Will Work for At-Bats: Why Can't Barry Bonds Find a Job?

Don SpielesCorrespondent IJanuary 5, 2009

There are few who could argue intelligently that Barry Bonds is not Hall-of-Fame worthy, but how does one explain the fact that this man whose name ranks up with the greats like Ruth, Mays, Williams, and so on, cannot seem to find a job playing baseball?

Everyone is aware of the detractors. 

His fielding sucks a bit, but he did get his hip worked on. 

He's going to court in March on perjury charges.  He's got, at best, a huge cloud of doubt about steroid use.  At worst, he's got a history of rampant blood doping.  He's a prima donna who doesn't get along with the media, he's an alleged tax evader, and, by all accounts, he's a lousy husband, to boot.

But there is of course a good side, and man is it good!

Bonds is the all-time home run leader with 762.  He is also the single-season homer king, with 73.  His average on base percentage (OPB) between 2004 and 2007 was .486.  In his last three full seasons, he walked 479 times and he is 395 intentional walks ahead of the No. 2 man, Hank Aaron.  His career on base plus slugging (OPS) is a whopping 1.051.

This list of credentials is, mathematically and logically, the best set of numbers in all of baseball, past and present.  Yet with all of these things to fill his resume, no one is biting.

After the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, the next hammer to be talked about ad nauseum is Manny Ramirez.  So far he has not been signed to a deal at all, let alone the lucrative one that he claims to merit.  His stats are nothing compared to Bonds, but his list of negatives is far shorter, too. 

But what about Bonds?

Forget the teams with playoff chances and coffers of cash.  Barry wants what Barry has always wanted—more stats. 

He needs 37 extra base hits to surpass Hank Aaron's 1,477.  If he could get on base 331 more times, he'd pass Pete Rose's 5,929 mark.  About 881 total bases would put him at the top of that list, surpassing, once again, Hank Aaron, who had 6,856 at the end of his career.  Another 65 hits, measly by Bonds standards, places him in the "3000 Club". 

Bonds is willing to play for far less than Manny.  Sure, he might only have a year or two left in him (assuming he's not doing five to ten in jail.)  Right now it seems like Manny Ramirez is only going to get a two- or three-year deal, anyway.

At first glance, the headline of this article probably had readers thinking, "I know why!"  But really, when a guy like Bonds is willing to play anywhere, which is about the case, and he's willing to do so for far less than marquee bucks—what is really the issue?

Teams could include a clause to deal with legal issues (as in time away).  They could put clauses in for playing time in general, performance totals, the list goes on.  All of this and Bonds would still play.

He would probably fit better with an AL club as a DH. So where are teams like Kansas City, Baltimore, or Texas, who could certainly use the bat as much as the increased butts in the seats?  Without having to cover a position, Bonds could focus on the plate and could make a real difference.

It seems that the cards have been dealt and that we've seen Barry Bonds last Major League game.  Considering all drama and controversy, I'd be lying if I said I'm going to miss him—I never liked him much. I can't help but be confused, however, at the lack of interest in what would be an interesting last go-round in a profoundly interesting career.