- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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These are tough times for unemployed players named in the Mitchell report trying to find work in baseball, whether they happen to be a home run king such as Barry Bonds or a 31-year-old such as Jay Gibbons or an extra outfielder, such as Nook Logan.
The agent for Bonds says that no team is interested in his client -- not even for a minimum salary -- and the circumstances for the lack of offers make him "suspicious."
Gibbons sent a letter to all 30 teams last month asking for a chance in the form of a minor league contract. He even went so far as to offer to donate his salary to charity. But he had no opportunities with a big league organization. Finally on Wednesday, Gibbons decided to play for an Independent League team, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Logan, linked to former New York Mets batboy Kirk Radomski on Page 229 of the Mitchell report, is still out of baseball, at age 28, despite having 56 steals and a .268 batting average in 321 games with the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals.
Last week, Bonds pleaded not guilty in federal court to 15 counts of lying under oath and obstruction of justice, and his trial date was set for March 2009, so his case likely would not interfere with a playing schedule this summer. But Bonds remains unemployed.
"I've talked to all the teams numerous times," said Jeff Borris, Bonds' agent. "There's not a stone that I've left unturned."
Borris is dumbfounded that Bonds isn't drawing interest in spite of the fact that Bonds' numbers were actually better in 2007, when he turned 43, than in 2006: His on-base percentage climbed, to .480; his home run rate increased; his batting average rose. Teams are starved for offense, in a year in which run-scoring and home run-hitting rates have dropped.
"We were able to get him a $19.2 million contract [with the Giants] based on those 2006 numbers," Borris said. "And the numbers went up in 2007 -- and yet we can't even get him a $390,000 deal with any team. Not a single team has any interest. It makes me suspicious."
Weeks ago, the Major League Baseball Players Association began its own inquiry into the question of whether some members of the free-agent class of 2007-08 may have fallen victim to collusion. Major League Baseball has steadfastly maintained there has been no collusion against players.
Gibbons was released by the Baltimore Orioles on March 30 for what the club maintained were reasons related to baseball performance, with the team owing him about $12 million for the last years of a multiyear deal. Gibbons sent a letter to all clubs in May asking for a chance to play again, in the minor leagues.
"I am young, healthy and determined," Gibbons wrote in the letter. "I have acknowledged and apologized for the mistake that I made and writing this letter should be proof enough that I have indeed suffered for my mistake.
"I have faith and hope that some team will give me the chance to prove that I can not only be a productive player but also be a stellar member of their organization. My faith in a second chance has inspired me to work harder than I have at any time in my life. My faith has gotten me through this most difficult period in my life.
"All I need is a chance -- any chance -- anywhere. I am more than willing to begin the process of proving that I can and will be a productive Major League Player by playing in the Minor Leagues."
Gibbons writes in the letter that he is "so willing to prove myself as a player, and a person, that I will donate ALL of my Minor League earnings to your Club's Charity. In the event that I earn the right to play at the Major League level, I will gladly donate a significant sum to that same charity."
Gibbons had received replies from some teams, including a gracious letter from Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, but he had received no offers.
Independent baseball quickly became his only option.
"I want to continue my career and start over," Gibbons said, according to the Sun. "This is an opportunity, and that is all I have been looking for."
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
These are tough times for unemployed players named in the Mitchell report to find work in baseball.