It all started on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball during the Red Sox/Yankees game on July 6, when Hall of Fame reporter Peter Gammons informed the viewing audience that the Sox have had "internal discussions" about signing the once immortal Barry Bonds, should David Ortiz (on DL since May 31 for wrist injury) be lost for the remainder of the season. Since then, arguments for and against have broken out on local Boston media markets. Though overlooking Bonds’ many past misdeeds to bring his monstrous offensive skills to lefty-friendly Fenway Park may seem tempting, it’s just not right. Here are my reasons why.
First of all, Bonds was indicted by the BALCO federal grand jury late last year and again this past May for allegedly lying under oath in December 2003 about his steroid use and other performance-enhancing drugs, offenses that could put him in jail for up to 80 years, if convicted. No other current active major leaguer is in such trouble with the law and none of the 30 teams, including the Red Sox needs such a major distraction at this or any point in the season, even if Bonds’ perjury trial has been pushed to next March. There have been rumors of other teams interested in Bonds, including both New York teams. But most of them have died down too. As for the Yankees, they can have him as far as I’m concerned [He can reunite with former BALCO boy Jason Giambi].
The second reason Bonds would never come to Boston may have something to do with race. This is a man who told the Boston Globe in 2004 that “Boston is too racist for me. I couldn’t play there.” Bonds made this baseless assertion on the past views of others who played there long ago (including his late father Bobby) and had never been to Boston when he made those comments—he skipped his first chance, the 1999 All-star game at Fenway because of injury. When told by the Globe in 2004 that the racial atmosphere in Boston was a lot more tolerant nowadays than in decades past, Bonds stated: “It ain’t changing. It ain’t changing nowhere.”
In 2005 however, Bonds finally visited Boston, but only because his son Nikolai enrolled in a private school 60 miles west of the city. His last known visit occurred in June of 2007, when the San Francisco Giants played at Fenway Park for the first time since 1912. The Globe wrote just as the series was about to start that Bonds (conveniently) does not have any more “malice” towards Boston, but when asked what he liked about the city, he ducked the question, saying: “I didn't do any sightseeing. I was just there to visit my son.” Thus, whether because of race or other reasons, Barry Bonds is apparently uncomfortable with the idea of being in Boston for any length of time, other than being with family.
Thirdly, Bonds is past his prime and approaching his mid-40s, as he turns 44 years old this month. And despite his amazing productivity last year at age 43—he had 28 HRs in 126 games and an astounding major league best .480 OBP in 2007—he can’t be expected to put up big numbers now at this age (except maybe walks), especially with more than half the season gone. Age is also a reason it’s no lock Bonds would play the last two-plus months of the season full-time and stay perfectly healthy. Sure, being a DH on an American League team (Red Sox, Tampa Bay, etc.) cuts down chances of getting hurt, but there’s no telling how those old joints and knees of his will hold up running the bases. And if such a setback should occur, you know the older one is, the more time it take the body to physically recover (without cheating, of course).
Fourth reason: Though some wouldn’t mind, I don’t think a majority of Sox players as a group would want Bonds, with the legal baggage and self-centeredness he carries to the clubhouse. The Sox don’t need another isolated superstar (like former Sox great Nomar Garciaparra). They’ve got other options, which I’ll get to later. Overall, Bonds is just a hard personality to accept and deal with as a teammate. Ask the Giants and Jeff Kent, who feuded with Bonds at least 7 times in SF over many years. Besides, it’s hard to see Big Papi and Jason Varitek, two of the game’s most highly respected players in the league, associating themselves with one of the most controversial figures in modern sports. I don’t think they want to win that badly.
Reason five: A majority of Sox fans wouldn’t and in fact, do not support the idea of the acquisition, if the highly passionate Internet and local radio reaction is any indication. And with a market as large as the Red Sox have, an upset and divided fan base—many of whom would bring “asterisk” and other anti-Bonds signs and chants to Fenway again, like they did in June of 2007—during the heart of a pennant race is the last thing the Sox ownership wants.
On the other hand, some of those fans may say all is forgiven if Bonds comes here and hits game-winning homers in Ortiz’s absence and helps the Sox make the playoffs and win it all again. They may justify switching feelings about him by claiming Bonds must be “clean” now, so why root against him? And to that I say not only is your view in the minority, but forgiving and forgetting what a man of bad character and morals has done, to baseball records and his own once-incredible career—not to mention his family via the alleged infidelity with former mistress Kimberly Bell, who felt “threatened” by him, as written in Game of Shadows—is impossible to do, at least for me.
For all the Bonds-to-Boston talk this past week (and month in actuality), there may be no need to argue about it after all, as Ortiz is rehabbing in Pawtucket this weekend and could be back with the big club before month’s end. But even if there is a significant setback to Ortiz’s rehab that sidelines him between now and the trading deadline July 31, there are better, though admittedly more costly options to replace his bat in the lineup. Pittsburgh’s Jason Bay, for one, could come here and play LF while Manny Ramirez DHs. Atlanta’s Mark Teixeira is another option, but would he give up 1B to DH? And how many treasured top-level prospects would have to go to make deals like these? It’s anybody’s guess at this point.
As the trade deadline getter closer, I along with Red Sox Nation will be anxious to see what deals Theo Epstein ends up making, big or small. But no matter what happens to Ortiz the rest of the way, my opinion stands: Anybody but the tainted home run king. No way, no how.