In 2007, Barry Bonds had a .480 on-base percentage. To put that in perspective, here is the full list of players who have had a higher OBP since then:
A player getting on base 48 percent of the time is a ludicrously valuable thing, even if his running and fielding makes you think of a security guard chasing a fan on the field. Any team could have had Bonds. What's more, they could have had him for the minimum salary. Heck, he was even willing to play for free:
Borris said Bonds even would play for free -- offering to donate whatever salary he receives to purchase tickets for children.
And every single team said, "Nope. Not worth it. This player with 20-homer power and a .480 OBP is such a distraction, such a burden, we wouldn't dream of it." The Royals decided to pay Joey Gathright instead. The Marlins gave Luis Gonzalez 341 at-bats, paying him $2 million for the privilege. Every team had bench players who would never be seen in the majors again, and to those teams, it was worth having a lesser roster if it meant that Barry Bonds wasn't on their team.
Now Bonds is filing a grievance against Major League Baseball, asserting collusion. Years after Bonds played his last game, the anti-steroid fervor has died down enough to allow players like Nelson Cruz to get multi-year deals as long as he's hitting dingers. It's hard to remember just how crazy and maniacal the great PED purge was, but it's why Bonds couldn't find work. If the Yankees released Alex Rodriguez tomorrow, you can bet he wouldn't be unemployed for long. And everyone knows he's not going to post anything close to a .480 OBP.
Literally a .480 on-base percentage. And that was on the low side for Bonds. He was clearly declining with that .480 mark. He hit a rough patch in his career and slipped under .500. Must have been hard.
It's time to rewrite history, then. Who are the teams that could have used Barry Bonds in 2008?
All of them, other than the Phillies?
Okay, who are the five teams that could have used Barry Bonds the most in 2008? The Phillies are excused because they won the World Series. They don't need to play the second-guessing game. Everyone else should sit in the corner, and think about what they've done.
They were lousy in 2008, yes. On the other hand, the fans loved Barry Bonds. They deserved an emotional, drawn out farewell to Bonds when he decided to stop playing, even if you don't think Bonds deserved that. The Giants took the money saved on Bonds and passed it on to Aaron Rowand, which was one of the worst free agent moves of the decade. Attendance dropped below three million for the first time since AT&T Park opened, and the Giants lost 90 games.
It really was brutal watching Bonds try to field toward the end of his career, but he made up for it several times every game, at least when considering entertainment value. Like the Phillies, you can almost give the Giants a pass here, considering how their future panned out. You don't need an alternate reality to get the Giants feeling good about the decisions they've made.
Still, there's no denying that Bonds would have made an unwatchable team watchable. The Giants should have been shooting for watchable.
The Angels won 100 games for the first (and only) time in franchise history in 2008, but they won just one postseason game against the Red Sox. To put the Angels on the should've-had-Bonds list, you would have to believe that Bonds would have been enough to make up for at least one of the losses, which is a pretty presumptuous thing to believe.
I'll allow it, though. Juan Rivera and Gary Matthews were a combined 1-for-13 in the series, with Vladimir Guerrero DHing. Put Vlad in the field and Bonds at DH, and the Angels win each game of the series by 12 runs, all coming on Bonds grand slams. Unless I'm just a fanboy who has gone too far. No, no, that's probably what Bonds would have done, it's you who is wrong.
The Angels probably would have won 103 games or more with Bonds, but that's not the part that matters. In retrospect, I'm not sure if Bonds would have pushed them into the ALCS, but I know that the roster they did have couldn't do it.
The 2008 Twins are a sad team to reminisce about on multiple levels. After dominating the AL Central for years, they had a down year in 2007, and they realized they had to trade Johan Santana or lose him. They traded him for Carlos Gomez, whom they turned into J.J. Hardy, whom they turned into 26 games of Jim Hoey. Meanwhile, in 2008, the Twins miss the postseason by a single game. It was a game that Santana almost certainly would have given them.
Instead of rewriting history to allow the Twins to keep Santana, rewrite it to give them Barry Bonds. They had below-average production from the DH slot that year, and if they were worried about clumsy defense, well, they were starting Delmon Young in left. Even if Bonds is good for just 30 or 40 games, and even if he doesn't start much, he still could have outperformed players like Randy Ruiz and Craig Monroe, who combined for 50 starts at DH.
In this scenario, the Twins win the AL Central. Then they beat the Rays and Red Sox to move to the World Series, where they defeat the Phillies. Pat Gillick stays on as the GM of the Phillies because he wants to win a title with that core, and he builds an unstoppable juggernaut that is 20-11 right now and threatening to run away with the NL East.
Hope you're happy, Twins. You not only screwed up your own season, but you screwed up an entire different organization, too.
The Mets already had the closest thing to Bonds in Moises Alou, another 40-something dude who could still hit, even if he was ghastly in the field. But Alou broke early and often, and by July, it was clear that he wasn't coming back. That's around the time when Bonds was putting his WILL PLAY FOR FREE ads on Craigslist. The Mets did okay for themselves, wringing out surprising value from Fernando Tatis, but there's no point trying to find a spot for Bonds retroactively. Making a spot would have improved every team. The Mets could have sat Tatis, sat Ryan Church, or just brought Bonds off the bench as a super-pinch-hitter.
On September 24, 2009, the Mets were hosting the Cubs. Carlos Delgado hit a grand slam to give the Mets a lead, but Oliver Perez gave that lead away quickly. In the bottom of the ninth, with the game tied 6-6, the Mets get a leadoff triple. David Wright struck out, and the Cubs loaded the bases intentionally, looking for a ground ball. All the Mets needed was a sac fly, and that might have set off a chain reaction that led to them winning the World Series.
Their first hope was Ryan Church. He grounded out to second.
Their last hope was Ramon Castro. He struck out.
Maybe there wasn't a spot for Bonds in that inning -- Castro was the backup catcher, and Brian Schneider had already been burned -- but any late-inning situation could have used a little Bonds off the bench. The Mets ended up losing six of their last nine and missing the postseason by a game.
The no-brainer choice. The Rays lost the World Series, and three of their losses came in one-run games. In the first one-run loss, Willy Aybar was the DH. He was 0-for-3.
In the second one-run loss, they sent Dioner Navarro, Gabe Gross and Jason Bartlett up in the ninth inning of a tie game. They went down in order.
In the third one-run loss, the Rays sent Eric Hinske up to pinch-hit with the tying run on second. He struck out to end the World Series.
The Rays are a little trickier to negotiate, though, considering that Carl Crawford's arm wouldn't play in right field. Bonds would have been strictly a DH, and there wouldn't have been a lot of ways to get him at-bats in Philadelphia. Still, we know what happened, with the benefit of hindsight. Bonds couldn't have double-lost the World Series for the Rays. And he might have even helped them win some of those one-run games.
The worst part might be that the Rays made something of a point to acquire players who were undervalued because of off-the-field issues. When the Rays traded for Aybar, this was part of the news story on the deal:
Friedman did not back away from addressing Aybar's problems off the field.
"We did a lot of due diligence into his (substance abuse) problems from last year," Friedman said. "While we recognized it's a risk, we feel it's a risk worth taking."
Friedman said Aybar's problem "needs to be monitored."
"And it's something we will be aggressive to help him any way we can to put a support network into place," said Friedman, who noted such issues are a private matter.
The Rays won the pennant with Aybar as the DH, and maybe Bonds would have been picked off in the ninth inning of Game 7 in the ALCS. There are no guarantees that Bonds could have helped the Rays beat the Phillies, and there are permutations with him that make their season end without the pennant.
Wouldn't you have liked to see them try, though? If you're a Rays fan, don't you want to see what's in the mystery box? Of all the alternate realities, this is one of the most fascinating. But we're supposed to believe that the Rays, who committed to overlooking off-the-field issues so they could acquire the best players possible, who were one of the teams least likely to be worried about a media firestorm, who had an analytically savvy front office that collectively drooled at the thought of a .400+ OBP in the middle of the order for less than a million, just didn't have any interest in Barry Bonds.
Seems odd. We'll never know what Bonds would have done in 2008 -- 47 at-bats and a serious knee injury wouldn't have been out of the question -- and not knowing is the worst part. There's a chance that Bonds would have helped a team other than the Phillies win the 2008 World Series.
For whatever reason, though, every single team passed on that .480 OBP. What a bunch of weirdos.
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