See windmill … tilt at windmill … rinse, lather, repeat

Will we ever learn?

Here is the thing, back in the early days of the MLBPA under Marvin Miller, he felt that the players needed to get out from under the paternalistic control of the owners. A few favors here and there by management enabled the higher-ups to get away with a thousand acts of exploitation against the players.

Miller wished to show his constituents ownership’s true colors. Concurrently, ownership wanted the players to give Miller the boot so that baseball could return to its former paternal-exploitive ways. He told the players that ownership was capricious, untrustworthy, duplicitous and ever vigilant to deprive them of rights that were taken for granted by most in the everyday workplace.

Miller sought to change all that.

Obviously, the best way to counter Miller’s charges would be to demonstrate that they were nothing like what he was alleging against them. Then commissioner Bowie Kuhn fancied himself the great protector of baseball … protector of the game, the teams and indeed the players. He viewed himself as an impartial judge of any and all disputes that could crop up within the sport.

Miller had to drum it into the players’ heads that Kuhn wasn’t there to protect their interests—it was he that was to perform that duty.

In their shortsighted zeal to rid themselves of Marvin Miller, ownership inadvertently proved all the things that Miller charged against them. Stalwarts and union reps were often treated shoddily by clubs. They reneged on a number of pledges they made to the players. They flat out refused to negotiate at times. In each case, every act designed to extinguish Miller’s influence among the players simply reinforced what Miller was saying about them.

It had the exact opposite effect of what they were trying to accomplish. Players started to think “You know, Marvin is right—these guys are skunks” and the rest, as they say, is history.

Barry Bonds is most likely not the most pleasant company in the world. Even if 10 percent of what folks allege about him is true, then chances are, were he not a world-class athlete—he’d be the guy living in his mother’s basement angry at a world who ‘done him wrong’ and he would get his fondest wish—that people simply leave him alone.

Two groups that are often a target of Bonds’ wrath are baseball management and the media. His dislike of these institutions was largely fueled by the treatment he saw his father receive—treatment that turned a potential (and possibly still worthy—I feel he is) Hall of Famer into a bitter alcoholic.

Due to this, Bonds is generally leery and suspicious of both groups. Has either group demonstrated that Bonds’ animus toward them is unjustified?

AT&T Park can be termed “The House That Barry Built.” During Bonds’ tenure with the Giants the club copped four division titles and a pennant in a seven-year stretch and finished first or second in the NL West for eight straight years. He won five MVP awards for the team and despite a less-than-likable personality, put butts into the seats helping pay for the stadium and enriching team owner Peter Magowan. The home run chase brought national attention to the franchise that was in effect free advertising. Fans packed the park for home runs 660, 661, 714, 715, 755 and 756. Jerseys bearing his name and number sold in large quantities and the cash registers sang merrily as they filled with gold.

Once Hank Aaron’s record was bested and all the money milked from their cash cow, not only did the Giants cut ties with Bonds, now the team is erasing his legacy from the park he helped build and “They’ve removed all references to his chase of the all-time home-run record from AT&T Park, and generally repackaged themselves. Wrote Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: “The motto is ‘All out all season,’ because ‘Now 240 pounds lighter!’ would have been too mean-spirited.”

They benefited from the home run chase beyond measure, and now that there’s no more money to be made off it, they’re already distancing themselves from both the chase and the man himself.

Say what you will about Barry Lamar Bonds, but don’t tell me that this isn’t rank hypocrisy of the highest order. Were they so concerned about the game’s integrity, they would not have let a “tainted” player break the game’s most hallowed record wearing their team’s colors. However, money was to be made and once that is done then let’s express concern about his stain on the sport and the team.

Sounds to me like Barry’s perception of management based on the treatment of his father was nicely reinforced by those very people.

No, You Made It Awkward: On Steroid-Era Players and the Hall of Fame
Several notorious players would make uncomfortable Hall acceptance speeches if inducted today.

What about the media?

Well, the celebration of Bonds’ unemployment by MLB among the press is obvious. They’re not even trying to hide their glee. The disdain he learned of the press corps by viewing how his father was treated is again being given credence. Now that they don’t have to face the school bully since he’s been kicked out they’ve suddenly found the courage to write things that they never would before since they would have to account for themselves to the man himself.

When I have to read a column entitled “Baseball should celebrate with Bonds’ absence” where such sentiments are expressed as…

It’s not because the steroid issue or allegations of the drug’s use is going away, but simply because Barry Bonds has been eliminated from the picture … Bonds was one of the worst things that happened to baseball … The Giants were counting on Bonds becoming a great financial asset, but what they got was the game’s biggest liability (Yeah, those four division crowns and pennant being the greatest run the club has had since the days of John McGraw and getting a new park both built and filled were real downers—JB) This year, the Giants will celebrate their half-century in San Francisco. They’ll not only be rebuilding but trying to forget 15 years of bad (Bonds) memories … If the Giants can wipe out those bad Bonds memories, then it should be easy for the other clubs and the fans to do the same … While baseball is proud of Hank Aaron’s achievements, the game should be just as embarrassed by Bonds’ presence. This indeed could be a year of celebration if baseball ignores Bonds. (bolding mine)

… demonstrates that his feelings were well founded. If they wish to be rid of Bonds’ presence, then the Giants should show the courage of their convictions and return to Candlestick because without Bonds the club may well still play there—or in another city altogether. Baseball was more than happy to wring every last dollar out of Barry Bonds’ ability and enhancements and now that it has been accomplished, now is the time for the game to be embarrassed?

All I can say is this—while I am neither a Bonds fan nor a defender, I can say that he was bang-on about his assessment of the sport and the media. Yes, he did bring some of it on himself, but make no mistake a lot of it was there when he came on the scene and it remains now that he’s gone.

A final thought…

I just want to reiterate a point I made at Baseball Digest Daily to expand on why I think there’s collusion against Bonds.

Most of the animosity towards Bonds is media-driven (see above). There are far worse examples of rectally-inclined folks playing the game yet they don’t receive near the attention that he does. That being the case, he likely isn’t the absolute worst guy to have in a clubhouse. Let’s look at another Prince Snarling and the value he had—A.J. Pierzynski. Here is a guy that netted a club Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser.

Why hasn’t a non-contending club offered Bonds a job with the promise that come the trade deadline, they will try to flip him to a contender. Were he healthy and batting .280/.460/.590 with 25 home runs in late August, what kind of talent could he be parlayed into at the trading deadline? A one-year contract to Bonds could result in a couple of hot young prospects to a middling team this year—I find it odd that no general manager has discovered this potential market inefficiency.

Is four months of ‘Barco/BALCO Barry Bonds’ so noxious that a non-contending team is willing to see if they can strike trading deadline gold with him? Is two months of Barry Bonds not worth a World Series celebration? Yet, A. Jackass Pierzynski, he of the OPS+ of 86, 90, 94 and 83 the last four seasons can find a team willing to take him for three years and $18.35 million?

Look, spare me the hate mail—I know you don’t like Barry Bonds … I get it; message received loud and clear. This isn’t about Bonds, or steroids, or the home run record, or the Barcolounger—it’s about entities that are every bit as guilty as he is as regards performance-enhancing drugs in baseball standing in judgment of a man who is also many less-than-admirable things. It’s about hypocrisy.

Just because someone we don’t like is possibly being shafted doesn’t justify the shafting because guess what? Every one of us have people that aren’t very fond of us, that should never be the basis of wrong treatment. The true test of our mettle is whether we can act in a just manner despite feeling we’ve been wronged. Otherwise we just reinforce the notions of men like Barry Lamar Bonds.

I think the real reason we don’t wish to believe there is collusion here is this: If Barry Bonds is indeed being colluded against and the media support the cause and we applaud their efforts—then Barry Bonds was bang-on in his assessment of us.

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