Commentary

Bonds created his situation; now he suffers through it

Updated: August 12, 2008, 7:27 PM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

Barry Bonds' latest Monster.com moment -- when he sadly, almost pathetically lobbied for a job during the middle of a recent pregame ceremony at AT&T Park -- reminds me of the great "Saturday Night Live" sketch featuring Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz.

Remember? Lovitz plays Harry, the all-powerful movie studio mogul. Hartman plays Johnny O'Connor, the aging, fading leading man.

Barry Bonds

Bonds

    Johnny: "Maybe I've made too many of these war movies. Maybe I should take a rest, huh, Harry?"

    Harry: "Well, I'm glad you brought that up, Johnny. I think you should take a rest too -- a permanent one."

    Johnny: "What do you mean?"

    Harry: "I'm letting you go."

    Johnny: "You mean …"

    Harry: "Yes, your contract isn't being renewed."

    Johnny: "But, Harry, I …"

    Harry: "You're finished, Johnny!"

    Johnny: "Don't mince words!"

    Harry: "I think you stink!"

    Johnny: "Listen, Harry, if you're unhappy with my work, tell me now!"

    Harry: "You're through, do you hear me? Through! You'll never work in this town again!"

    Johnny: "Don't leave me hanging by a thread. Let me know where I stand."

    Harry: "I think you're the worst actor I've seen and I get 500 letters a day telling me the same."

    Johnny: "What's the word on the street?"

Bonds is Johnny. Clueless. Tone-deaf. Incapable of accepting the reality of his situation -- a situation he helped create.

And yet, there was Bonds last Saturday in San Francisco, using a moment that was meant to celebrate the Giants' outfielders of the past 50 years, and turning it into a public job application. If you saw the clip, you know what I mean. If you didn't, here's the passage that matters:

    "I want to thank the Giants for inviting all these great guys," he said. "It's weird for me not to be in uniform with the Dodgers [gesturing toward the Los Angeles dugout and manager Joe Torre] right there. You heard me, Torre. I beat you before and I can beat you again. I haven't retired. Thank you."

As always, Bonds is about Bonds. He can't help himself. It's one of the reasons why no big league team will touch him with a 10-foot fungo bat.

I interviewed two front-office executives and one general manager from three different MLB teams Tuesday. On the condition of anonymity, they listed the three top reasons why Bonds remains unemployed and unwanted.

1. TOO OLD, TOO INJURY PRONE, TOO LATE
Bonds is 44. He hasn't faced big league pitching since Sept. 26, 2007. Now he wants a team, preferably a contender, to sign him for the stretch run?

"I don't care who he is," said the general manager. "I don't know anybody who can sit out in his 40s, and then think you can just polish him up for a week and play. How can you get him ready now? It's not 12-inch softball. It isn't three days of BP and you're ready."

Baseball Prospectus, which publishes an exhaustive annual preseason guide, said Bonds was good for 20 home runs and 70 RBIs in 2008. But it also said he had a 62 percent chance of collapsing this year. And the projections were made with the assumption that Bonds would sign with a team during the offseason and have a full spring training to prepare himself. Instead, nothing.

"How productive would he be?" said one high-ranking team executive. "I think our team would be better off without him."

2. NOT AN EVERYDAY OPTION
Even though Bonds made his job plea to Torre and the Dodgers the other day, there's hardly any scenario where a National League team could afford to take a chance on him. The consensus was he'd be too much of a defensive liability.

"He can't run … he's not nearly what he was," said the GM.

American League teams could use him as a DH, but would he play in day games after night games? Would he pout if dropped below his customary No. 3 or No. 4 spot in the lineup? In San Francisco, Bonds had a habit of dictating his availability. And it was a given that Bonds would bat in the three or four hole of the lineup.

3. HE ISN'T WORTH THE TROUBLE
One of the executives, whose NL team briefly considered signing Bonds, put it this way: "Baseball people felt he was not a fit, and that was that."

And this from the other executive: "I don't think what he brings is what we're looking for … The distraction he would bring would be amazing."

There's no way around it. Bonds has rarely, if ever, been beloved by his teammates. Of course, you could easily argue that without him, the Giants wouldn't have made four of their playoff appearances. But with him, the Giants won exactly zero World Series rings.

"Almost nobody liked playing with him," said a team executive. "I wouldn't want him around … Collusion? Give me a break. Nobody wants him because of the way he treated people for 20 years."

At least one AL team, the Tampa Bay Rays, discussed taking a chance on Bonds. It happened earlier in the season, but team officials later said the discussions never advanced to a serious stage.

Meanwhile, a telling sign of Bonds' lack of appeal is that the Rays, even with recent injuries to outfielder Carl Crawford and third baseman Evan Longoria, remain uninterested in the all-time home run leader. An AL executive said he understood why the Rays would be reluctant to sign Bonds for emergency duty.

"It could be a stain that really lasts for a while," said the executive. "You've got a story now -- the little engine that could. God forbid if [Bonds' signing] didn't work."

And maybe it's a coincidence, but the Bonds-less Giants won their 50th game Aug. 10, compared to Aug. 13 with Bonds a season ago. If they go 22-23 during their last 45 games, the Giants will surpass their win total of 2007.

What's the word on the street? For Bonds, there is no word, only silence. Too bad he's the last to realize it.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter

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