Do It! Why the Braves Should Sign Barry Bonds

When I first heard the news that Barry Bonds is willing to play for the league minimum I laughed: there’s no way would the Braves do this. Right? But I the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the Braves need to make this move. Here are my reasons for Bonds joining the Braves, along with rebuttals to potential objections.

The outfield. Forget Bonds as a designated hitter. The Braves outfield is so bad that it reminds me of my first impressions of outfielders from T-ball. Since the ball never made it to the outfield, the good players always played infield. I remember when I found out that Reggie Jackson played outfield and I said to my dad, “I thought he was good.” Well, the Braves outfield would never have changed my expectations. Brandon Jones, Gregor Blanco, and Jeff Francoeur: that is the worst outfield in the majors, by far. One of these guys has to bat in the six hole. Barry Bonds erases a giant hole in the lineup.

Won’t Bonds be a defensive liability in the outfield? My grandfather used to say, “What you lack in your head, you make up in your heels.” In Bonds’s case, we should add, “What you lack in your heels, you make up with your bat.” Seriously, Bonds’s OPS of 1.045 is not a minor improvement. According to Plus/Minus, Barry Bonds allowed 11 hits more than the average left fielder in 842 innings last year. He was +5 in 2006. In comparison, Jeff Francoeur has allowed six hits more than the average right fielder in 689 innings this season. Yes, Barry isn’t a great outfielder, he’s not so bad that you can’t play him.

But didn’t Bill James point out that many excellent players are good in their next-to-last season but terrible in their last season?
Yes, that’s not surprising. When you are old, and have a bad season it’s likely going cause you to stop putting forth the effort needed to get into playing shape. The problem with this type of analysis is that we don’t know if this is Bonds’s last season. What if he plays for three more years? The fact that Bonds posted a 1.045 OPS last year is good information that he is still an excellent player. His performances may slip, but he’ll have to slip awfully far to catch Golden Boy at .701.

What about that trial? Not a problem. The prosecutors have bungled the case so badly that the earliest his trial will begin is after the season.


Steroids
. He’s been a good player even since testing was instituted. Barry Bonds is a good player without performance-enhancing drugs.

No, I meant the taint of steroids.
Oh, that! Fans may talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. Let’s do a quick little thought experiment. What will happen to attendance if Bonds suits up at Turner Field? If you think it will go down, slap yourself and think again. Is that better? Two things will happen if Bonds puts on the Tomahawk. First, fans will flock to the novelty, and Braves fans can stop complaining that ESPN never shows Braves highlights—which isn’t even true. Fans will pay money to bring in magic-marker asterisks on poster board and chant “BALCO, BALCO.” This reminds me of my friend who had to take his sister to a New Kids on the Block concert. He reported that there was someone holding a sign that said “New Kids Suck”. Then why did you buy a ticket, you clod. Second, the Braves will win more games, and the team will have a legitimate shot at the post-season. Let’s face it, folks: the Ted is dead. Other than a Frenchy at-bat or when some idiot tries to start the wave—the wave is for football and basketball and is completely inappropriate at a baseball game (I’m talking to you shirtless guy with the backwards hat who is screaming “dude, get up!”)—the Braves game is a good way to get some peace an quiet. Bonds will cause a tremendous attendance boost. If you are still skeptical, give yourself another slap.

What about the legacy of Hank Aaron? This is the biggest obstacle, and I used to think it would keep Bonds out of Atlanta. But come on, folks. What damage will be done by Bonds playing half a season with Atlanta? What team did Hank Aaron play for? The Braves. The fact that he spent his final seasons on the Brewers didn’t make him a Brewer. Barry Bonds is a Giant. Playing one season with the Braves won’t make him a Brave any more than Babe Ruth‘s last season with the Braves did. His legacy is set. And if the Braves make it to the playoffs, fans will remember him positively. Heck, most fans still like Rafael Furcal despite is drunk driving problems. Atlanta is a safer place with Bonds than with Furcal. If you think this will tarnish the legacy of Aaron, get over it. The 755 club isn’t going away anytime soon.

If the Braves are one player away, why not get another player without the Bonds taint? Bonds is asking the pro-rated league minimum. There are no prospects to give up or big salaries to eat. This is one of the best reasons to sign Bonds. The team can improve now, without sacrificing the future. In fact, the additional revenue brought in by Bonds can be used on the free agent market next year.

Won’t Bonds poison the clubhouse chemistry? Bonds is a jerk, but so are a lot of baseball players. Some of these jerks play on this Braves team. One thing that the Braves have been able to do that other teams have not is handle clubhouse problems. Gary Sheffield played two seasons in Atlanta and there was not one issue. Sheffield may be an even bigger jerk than Bonds. Sheff seeks out attention, while Bonds responds when prodded. That won’t happen in Atlanta. Could things go south? Of course, but so what? It’s not like he’s going to sink a contending team. And after the year is up, he will be sent on his merry way.

Check out this lineup.

Kelly Johnson
Mark Teixeira
Barry Lamar Bonds
Chipper Jones
Brian McCann (Holy crap! McCann is batting in the six hole?! Oops! I originally had Escobar at leadoff.)
Yunel Escobar
Gimpy
Wimpy
Pitcher

So, Frank Wren get on the phone to Jeff Borris. The Braves need Barry Bonds. Do it, do it now.

Addendum: For those of you who are so deeply offended by my batting Mark Teixeira second, here are the optimal run-scoring lineups according to Baseball Musings Lineup Analysis tool.
With Bonds
Without Bonds

66 Responses “Do It! Why the Braves Should Sign Barry Bonds”

  1. billy-jay says:

    Thanks, JC. I can’t imagine why the Braves wouldn’t want to do this. Maybe they’re happy to be a bunch of losers.

  2. Adam says:

    I vaguely touched on this, but there are economic factors at work. Best case scenario, Bonds is a 2 win upgrade going forward. That means you’ve “saved” yourselves about $5 million when you weigh his contract against what’s expected for a free agent.

    However, the backlash against Bonds from the local media and established fanbase may wind up costing the team more than $5 million. I think it’s entirely plausible that all 30 owners/ownership groups decided that the opportunity cost of signing Bonds outweighs the on-field benefits.

  3. jschneider says:

    So Smoltz is a bad man because he compared homosexuality to bestiality?? Thats rediculous. I say it makes him a better man and I like him even more now.

  4. Jay says:

    “There’s a reason 30 teams have passed on him.”

    Yeah, it’s called collusion. Bonds’ trial wont begin ’till after the season. The “clubhouse cancer” bit is mostly a media creation. He offered to play for the league minimum. If we know this, every GM in baseball knows it too. What are the odds not ONE of them would take a flier on him unless there was a collusion pact?

  5. kehrsam says:

    Megan made perhaps the worst anti argument of all time:

    Yes, its attention & money, but any team who signs him is gonna get that.

    Wow. Wouldn’t want that, would we?

  6. Makes real good sense to sign Barry Bonds to the Braves it is good for everyone. And real good for baseball and Barry. He does noe deserve to be treated like he is blackballed.

  7. Barry does not deserved to be treated like he is blackballed. It makes good baseball sense to sign barry if the braves want to win. Barry is a winner and one of the greatest players ever and he has earn this shot of continuing his career and finish on a high note. Alanta Braves PLEASE SIGN BARRY and then kick the snot out of the Giants

  8. Trav says:

    Ok im not totally against signing Bonds. I would be hesitant as he will be a huge distraction. However I mean it makes a lot of since from a lineup stand point. I do disagree with batting Tex in the 2 hole though and I have reason. 1st off he is 2nd or third on the team in strikeouts this year and the 2 hole needs to be better at getting on base, 2nd Tex will end up with nearly of not over 40 HRs this year, so why waste 20 to 30 HRs with solo or 1 run HRs? Third imagine this, (assuming Kotsay stays hurt)Gregor and Yunel get on you now have a .394 30 hr+ hitter, and 2 40+ HR hitters with no outs and 2 men on, I like those odds! Also it makes it impossible to pitch around Chipper or Tex. The only concern I would have is Barry is a left handed bat and we have struggled terribly against lefties, but you do have Diaz who eats lefties for lunch so a platoon with those may lead to good things, but i think it would be wishful thinking at best, given his reputation and the tradition of the braves.

  9. Trav says:

    I also do not agree with the way people are bashing Frenchy on here. I mean he is in a terrible slump and is still well in reach of getting 100 RBIs and still has one of if not the strongest arm among ML outfielders. Everybody goes into a slump at some point, I mean Tex started the season horribly but nobody gave up on him, If Frenchy was hitting .300 with fifteen bombs and fifty to sixty RBI, yaull would think he was the best thing since loafed bread. He will figure it out. And our OF is nowhere near the worst in the majors especially when Kotsay is in, Kotsay Blanco and Frenchy, Ill take that, Blanco is really establishing himself in that leadoff spot!

  10. mflournoy says:

    Trav, most slumps don’t last two years.

  11. Jeremy says:

    jschneider says:

    So Smoltz is a bad man because he compared homosexuality to bestiality?? Thats rediculous. I say it makes him a better man and I like him even more now.

    Thats exactly what I was thinking!!!!

  12. Tyler K says:

    JC I love this idea. I have been thinking about this since the injury bug started to bite Chipper again.

    Braves Girl: It is wrong to compare Diaz and Ichiro in OBP over the last two years in that Ichrio has more than double the at bats than Diaz. (Ichrio in 06& 07 has 1373 AB’s/ Diaz 655) Diaz is a below average hitter (just throw him an outside slider and he will K every time) and a below average outfielder.

    And as far as revenue goes it makes perfect sense, since this is a business. People would line up around the corner just to boo him. The main goal here is to make a profit.

    Oh JC one question. How long before the Braves send Manny Acosta else where but on the mound to blow games?

  13. Kyle says:

    The concept of “real Braves fans” who would never support Bonds is laughable. It sounds like the way I thought about baseball when I was 10.

    I’m baffled how people can come to an intelligent, rational site like JC’s and react so irrationally.

  14. Kyle says:

    Oh yeah, and I’m not a fan of Bonds, and in general really dislike what the stain of PEDs has done to the game, but all the people who make him out to be public enemy number one, it actually makes me feel sympathetic for him. I never thought I’d say that about Bonds.

  15. Art Vandeley says:

    JC,

    You’re absolutely right. The Braves have an anemic offense and are one of the most boring teams to watch on TV (along with my hometown Padres). Bonds gives me a reason to pay attention.

    I think he’d thrive with the Yankees, playing to sell outs at home and on the road. But, unfortunately, the Selig edict seems to have been passed down to every team not to sign him.

    Too bad.

  16. Andrew says:

    JC-

    I realize you wrote this before the Braves basically tanked their way out of the playoffs, but I have a few questions/points for you:

    Does Barry Bonds have an adverse effect on a clubhouse? Game of Shadows depicts him as the anti-Christ, demanding a customized locker and personal physician and just being a misanthrope around his other teammates. As a manager, GM, or fan, would you want the most controversial player (and possibly the worst teammate) in the game’s history just to plug in left field for 1/2 of a season?

    Is it fair to assume he’d duplicate last year’s OBP? He didn’t play in spring training, his body continues to inevitably break down as a result of years of abusing it, and his confidence has to be shot. I keep hearing “the anger fuels Bonds..” That’s a joke, right? He played his best when steroids were just an afterthought. Since then, the absence of steroids have affected his physical and mental toughness at the plate. His production plummeted, and he really only played on days when he was up to it. And this was when a team actually wanted him.

    So this is what the Braves need? A renowned cancer in the clubhouse who probably won’t even reproduce his mediocre numbers from a year ago. He’d probably generate walks, but an extra runner on first base every other day wouldn’t matter for a team that can’t hit in the clutch.

    Also, defense is more important than you’re letting on. Left field might be the least important defensive position on the field, but think about the liklihood of Bonds lasting half of a season out there. Last year, the guy could barely run to first base and play left field while playing every other game.

    That’s why I disagree. I agree wtih you on the fact that fans would sacrifice reputation for performance any day, but in this case we don’t even get performance. So why disrespect Aaron for a player that’s not going to make a difference?