He has been blackballed in a blatant and illegal act of Major League collusion, a bosses’ boycott . . . In this case of blackballing so obvious it would shame a Dartmouth frat house, one would think the media would be raising hell. But they have largely been yipping collusion lackeys . . . The idea that baseball owners would ruin their own team’s chances because they have collectively agreed to “turn the page” is a violation of Bonds’ rights and the unwritten social contract they have with fans. And when one considers the absence of saints on Major League Baseball teams, even on the God Squad in Colorado, it is all the more drenched in hypocrisy . . .
. . . Good questions. Bonds deserves far better than to be forced into retirement and have his history coarsely expunged. The overriding ethos of the sports world is that of the meritocracy. If you are good enough, then you get to play. Yet a man who can get on base 48% of the time, has been told to go home and a new generation of fans will never see the Mozart of the batting cage. This is about more than a baseball player. It’s about people in power deciding on utterly unjust grounds, who gets to take the field, who gets to be heard, and even who gets to be remembered. Somewhere, Stalin smiles.
I'm not sure what the Stalin equivalent of Godwin's Law is, but I'm guessing there is one. Anyway, Zirin needs to come down out of the bell tower and think about a couple of things other than Bonds' potential .480 OBP.
For starters, he should think about the fact that Bonds is old, and we can be 100% certain that he won't continue to have a .480 OBP for the rest of his life. Could he this year? Maybe. Indeed, he'd be likely to have a well above-average OBP. But maybe not. He's going to be 44 years old in a couple of months and at some point, he will fall off just as Rickey and Roger and every other player in their mid-40s has since the advent of the game. Indeed, the longer he goes without being signed, the rustier he becomes and the more likely the falloff is to occur sooner rather than later. This, as all risk does, limits Bonds' allure as a signee because teams have various tolerances for risk.
He should also think about the fact that there are, at best, a half dozen suitable landing spots for Bonds (I think only four). This because Bonds can't play defense anymore. He really can't, which eliminates more than half of the teams in baseball as potential suitors. As for the AL, there are only four teams who both (1) need a DH because theirs really sucks and (2) aren't already making a major financial commitment to one already. That second part is important here because, the concept of sunk costs notwithstanding, signing someone as controversial as Bonds is going to double the political heat a GM feels when he normally benches a high-priced guy (which teams are already loathe to do). Those teams are Toronto, Kansas City, Seattle, and (maybe) Minnesota. Only Toronto and Seattle seem like remotely decent fits.
So we have, what, 2-4 teams that make sense? Being charitable, I'll give you six (Bonds could help the Yankees and Angels, but the politics of those places make the possibility exceedingly remote). If that's all we were up against -- six teams not calling Barry -- you'd already have a pretty poor case of collusion. But that's not all we have. We have the fact that -- rightly or wrongly -- Bonds is the game's biggest pariah, and is an indicted one to boot.
As I've said previously, I think the indictment is weak and the criminal case against him won't interfere with the season. But that doesn't matter, because I'm not the one putting my career on the line to sign him. Bill Bavasi or J.P. Ricciardi are. Assume for a minute that they believe Bonds can still put up that .480 OBP and sign him. What happens if they're wrong? This isn't like taking a flyer on Jim Edmonds. This will be a highly scrutinized signing, and if Bonds can't deliver, a loudly derided one by both the local and national press. Anyone who signs Barry Bonds only to have him tank has, in all likelihood, made their last move as a general manager. Ask yourself: would you risk your career and reputation on Barry Bonds? I've done more than my share of Bonds apologizing over the years and I sure wouldn't.
Any one of these three things -- age, strategic fit, or controversy -- provide a team with a plausible, legal, and even justifiable reason to steer clear of an otherwise attractive free agent. In Bonds you have the perfect storm of all three, and that's without even going down the team chemistry or salary roads, which may also be a factor in the minds of GMs.
Does any of this prove that there hasn't been a conspiracy against Barry Bonds? Of course not. But it does make a pretty compelling case that any charge of collusion wouldn't be all that compelling. Zirin is outraged that the media hasn't been "raising hell." Hey, I'm a big fan of muckraking, but if I'm an editor I need my reporter to provide me at least some evidence of a conspiracy before I let the hell raising commence. This is especially true in the face of a lot of reasons why Bonds isn't playing right now that don't require a conspiracy to exist.
So no, I'm not buying Zirin's Stalinist rebop. I wouldn't even buy a Reinsdorfian one.