The Windup: Yankees need Bonds
Barry Bonds, whatever you think about him, still makes baseball sense for just about any team. The home runs. The RBIs. The walks. The threat of all of that. Bonds' baseball-bashing oeuvre is, even his most ardent critics have to admit, pretty impressive. If somebody is searching for an impact bat, none is bigger than the one Bonds carries.
Signing Bonds makes perfect financial sense, too, for anyone. After sitting around all season waiting for someone to call, Bonds is reportedly willing to play for peanuts. And then donate those peanuts to charity, according to his agent.
The only thing that's holding Bonds back from an avalanche of offers, then, is Barry Bonds. And we all know that story. The world-famous dark-cloud attitude. The suffocating atmosphere encircling him. All the off-field baggage, legal and otherwise, that comes with the surly slugger.
That's why Bonds is unemployed today. Not many teams want to deal with that. Not many could. Maybe none.
Still, as baseball speeds into the final few days before its annual trade deadline, with a dozen or more teams screaming for hitting help, Bonds seems a suitable fit for one particular franchise trying to make a move that matters. It's a team that needs his bat (who doesn't?), a team that can swing the finances (who can't?) and a team that can handle all the ambient noise around the most controversial player of this era.
Helloooo, Yankees. Are you listening?
Late last week, the Yankees' decision-makers met in Tampa, Fla., to discuss how to make the team better. Bonds' name, probably predictably, popped up. Not long after that, though, general manager Brian Cashman made it fairly clear -- as clear as GMs get at this time of the year anyway -- that Bonds in pinstripes is not in the works.
But, honestly, what are the Yanks afraid of? Distractions? A rift in the clubhouse? Fitting Bonds' La-Z-Boy through the door at Yankee Stadium?
Really? Let me get this straight:
Steroids scandals, HGH admissions, too many late nights clubbing in Manhattan. Strippers in hotels, Madonna on the sports' pages, Reggie Jackson's foot in his mouth. Big-money busts, hirings and firings and Hall of Fame managers turned away.
Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson and Carl Pavano. Further back, Kevin Brown and David Wells and Roger Clemens. Raul Mondesi. Jeff Weaver. You can go on and on.
And the Yankees can't deal with a couple of months of Barry Bonds?
The truth is, there are a lot of reasons for the Yankees to hire Bonds, not the least of which is that they need him. Scoring 4.7 runs a game, the Yanks rank way too close to the middle of the American League pack to be considered true championship material. With Hideki Matsui -- their best designated hitter -- probably gone for the year, there's room for improvement at DH. Richie Sexson isn't the answer. And newly acquired Xavier Nady isn't going to make the difference Bonds would, either.
Bonds in the middle of that lineup, with Jeter and Bobby Abreu and A-Rod and Giambi, would be especially impressive. Nobody in the AL East could match it. No one in baseball, probably.
Yes, the circus would be in town, again. The clubhouse would be filled with reporters every day. Cashman and manager Joe Girardi would be questioned constantly about the new hire. Columnists would rip the team for bringing on a steroids cheat. Bonds wouldn't be able to burp without it getting noticed. Players would get grilled on their new teammate. The back pages of the tabloids would be the Yankees' domain.
In other words, it would be business as usual in the Bronx.
The Yankees probably won't sign Bonds. They're doing all right as it is, with their recent winning streak and their bold march up to the trading deadline. The Yankees, after all the injury problems they've had this year, are in this race without Bonds.
But Bonds, with his credentials, almost certainly would make the Yankees a better team. He comes with virtually no risk, on the baseball side, at all. And what other risk there is -- the endless headlines, a sense of unrest, a little moral outrage, the deafening buzz -- well, if any team can handle what Bonds brings, the Yankees can.
Player of the Week
I credit Ryan Braun for getting the under-performing Brewers off their complacent butts earlier this season with a few critical comments uttered at just the right time. And he's doing more than spurring the Brew Crew now. He's showing them the way. Braun had a heck of a week (13-for-29, four home runs, nine RBIs) that included three multi-hit games. Since their embarrassing butt-kicking in Boston in mid-May, the Brewers are 41-21. Braun -- .312 with 15 homers and 45 RBIs in 58 games in that stretch -- is their MVP. He may well be the league's MVP.
Team of the Week
I hate when I have to make the Yankees the Team of the Week. I'm going to get all sorts of e-mail from people calling me a Yankee lover and complaining about East Coast bias. I was thinking hard about giving the Brewers the nod, especially when they climbed into a tie with the Cubs on Saturday after winning nine of 10. But the Yankees won those eight straight, and they've shown with their off-field activities -- trading for Nady and Damaso Marte and coming close to sealing a deal for Jarrod Washburn -- that they are dead serious about making a run at the AL East title. It's a three-team race now in the East, thanks to the resurgent Yanks. We're going to have to live with that for a while.
Lines of the Week
Albert Pujols, STL at NYM, July 26
5-for-8, 3 R, 3 RBI, 1 HR
Pujols' two-out, two-run home run in the 14th inning off dead-tired Mets reliever Aaron Heilman snapped a five-game losing streak for the Cards and put an end to a game that lasted 5 hours, 9 minutes.
Ryan Braun, MIL at STL, July 24
4-for-4, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 HR
Braun ended his second straight four-hit night with a one-out, two-run homer in the ninth that sent the Brewers to a 4-3 win over the Cards and sealed a four-game sweep.
Quote of the Week
"This is a legitimate opportunity that we're in, and it's a chance to do something that the word 'special' doesn't even come close to describing. I am loyal, disgustingly loyal, and I do believe in our guys, but it's about the big picture and it's about everybody involved and if we have a chance to make ourselves better, we'll do that."
-- Rays manager Joe Maddon, in the Tampa Tribune
Series to Watch
An early week NL Central showdown between the stumbling Cubs and the surging Brewers should have just about everybody's attention. The Cubs begin the week a game ahead of the Brewers. But the Crew have won four of six against Chicago already, and all six of the games have been in Wrigley Field. So this series -- four games, beginning Monday, in Milwaukee this time -- should be interesting. In a week packed with hot series, though, I have to point out the White Sox at the Twins on those same four days. It's the first series between those two teams since the Sox swept four from the Twins in Chicago in early June. The Twins have gone 26-14 since then. And, for your late-week viewing pleasure, check out the best team in the AL (the Angels) against the hottest (the Yankees) in New York from Thursday through Sunday in the first series this year for those cross-league rivals. Finally, there's the Diamondbacks at Dodgers in a meeting of NL West mediocrity, for four games beginning Thursday.