Barry Bonds will likely not be in anyone's camp for Spring Training this season. I have seen some strange, strange things in my life as a sports fan, but I don't think I've ever seen an athlete who remains this valuable not get a shot with someone.
It may seem like I'm being purposely obtuse by expressing any measure of shock at this development, but it's a sign of my almost inexcusable hope in the human race that I am still cowed by the stupidity present in industry groupthink. The fact that Bonds isn't in someone's camp right now makes no more sense than giving a multi-million dollar severance package to a CEO who has bled his shareholders dry, but it has happened nonetheless. Perhaps the capitalists were wrong to think that financial incentive was enough to encourage the majority of people to utilize rational thought.
I've spent the last couple of days truly amazed at the glee the media is taking with the entire Bonds saga. If it's not windbags like Ken Rosenthal trying to compare Bonds' "indiscretions" to actual crimes against human beings, it's the media's dogged hounding of any team official from any team that dares to even be obvious and state that having the guy in the lineup might not be the worst thing ever.
ESPN's Rob Neyer poo-pooed the idea that Bonds' was being actively blackballed by owners and GMs, though perhaps only in terms of a strict definition of the term:
Has Bonds been blackballed? I don't think so. That term suggests conspiracy. I don't see one, nor have I heard any hint of one. As I think I mentioned recently in this space, there's a key piece of information to which we're not privy (at least not yet): How much does he want? I believe that if Bonds were willing to sign for nothing (i.e. just a few million bucks) he could find himself a roster spot.
I, too, doubt there's any kind of organization behind the efforts to keep Bonds out of baseball this year, but I nonetheless feel that Bonds is being informally blackballed, if only by a media that's made it clear they're going to make life hell for anyone who breaks rank on this thing. Believe me, when someone as generally congenial as Ken Rosenthal — we're talking about the Andy Katz of baseball here — starts mentioning Kobe Bryant's rape case in the same breath as Bonds, you know there is some serious revenge on the minds of sports writers who have taken Bonds' shit all these years. This isn't commentary, it's payback.
Pure speculation on my part, but I think the Rays were more than a little interested in Bonds for this season. It's a forward-thinking franchise that's struggled to attract fans, and no one's going to argue that Jonny Gomes is more deserving of ABs at this — or any — point in his career than Bonds. It just seemed like the right fit, not unlike the A's were. And, make no mistake, people will show up to see Bonds. Some of them may boo, some of them may "protest" the team, but there's never been a team that better understood that all attention is good attention that the Rays.
But I also think a young franchise on the verge of landing a new, publicly financed stadium, caught of whiff of the media's incoming shit storm and thought better of being so bold. Again, I could be wrong, and this is all speculation on my part. But I really do believe that the media — not Bonds, not Bonds' agent, and not Bonds' indictment — scared off teams like the Padres, A's and Rays who dared to suggest that maybe Bonds might perhaps be somewhat of a moderate upgrade, maybe, over the horseshit they're planning on trotting out in either LF or at DH.
Considering the tenor of much of what I've seen in the "established" sports media this past week — Rosenthals' thoughtless rant joins TK's anti-blogger diarrhea and Jon Heyman's comical "takedown" of statheads — it appears that the old-school media are fending off what many forecast to be their forthcoming irrelevance by proving they're capable of the same spleen they often criticize bloggers for displaying. And, in this case, it appears that the media is close to successfully taking food out of Bonds' mouth, which is what I think he was accusing them of attempting to do for so long anyway. There's probably an opportunity to tie everything into some snappy line, but I'm going to leave it at that.
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Pepe's Ryan Howard post at his new blog is really interesting, even if I take issue with one of his (albeit smaller) points.