A Simple Rebuttal of Anti-Bonds Arguments

Fire Joe Morgan has an interesting back-and-forth dialogue vis-à-visopen letters” between Ken Tremendous and Dak. KT takes the position that the Red Sox should not sign Barry Bonds to replace the injured David Ortiz and Dak argues that they should. This isn’t a response to them per se, but I am going to cite KT’s arguments against Bonds as the basis of this article, since most of them are common arguments. I’ll respond to them in the order in which he lists them.

1. KT cites Bonds’ 50% PECOTA projections which are “.233/.387/.462, EqA of .293.” We really don’t know how having half the season off will affect him, so we can’t cite that for either side of the coin. However, last season in 340 AB at the age of 42, Bonds had an OPS+ of 170 (.276/.480/.565, EqA of .345) and, aside from his injury-plagued 2005 season, has played in at least 126 games every year of this decade. As a DH, his balky knees won’t really come into play, and his being a liability as a defender is moot. Why would Bonds have a huuuuuuge decline in production simply from being a year older already in his 40’s? Do we expect Jamie Moyer to put up a 35 ERA+ next season simply because he’s turning 46, despite having an ERA+ of 87 or better since turning 40?

KT goes on to write,

there isn’t a good reason to think that the guy will hold up that well, especially since it turns out that the zinc and flaxseed oil he was using was actually […] Winstrol/Stanozolol, Deca-Durabolin, HGH, The Cream, and The Clear, among other things. Without that kind of zinc and flaxseed oil, this could be one broken-down 43 year-old pituitary case.

What is the consensus year that Bonds stopped using PED’s (allegedly)? They started testing in 2003 and essentially got progressively tougher each year. Allegations have him using them in 1999 due to jealousy of the Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa home run chase. Well, here are his OPS+ numbers since 1999…

1999: 155

2000: 188

2001: 259

2002: 268

2003: 231

2004: 263

2005: 174 (42 at-bats)

2006: 156

2007: 170

So, say what you will about the PED’s he took (allegedly), he’s still one of the most productive players in baseball with or without them, even at the ripe age of 43.

Also, KT lists a bunch of substances Bonds allegedly used, and superfluously tacks on “the cream” and “the clear” at the end. “The cream” masks the substances and “the clear” refers to tetrahydrogestrinone (THG).

2. KT talks about the defensive liabilities of Manny Ramirez and Bonds, and talks about using Ramirez as a DH and Crisp/Ellsbury in left field with the conclusion that getting Ramirez out of left field and either of the other two in there will more than make up for the additional offense Bonds creates. He uses runs above average (RAA) for fielding (FRAA) which are flawed, but just to make everything equal…

Bonds, 2007: 44 Batting RAA (BRAA), -12 FRAA; Net: 32 RAA or approx. 3.2 wins.

Ramirez, 2008 prorated (550 PA): 26 BRAA, -2 FRAA; Net: 24 RAA or approx 2.4 wins.

Ellsbury, 2008 prorated (550 PA): 22 BRAA, 24 FRAA; Net: 46 RAA or approx 4.6 wins.

Crisp, 2008 prorated (550 PA): -2.5 BRAA, 11 FRAA; Net: 8.5 RAA or approx 0.85 wins.

. . .

Bonds DH, Ramirez LF, Crisp/Ellsbury CF (average of the two): 95 RAA or approx. 9.5 wins.

Ramirez DH, Crisp LF, Ellsbury CF: 80.5 RAA or approx. 8 wins.

Bonds is worth about a win and a half more.

3. KT writes, “Barry Bonds hasn’t played baseball yet this year.”

As mentioned, this can’t be cited as a good or a bad thing since there’s no way to prove how it affects a player.

4. KT writes, “Barry Bonds has never played in the American League.”

I don’t think the difference in leagues matters, especially given inter-league play and the fact that Bonds would be a DH in the AL. If anything, moving to the AL would benefit Bonds. There’s the obvious disadvantage of having to face a bunch of pitchers he’s never seen before, but we’re not talking about a scrub that is being called up from AAA; we are talking about one of the three best hitters ever to play the game of baseball, and arguably the best eye in baseball history.

5. KT cites Bonds making comments in June 2004 about the city of Boston being “racist.” Bonds used that as a reason he would never play for the Red Sox. I don’t see how this is a reason not to sign Bonds. Was it an ill-advised, politically-incorrect statement? Absolutely, but baseball isn’t about public relations first and foremost, is it?

6. This will be a long one. KT lists six reasons for Bonds being “world’s biggest douchebag.” It’s a very detailed ad hominem, but I’ll humor it anyway.

Consider that he (a) has been cheating at baseball for like 10 years

So have hundreds of other players, a lot of whom didn’t have any trouble finding jobs anyway. As Dak pointed out, the Red Sox had the steroid-using Eric Gagne.

(b) lied about it the whole time

I don’t blame him. Until 2003, there was no way to get caught other than red-handed. If players shouldn’t be signed for being “douchebags,” and lying is douchebaggery, then most baseball players are douchebags and therefore should not be signed to baseball teams.

(c) cheated on his wife and used non-IRS-reported cash to buy his mistress a house in Arizona

His relationship with his wife and others is not germane both to the “douchebag” argument and to the “he shouldn’t be signed” argument.

His “non-IRS-reported cash” is germane only if it is still an ongoing legal issue. As far as I can tell, it isn’t. They’ve been trying to nail Bonds for the last four years or so and they’ve come up empty each time. In fact, Bonds has been so hard to nail that the federal prosecutors had to revise their original indictment and break it down into pieces to reflect each falsehood Bonds is alleged to have made. Why would they do this? They know that they’re not going to win in some – and more likely, most – of them.

As Golden Gate University law professor Peter Keane told the Associated Press, “It is two ways of saying it is lying. There is really no substantial difference between what he was charged with then and what he is charged with now.”

(d) claimed racism everywhere he went for whatever reason if it suited his purposes

Is it really that outrageous for one of the most prominent African American athletes to be aware of racism that still obviously exists in this country? I think some people would prefer if people would just simply keep quiet about racism simply because they don’t want to hear about it.

Even if he’s excessively vocal about it, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” applies here.

(e) once dragged his fucking kids into a press conference and used them as literal human shields to try to protect himself from questions about whether he was using steroids (which, again, he totally was)

Did Bonds say that was the reason he brought his kids to the press conference? It’s a strawman argument otherwise.

And no one has proven that he ever used steroids. Regardless of how obvious you feel it is that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs, he still allegedly took them.

and to try to make the reporters who were asking the questions feel guilty for asking them


(f) didn’t even show up to the fucking HR-hitting contest held at his own [freaking] ballpark

What KT fails to mention is that Bonds had legitimate reasons for sitting out. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “Bonds said Thursday he will not participate because of the strain it would place on his body, ‘especially when you’re 42.’”

Now, I know a lot of guys in professional sports can proudly claim one or more of (a)-(f). But only one has all of them. And you want to put that guy — that 43 year-old mini-scrotumed douchebag — on your team?

If that “43-year-old, mini-scrotumed douchebag” gives my team a better chance of winning – and, as proven, he does – then absolutely I want him on my team.

7. KT rehashes #2 and is still wrong, as shown.

8. KT says that, because the Red Sox have won two World Series in 2004 and ’07, the front office shouldn’t feel pressure to win another one this season. The goal of every team every season is to win a World Series. The concern of not selling the farm to win now is legitimate, but Bonds would only cost cash, something the Red Sox have plenty of with the second-highest payroll in Major League Baseball.

To say that the Red Sox should just shrug their shoulders and hope for the best with the loss of their most important hitter is to ignore the goal that every team has going into each season.

9. KT has a funny scenario in which Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy introduces himself to Bonds. It doesn’t further the argument, but it’s good levity.

10. KT says that the “real problem” is pitching, as if signing Bonds would prevent the Red Sox from improving their pitching. This is what’s known as a false dilemma. As mentioned, Bonds would likely cost the Red Sox under $1 million (all of the rumors that Bonds wants $10+ million are unfounded; no one has even called Bonds or his Agent Jeff Boriss in speculation). The Red Sox have money to spare.

11. KT responds to Dak’s willingness to ignore most off-the-field issues as long as his team is successful. KT disagrees. They both humor lots of egregious scenarios which would never happen with Bonds, such as “Barry Bonds tested positive for steroids and HGH and let’s say, for the fun of it, black tar heroin,” “SpyGate II for the next 25 years,” “Barry Bonds had fixed the games,” and “[Bonds] had personally taken some of the not-reported-to-the-IRS cash.”

As we can see, a lot of the common anti-Bonds arguments are very error-prone and based largely on emotion rather than objectivity. Things would be a lot easier if people would just own up and say that they don’t like Bonds and don’t want him wearing the home team’s uniform instead of pretending to throw salvos of facts around. The verdict is in and it’s unanimous: Bonds’ value as an offensive player is far too great to simply pass up for essential pennies on the dollar. Almost every team in Major League Baseball would benefit from adding Bonds, even in the National League where his defensive shortcomings come into play.