Barry Lamar Bonds. The name itself just brings chills to my spine, although not in a good way. The thought of seeing him in green and gold makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit. At the same time, it's a very real possibility for a number of reasons.
I've been thinking about this quite a bit over the past week since the press first started reporting on this possibility. There are so many layers to think about this move. I'm sorry if you're tired of hearing about this, but it isn't often that your team is tied to the greatest hitter of this generation, albeit through chemical enhancements.
- You have to know that Billy Beane is frothing at the mouth at Bonds ridiculous OPS. He was over 1.000 for the year last season in what was considered a "down" year. Beane is probably thinking that Bonds very well could easily rebound and get back to his remarkable seasons prior given that Bonds was playing with bone chips in his elbow which has since been removed. Beane loves these kinds of gambles.
- You want national media exposure? Well you got it, baby. ESPN is obsessed with big market teams like the Red Sox and Yankees. Except when it comes to players who ooze controversy. And Bonds has enough controversy to supply the Western Hemisphere. I mean, ESPN has a guy named Pedro Gomez who is essentially dedicated to following Barry Bonds. I think his business card even says, "Pedro Gomez: Forced Barry Bonds Stalker." You KNOW Gomez doesn't want to be doing this, but the higher ups at ESPN demand 24/7 coverage of the sideshows like Artest, TO and Bonds. It would suddenly bring more attention to the Coliseum than possibly has ever been here. The only time this team ever had this kind of national exposure was when the Bash Brothers were in full swing. Let's face it, that's the only way we're ever going to see the A's as the lead story on ESPN especially with Bonds on the cusp of eclipsing Hank Aaron's career home run mark. I personally could care less whether or not this team ever gets national attention, but it seems to be something that many ANers crave.
- Bonds clubhouse impact could be catastrophic. Billy Beane believes that his clubhouse can absorb anything and continue to be the self-policing, functioning entity it is today. They've never come into contact with Hurricane Barry. You know that Bonds demands special treatment with his La-Z Boy, personal trainers and special "alone time." There would be no greater force to test that theory than Bonds. Would Chavez, Kotsay and Kendall continue to run things in the laid back, kangaroo court fashion? Or would the mutiny begin the first time that Bonds refuses to acknowledge the hierarchy? Can any team absorb Milton Bradley and Barry Bonds in the same clubhouse or would their combustible personalities create a megaton bomb of epic proportions?
- Bonds would be a very different DH than Frank Thomas was. Bonds can still turn on the jets on the basepaths unlike Thomas, who was under strict restrictions to basically go station to station. Bonds can also play left field if the A's needed him to (and if the Will of Barry would allow). He would give the A's a lot more flexibility than Thomas did, especially if the A's wanted to DH another player to give them a day off in the field. Again, that would be contingent on Bonds agreeing to it which would not be a sure thing.
- The Bonds effect on Chavez and others. Eric Chavez has always admired Bonds from afar. There was even a story in the East Bay Express a few years ago where Chavez was just in awe of Bonds' swing. They've also seemed to have struck up a fairly decent rapport on the field, talking before Giants/A's games, etc. If anyone ever needed a touch of Barry Bonds in him, Eric Chavez is that guy. If Bonds would grant Chavez the time and attention, he could finally help Chavez over the hump in the batter's box. I imagine there is no one in the world that Chavez would listen to more closely than someone with Bonds' credentials. Even though most A's fans dislike Bonds, many of the A's players still respect Bonds for his accomplishments. Who knows, maybe we'll see Bradley and Swisher turn their two-person patented hand jive into a three-man party? Ah, maybe not. But if Bonds would do something he probably rarely ever did in San Francisco and that's give some advice to younger guys, he could be better than any hitting coach the A's could get to replace Gerald Perry.
- The impact on the Bay Area fan base could be sizable. You could possibly find quite a few Giants fans with Giants gear showing up to A's games just to watch this guy break a record that they felt should've happened in orange and black. The impact on the sometimes fickle Bay Area fans could be huge. I can see why Lewis Wolff would want Bonds in green and gold. The gate receipts could grow significantly, although it's arguable you could turn off just as many A's faithful by signing the pariah known as Barry Bonds.
- I still wouldn't root for Bonds. I just couldn't find it in myself to ever root for him. I find the Aaron chase an abomination of everything that is wrong with baseball. It's always a weird situation to have a player you really don't like on your team. I never liked T-Long, but I didn't actively despise him like I do Bonds. The last player that I really couldn't stand on one of my teams was Lyle Odelein for the New Jersey Devils. And I didn't like him because he often hurt the team more than helped it. I don't think that would be the situation with Bonds. For the first time in my life, I could see myself remaining seated when an A's player hit a home run. It would be one of the strangest dynamics I would ever experience as an A's fan.
- The A's would still need more than Bonds. Bonds is declining, yet I could still see many in baseball simply walking Bonds repeatedly because the A's still don't have the bats to protect a Bonds. Who would you have hit behind Barry? Jay Payton might be a nice choice, but he very well could be hitting the road. Bradley will probably be hitting ahead of Bonds. And unless Chavez has a career year next year, he probably isn't the answer. Swisher is great, but I don't see him having the maturity just yet to hit behind Bonds. He hit .190 with RISP this year in a very good year. I think the A's would still need something else to improve the offense, even though Bonds is the single greatest offensive force in baseball. I'm one of the lone A's fans who still thinks Bobby Crosby is going to be that kind of player, but I'm definitely in the minority on that one (just ask Nico and baseballgirl who would rather see Crosby in Sacramento at this point).
- Jim Young's job would suddenly become infinitely more challenging. The A's public relations director has never dealt with anything like the Bonds sideshow before. The media requests would suddenly become hotter than a ridiculously overpriced and overhyped Playstation 3 on eBay (the Xbox 360 is a much better system with better games). Oh, and Bob Geren would be thrust into the uneviable position of trying to keep peace in a clubhouse with Bradley and Bonds. Geren has a perfect personality for the job, but it would be quite the challenge for any rookie manager. The A's would also suddenly be quite the road draw. Imagine how many people in Boston would just be dying to line up to boo Bonds thinking that they have the moral high ground (course the Red Sox were the last major league team to have an African American on their roster so I don't think that franchise can ever consider itself morally superior to any).
- The bottom line is that Bonds makes the A's better. But at what cost? How many hardcore A's fans turn away from the team, especially given the team announcing a move to Fremont and already angering many of the Oakland fanbase? I suppose that the national exposure and the casual fan might make up for the loss of fans. The buzz surrounding the Aaron chase though could prove to be a good draw for businesses and casual fans, but are you selling the soul of the A's just to try and win? At the same time, it isn't like the soul of the A's is completely clean given that several players from the A's last championship were likely cheating just as much as Bonds has. And remember, the A's are probably the only fanbase that could accept Bonds without a severe backlash given that quite a few A's fans also cheer for that team in orange and black.