FIRE JOE MORGAN: Boogeymanness >> OBP


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Friday, May 09, 2008


Boogeymanness >> OBP

We all know Barry Bonds is a bad dude. Does illegal whaling in Japan in the off-season, helps cars hit old ladies crossing the street, has a huge collection of pirated LaserDiscs. Crusty sportswriters -- I'm giving you this one. Not defending Barry's character.

But recently we've had a plethora of "good thing Team X didn't sign Barry!" pieces, culminating in that crazy Tim Kawakami thing that argued that Fred Lewis was better than Bonds. Essentially, these articles all hinge on the same premise: Barry's negative clubhouse presence outweighs what actually does on the field. Sure, they pay lip service to his age, his balky knees, his fielding -- but let's be honest, what they're really saying is that Barry Bonds' confirmed boogeymanness is totally more important than his ability to hit baseballs to Ganymede, Jupiter's sweetest moon.

I present to you Jeff Gordon. Not that one.

Is unemployed outfielder Barry Bonds the victim of collusion among Major League Baseball owners?

Well, probably not organized, premeditated, let's-all-get-in-a-dark-smoky-boardroom-and-place-blackballs-into-a-mahogany-box collusion, no. But I'm starting to wonder what the fuck some of these teams are thinking.

Of course not. Only a blithering idiot would believe such nonsense.

For a guy about to spout nonsense, he's pretty harsh on idiots who believe nonsense.

The major leagues are awash with players mentioned in the Mitchell Report. The Cardinals, like many teams, didn’t hesitate to acquire players implicated in steroid and/or HGH investigations.

Okay, but like Larry Bigbie and Glenallen Hill and Nook Logan didn't break the all-time home run record, sullying one of the most hallowed numbers in sports in the process. Bonds has a little bit more stigma attached, no?

Still, the players' association is gathering information on Bonds’ unemployment. It is reviewing how the free-agent marketplace operated after the 2007 season.

We hope their investigators check this corner of cyberspace to get our take. Bonds isn’t in the big leagues because GMs believe his minuses outweigh his pluses in 2008.

Ways To Tell If Someone Is Both Old In Real Life And New To Cyberspace, #435: Uses the term "cyberspace."

Let's keep track of Mr. Gordon's pluses and minuses, and which are baseball-y and which are boogeyman-y.

Can he still hit? Probably. Last year he hit 28 homers in 340 at-bats. He still has a good eye, and lord knows he hasn’t gotten any smaller. He could still bring presence to a batting order.

Plus plus plus! Big plus. You know how many Cardinals hit 28 home runs last year? One. His name was David Eckstein. ("David Eckstein" is what I call Albert Pujols.)

But let’s walk through all the negatives:

* Bonds will turn 44 years old in July. How many other 44-year-old outfielders are flourishing in the big leagues this season?

How many 43-year-old outfielders OPS-ed 1.045 last year? Or .999 the year before, at age 42?

* The former Gold Glove outfielder is now a defensive liability, due to his bad wheels.

Yes. He is better suited to be a DH. But weighed against his still-crazy offensive prowess, his bad fielding still might be worth it, Manny-style. Baseball Prospectus has Bonds at -12 and -4 Fielding Runs Above Average the last two years. Man-Ram's been clocking figures like -6, -21, -18, -12, and -13 for years. Big huge boulder of salt with these numbers, as fielding science is far from a reliable game, of course.

* Durability is also a major concern, since Barry played just 126 games last season.

True dat.

* His salary expectations are out of whack with his diminished baseball value. At this point in his career, Bonds would put up Chris Duncan power numbers -– maybe a little better, perhaps a little worse. (Duncan had slugging percentages of .589 and .480 the last two seasons. Bonds came in at .545 and .565.)

This is just terrible cherry-picking. Sure, those slugging percentages look similar. But check out their respective OBPs, which is way more important than slugging in the first place:

Duncan 2007: .354
Bonds 2007: .480
Duncan 2006: .363
Bonds 2007: .454

Plus, if you're so concerned with how many games Bonds is going to play, how about Duncan, who basically needs to be platooned since he has a career .598 OPS against lefties?

* Bonds is, by all accounts, a truly horrendous teammate. He has been a disruptive clubhouse presence dating back to his Pirates days.


* His unresolved legal issues would create distractions anywhere he went. With Bonds comes a media circus, an army of reporters poking and prodding at his combative and defiant persona.


* He relishes the villain role, a posture that kills his marketing value. He wouldn’t generate box office buzz for his new team.

Now suddenly we're worried about marketing? Should we mark down Julian Tavarez for looking like a seventh-level cacodaemon? We probably should. Also, don't you think more people would still like to see aging dickhead Barry Bonds hit than, I don't know, Skip Schumaker?

Given all those factors, big league GMs opted to look elsewhere for offensive help: younger free agents, prime-age trade targets or home-grown players.

Especially for teams with horrible DHs, I find this to be inexplicable GMing.

Instead, the Cards relied on home-grown talent (Rick Ankiel, Chris Duncan. Skip Schumaker), bargain signing Ryan Ludwick and Rule 5 addition Brian Barton to man the outfield.


Ludwick has built a .675 slugging percentage as a part-time outfielder. Duncan hasn’t found his power stroke yet, but his .385 on-base percentage tells you he has enough patience enough to relocate his swing.

Something tells me Ryan Ludwick isn't going to keep up a 1.185 OPS all year. He has a career .333 OBP, so let's not all start saying he's better than Fred Lewis just yet.

These are hungry players who bring energy to the group. They help make the Cards a more dynamic offensive and defensive team.

Skip Schumaker has 5 home runs in 178 major league games. Dynamic!

What would Bonds have done? Hit some homers, probably, but otherwise he would have dragged down the group with his egocentric behavior.

Here's where we get to the core of the matter: people life Jeff Gordon truly believe that the scowls outweigh the homers. Bonds' aura saps slugging points away from Ludwick and Duncan. It makes Aaron Miles flub ground balls. Barry's like a baseball dementor. (See, HatGuy? I can do Harry Potter references too!)

Imagine how Bonds would have poisoned the clubhouse, honing in on Pujols and offering advice on how to handle his superstar status. One shudders at the thought of that relationship.

You think...Barry Bonds...would hurt Albert Pujols'...ability to hit baseballs. Me, I don't know, I think it would pretty fucking awesome to see these two guys swap hitting tips. God, that would be amazing.

Jesus, what if Pujols protected Bonds in the lineup or vice-versa? (Note to readers: "protection" is, as far as I understand, a myth.)

The team dealt Scott Rolen to shed his negative clubhouse presence.

And just to prove how nebulous, inconsistent, and scattershot sportswriters are when it comes to gauging "presence," the people in Toronto believed Rolen would have a positive impact on the team's "atmosphere":

"Also, replacing Thomas in the clubhouse with Scott Rolen, who's on track to return mid-May from a spring training finger injury will change the Jays' internal dynamics for the better. Rolen understands how to establish a productive atmosphere."

By moving Rolen and shunning Bonds, the Cards allowed Pujols to become an even stronger leader of his team.

Look at how the less-experienced players feed off him. Look at how Albert feeds off the hustle of all the guys fighting to establish their careers.

Yeah, he really needs Ryan Ludwick to push him. Without him, he was all "Blah, blah blah! 1.102, 1.039, 1.072, 1.106, and shit!" What a layabout!

The Cards’ early success this season underscores the value in assembling the right mix of personalities in addition to the right talent mix. This team isn’t hitting homers yet, but it keeps winning games.

In no small part because their ERA is third in the NL, which they couldn't possibly have done with Barry Bonds in the clubhouse frowning up a storm and repeatedly punching Yadier Molina in the gut, unprovoked.

Would Bonds have furthered their cause this season? Of course not. And that is why he sits home today, playing the role he plays best -- the unloved villain/victim.

The Cards are better off without him. And so is every other team.

Yes, the Mariners are much better off with Jose Vidro and his .546 OPS. OPS? More like OOPS!!!!111!!!ONE11!!!!///

It seems like the Cardinals might be okay in the outfield, so maybe Bonds isn't the best fit for them. But as writers of these pieces always seem to do, Gordon can't help but veer off into "AND NOBODY -- NOBODY -- SHOULD SIGN HIM BECAUSE HE IS TERRIBLE AND EVIL AND VILLAINOUS PURITY OF THE GAME CLUBHOUSE GRUMBLE GRUMBLE MEDIA RABBLE RABBLE CIRCUS!"

Cool. He's a jerk. We get it. Someone should probably sign him, though, because when he plays baseball he's damn good at it.

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posted by Junior  # 3:47 PM
This comment has been removed by the author.
You know what? I'm going to agree with him here. The argument is all over the map, but if I were a GM, even with a struggling NL team, I'm not sure I sign Bonds. He is old, and even though he OPSed like 3.000 last year, I think he's so poisonous and distraction-y I wouldn't want him on my team. I mean, the Reds aren't going to make the playoffs even with the guy, so why sign him? And if you're a contender, and things are going pretty well...

I don't know. Maybe this is a time when it just isn't worth it.

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