Bear with me here. Let’s play a game. Pretend, just while reading this, that Barry Bonds never did steroids. But he hit #714 this past weekend just the same. So all you have to go against the guy on is that he’s a dink (great word to describe him, by the way). He hit the bomb cleanly, but acts like a jerk, and now baseball – and Bonds himself – has to decide what to do next.
I saw Bonds play in person just last weekend. And let me tell you something. He’s done. Finished. Over. That doesn’t mean he can’t still mash. It means his body isn’t going to let him continue playing any longer. He’s done. So what does he do next?
Obviously, he’ll get that 715th home run, and obviously he’ll have Hank Aaron in his sights. But how does he continue to play through the obvious pain he’s in and through his body’s obvious signals that it doesn’t want to continue? Home run #755 is not going to happen this year. No way. So that means it’ll take another year entirely. That’s the rest of this year, an offseason of constant media scrutiny, spring training, and another 120+ baseball games before Bonds is sniffing 755. Can he do it?
On one hand, I have to say he can. If the guy can live through what he’s already lived through coming into this year, he can do just about anything. And people should admire that. Again, forget why he’s going through it, just understand that he is going through it. How do you not admire that? With the ability he’s shown to disregard all that’s around him and still hit bombs, you have to think that if he decides to come back, it’ll only be because he trusts his body to do so. But that’s the major issue.
On the other hand, I don’t think his body will allow it. I’m no doctor, and I don’t even pretend to play one on the internet, but my eyes tell me he’s finished. Fly balls to left field at AT&T Park are a crapshoot. He barely gets to a jog chasing them down, and it’s beginning to cause problems for the Giants. Plus, he generally isn’t able to play nine innings consistently, and in close games, he’s often removed for a defensive replacement. All of this points to the fact that he’s completely breaking down physically.
There is, of course, that other option – the American League. The American League will let Bonds play as a DH for an entire year. Forget his inability to track down fly balls in the gap, and forget his inability cut off balls down the line and hold hitters to singles. He’ll need a bat and nothing else.
So here lies the question. Again, I feel like I’m shoving this down your throats, but bear with me. Presume he never did steroids. Does his moving to the American League taint the chase? Does not playing the field make the achievement less pure? Basically, the question becomes whether his home run chase is valuable enough to a team to eat his liability on defense. If he’s that bad defensively, shouldn’t a team have to weigh that with the potential windfall that becomes a home run leader and his team? And if a team can’t handle that, should the player even be on the field anymore? That is the question I pose to you readers. Is a move to the American League the same as if he finishes in the National League and has to play the field every day? Or is it just a way he’s gaining an advantage?
Ryan Jerz is an all-around good guy who shoots photos and video, builds websites, and works in athletics at the University of Nevada, where he handles the department's digital presence, including online and in stadiums and arenas. Ryan is also a digital production instructor at Nevada's Reynolds School of Journalism.