Congratulations, I chose this story as an editor’s pick of the week.

    Now you are entitled a pick of your own from all stories published May 24-30. E-mail Lisa McKay (address is on the editor’s pick page) with your pick by next Tuesday.

    Again, congratulations.

  • Michael Herron

    Boy did you speak too soon. Barry Bond is all healed up and is in rare form. He leading the National League in Home Run, Slugging percentage, Walks and in the top 10 in Batting Average. He has 745 homers and needs only 11 to pass Henry Aaron. He has tested negative for steroids this year and he is still kicking ass….Big Time!!