Why is Bonds jobless?
HR king still wants to play, but phone isn't ringing
Posted: Wednesday February 27, 2008 1:22AM; Updated: Wednesday February 27, 2008 11:04AM
Hard as it is to believe, the greatest hitter of our generation and maybe all-time remains unemployed with five weeks to go before Opening Day. Or is it so hard to believe?
Barry Bonds remains at home in Beverly Hills, Calif., patiently waiting for the phone to ring. Jeff Borris, Bonds' longtime agent who negotiated a $19.2 million salary (including incentives) from the Giants last year after an injury-plagued 2006 season, has been patient, too. Borris has said nothing beyond expressing Bonds' continuing desire to keep playing. Until now, that is.
"The public is being deprived right now," Borris told SI.com. "And the greatest player of all-time is not being given an opportunity to showcase his skills."
Borris, normally as calm as they come, was venting his anger. Bonds' brilliant offensive campaign in 2007 isn't stirring interest commensurate with his stats. Or any interest, apparently.
"People are being cheated," he said. "They want to come out and watch him, to see his immense talent and enjoy his uniqueness."
That may be so. But to date, apparently nobody wants to employ him.
"Love him or hate him, people are going to come out to watch him play," Borris maintained. "Barry pays his own way wherever he goes thanks to the increased attention and focus for whatever team signs him."
That, of course, is assuming that anyone does sign him.
There was a hint in the news recently that the perennially cellar-dwelling Tampa Bay Rays might consider bringing Bonds into camp. But now it appears fairly clear that even the Rays -- they dropped the Devil part this winter -- aren't seriously considering Bonds. And while Bonds is anxious to play, one friend of his told SI.com doubted he would agreed to join the Rays, anyway, since his impetus to play is based on his desire to win the World Series. Borris wouldn't address such a hypothetical question but agreed that is indeed Bonds' driving force.
"Barry's got one goal, and that is to put a ring on his finger," Borris said.
The Rays weighed an incentive-laden offer for Bonds last winter, when the all-time home run record was about to go down and before Bonds was indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. But this time their "interest" apparently amounted to a casual behind-the scenes discussion of the pros and cons after they heard from Borris regarding Bonds' availability to one and all. And apparently, the cons are winning out.
One Rays person on Tuesday described their chances to take Bonds as dependent on a Rays outfielder or hitter suffering an injury (not to mention many more factors going Bonds' way), and placed the odds of such a landmark signing at "100-1." Another Rays person remarked that the Bonds' discussion "never picked up a head of steam."
So even the Rays -- compilers of 70 victories in one season only one time -- don't appear to want Bonds. Which means that Bonds, whose hitting numbers may be the best since Babe Ruth, is thus far 0-for-29 this winter. Twenty-nine inquiries for a job. Yet still no job.
"He'd like to be in camp," Borris said.
So why isn't he there yet?
Nearly everyone agrees that Bonds, 43, can still hit. And how could they not think that, what with his 1.065 OPS in 2007? Yet everyone apparently is telling Borris so far that they're "going in another direction."