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Bonds and collusion

by Matt Smith

Sports fans reading the Guardian today were treated to an interesting article by Lawrence Donegan about Barry Bonds.  Entitled: “Giant banished from kingdom by the small minds of baseball”, Donegan draws attention to the way in which Bonds is currently without a team, with the Players’ Union raising fears of collusion on the part of the thirty MLB teams.

Whether collusion is really a factor is a difficult thing to assess.  It’s hard to imagine that there is any secret information on Bonds that has done the rounds.  We all know what the issues are: he’s got the accusations of drug use over his head (a P.R. problem for any potential new team), he’s got the impending trial for alleged perjury (a P.R. problem and possible distraction), and he has the reputation of being a surly team mate who might negatively affect the atmosphere in a clubhouse.  Add them together and you can well understand why the thirty teams could have arrived at the same answer independently.

But, none of those factors affect how well Bonds can hit a baseball.  There’s no doubt whatsoever that he would provide a boost to several teams that,  with one big addition or two, might have a shot at the post-season.  So the acid test will be whether Bonds lands with a team in the next month or two.  If he is keeping himself fit (which by all accounts he is) then he is going to be a compelling option for someone willing to take a chance.  With all teams looking to find even the slightest edge on their competitors, it would be strange if not even one of them seriously considers him.

I’m not sure whether we’ve seen the last of Bonds or not.  It will be very interesting finding out over the next few weeks.

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Mark Rowe May 15, 2008 - 10:00 pm

I’ve read Mr Donegan’s column over the past few days and I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that he seems to have an agenda to knock American sport. His dismissal of the NFL draft as a huge bore shows a distinct lack of understanding – imagine if all the Premiership football teams announced their new signings on the same day – but this is a Baseball site so I’ll stick to the Bonds story.

Donegan’s assertion that Bonds is innocent until proven guilty, while technically correct again is rather naive and ignores the mountain of evidence against him and the media storm that any signing would inevitably bring. It would be a big gamble for any side to spend a lot of money on a declining player who would bring so much baggage. I don’t belive the collusion stories at all.

I was also puzzled by Donegan’s assertion that the league and owners should be ashamed of their actions of ignoring the drugs problem for so long. More long term MLB fans will know this far better than me, but my understanding was that it was the players union who opposed the introduction of drugs testing for a number of years (for obvious reasons).

Matt Smith May 16, 2008 - 7:09 am

Hi Mark

If he thinks the NFL draft is boring, I wouldn’t like to read his comments on the MLB draft! Last year’s first attempt at ‘putting on a show’ was a bit pedestrian to say the least.

The innocent until proven guilty line IS a very difficult one in this case. I guess the reason why I’m a little more sympathetic is that there are many other ballplayers who are in the same boat and have been treated very differently. I just feel there’s a certain amount of hypocracy involved. The teams are not taking a stance against drug use with Bonds, they just don’t want the bad PR. Other players who don’t quite have the P.R. baggage are still playing and being paid a lot of money to do so. And Bonds is still a better hitter than most of them.

As for the owners, again it’s a difficult issue. The Players’ union were undoubtedly the party who stalled the introduction of a drug testing programme. But then again, the owners were hardly pushing for it strongly in the early/mid-nineties either when they knew full well what was going on. MLB was on a down turn because of the 94/95 strike and it made financial sense for the owners to keep quiet and (allegedly) let the steroid era bring back the fans and the TV big bucks. It’s only now that they are raking in money hand over fist that the want to take a stand. Both sides were culpable at the end of the day.

Mark Rowe May 16, 2008 - 9:50 pm

I agree that they’re not taking a stand against drugs here, I think its the perjury charges that are the problem. Most observers seem to agree that he’s likely to go to prison and the authorites seem determined to make that happen. I find it hard to find any sympathy for him but that’s as much down to his personality and his apparent dishonesty rather than the drug taking per se.

Interesting comments on the testing and the strike era. That ceratinly makes a lot of sense, I remember how the public turned against MLB after the strike, I guess a drugs controversy at that time would have been disastrous.


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