The Curse of Jerry Hairston, Jr./Eric Hinske:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Abracadabra: Bonds Vanished

An autumn night in Astoria. Years ago, now. An indoor bar beyond a beer garden. A television screen showing a baseball game. I watch, because I love baseball. Ryan Braun hits a game winning home run. There’s no mystery attached. That’s what he does. And this is the essence. A pennant race, a pitcher of beer on the bar slab. He circles the bases. Barry Bonds wasn’t signed by anybody, throughout the winter, spring, summer, and early fall. I considered the season more enjoyable without his participation, hardly an obsessive thought, just a pleasing detail. Bonds, a distraction from the essence. 

Similar to instances of collusion occurring in the eighties, the disinclination toward Bonds was public knowledge. A capable ballplayer was being denied an opportunity due to circumstances beyond performance. Bonds had aged, but his offensive skills remained extraordinary. It was I, Bonds. It was I. They said you couldn’t play. And I agreed.

Why was Bonds disposable? He was too damn good, and an inconvenience, pursued by the government, convicted in the public eye by obviousness. He was a magician who had been exposed, but wouldn’t leave the stage. And his sorcery seemed strengthened, not diminished, by the cauldron choking everyone else. Bonds, so good, so great. Bonds was so good that nobody would have been surprised to discover Pujols was just a disguise created by Bonds. Yes, there we would be, at the Awards dinner in Manhattan, the commissioner staring incredulous while Bonds tore open the mask, Millhauser style, and proclaimed the runner-up wasn’t real, he just wanted to take a few swings right-handed. But was Bonds real? He was real when he glided around left field like an elegant two-legged tank. That’s what they said, anyway. They said there were two versions of Barry Bonds, the beautiful yet flawed, and then the masterfully damned. We heard stories about Bonds. We pictured conversing with him. His mustache would be thin, his suit would be bright. We’d sit in the empty upper deck at Candlestick Park, and the air would have that electric feel, like before a big rain.  We would try advising him. Keep your numbers clean, Bonds. We want your numbers to be clean. 

One may argue Bonds was owed nothingness, a blank season, a void where walking isn’t counted. This man will be on trial, they shouted. This man will disrupt the team. Yes, said the defense lawyers among the mob, yes, because nobody with legal entanglements has ever participated in a professional sports season? Oh, the other side hated that response, the sarcasm burned. No, their rebuttal followed, no. For it seemed obvious that the grand sorcerer was a special case. They dreamt themselves judges, and their Bonds preferred exiting an exception. How else could this drama be interpreted? 

Maybe he watched a playoff series. Maybe he watched Manny Ramirez make another Chicago Cubs season romantic. Maybe he watched Ryan Braun and the Brewers fail to advance. Their failure was bittersweet, because they were a good story. Braun, then, was a good story too. Like Manny. Unlike Bonds. They hadn’t been caught. They didn’t need our counsel in empty upper decks. 

Baseball statistics are different. Isn’t that magic? And when is magic ever pure? Just this time, for this game? For our convenience? I said these words without speaking, years ago. I said, Barry Bonds, I’m glad you didn’t get to do what you love. Barry Bonds, even though you were capable, you pierced the illusion. That night in Astoria, I returned to the table with a pitcher of beer, and I said Ryan Braun was a great player. If they thought my words misled, they could check the numbers. Abracadabra.


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Kershaw gone. How does that affect the Tanaka situation??

[1] For way cheaper (years wise) than expected too: 7/215. Still the largest AAV contract in baseball history though. With an opt out after 5 years.

I imagine that LAD will not be in on Tanaka as strongly.

Seems like a reasonable deal for LAD. Kershaw is that good.

Jeez, why am I just now realizing that Kershaw has won 3 era titles in a row?

[3] fangraphs has an article estimating about 27MM in excess value over the 7 years. I think they are being a bit aggressive on the increasing cost of a win, but still…

[5] Basically, he could lose an entire year to injury and still almost be worth his contract.

I really like the Kershaw deal. It makes sense for him but it also makes sense for Los Angeles.

So much more logical than the Cano/Seattle deal.

Let’s hope that this does, in fact, knock them out of the Tanaka bidding.

I just said to myself, “there’s no way the Dodgers can afford Tanaker and the Kershaw contract.” So rest easy, guys, a guy named Tanaker won’t be on the Dodgers next season.

Wow! Crazy, crazy money for Kershaw.

With a pitcher you’re a TJ surgery (or labrum) away from that being awful.

In light of Kershaw’s contract would it be disrespectful when/if Arod returns to not give him a raise?

I’d like to see the Yankees be in on Suk-min Yoon. Also, I think bringing Aardsama back on a minor league deal might make sense. He still looked hurt last season for the Mets but wasn’t AWFUL, so having him in the minors to prove he is healthy might make some sense.

I loved the Kershaw deal for the Dodgers, he would have had a much bigger contract as a FA. Maybe 10/300 with a couple of opt out clauses.

[12] Since he’s almost certain to opt out, it’s 5/154 which I don’t think anyone can complain about.

[13] I’m pretty sure we’ve earned some respect for our ability to complain about everything.

This last bit would have been pretty impressive, except but for our not rooting for that other team out there and all+whatnot, you know.

[0]  Thanks, Matt, for pulling off a fresh take on doping.

[16]  Half man, half fish, half cespedipede

[0] Good stuff, thanks.

Yeah, very well written piece, Matt.

Great piece, yep !

Also wanted to give kudos on Matt’s piece, but I got distracted by baseball news. And shiny objects.

Speaking of baseball news, Vernon Wells has now officially been released!

[24] Too bad.

Not him being released, but that Yankees couldn’t find a way to save even a few hundred thousand out of it.

Some reflection on Tanaka matter.

(1) Perhaps the Dodgers realized that if they were too excited right now about Tanaka in terms of years and pay that it might make Kershaw upset while he’s waiting for his payday and they smartly took care of kershaw first.  Cano cited that he was offended by Yankees attention first to other FA’s, though he probably wouldn’t have provided a discount anyway.  I think now the Dodgers may have a free hand to act as they wish with Tanaka without worrying about Kershaw and I don’t necessarily count them out, nor the Angels, but the Angels have to be worrying some about what its going to cost to buy out Trout before things get really escalated.

(2)  Reports (which may just be BS) indicate that Yankee “Brass” aren’t of one mind on Tanaka.  Who really is the Brass?  It really should be Hal, Cashman and whatever scout has witnessed him pitch over in Japan.  Keep Levine out of it Hal.

[26] (1): I’ve read that the Dodgers aren’t completely out on Tanaka yet, but that it would require an owner decision. Still a little scary.

(2): I’m pretty sure the Yankees make decisions by each of the member of the “brass” consulting a magic 8 ball, when they reach a majority one way or the other, the decision has been made.

This is the article I’ve been looking for since reading the above:

Baseball might have a better memory than other sports, but it’s not immune to these public disappearances. If Bonds had been a few years younger at the end of his career, maybe he would have put up more of a fight.

Bonds’ problem was that he was so good that he destroyed all the illusions people had conjured up to keep them from noticing that McGuire and Sosa et al were juiced to the fucking gills.  If you stuck your head firmly in the sand you could pretend that maybe the balls were juiced or that they had figured out some new weight training techniques or the pitching talent had been dilluted by expansion or something.  But Bonds was just so inhumanely awesome on steroids that it was impossible to ignore.  If you look at his graphs on fangraps when he was in full on roid mode he literally breaks them.  Bonds made way too many people look like suckers, and he compounded it by telling them all to go fuck themselves when they got huffy about it.

“And you’re the one who gets suspended!  Hahahahahaha!”

Cano cited that he was offended by Yankees attention first to other FA’s

It’s either all PR, or he’s full of it then.  Yankees made him a pretty decent offer, and his team countered with something ridiculous.  When his team at least came down to the ballpark of something they could negotiate with, Yankees upped their offer, and gave some guidelines of where they were willing to move. 

Pettitte had a right to be disrespected, b/c they never made him an offer.  At least, not until after it was clear he was leaving to go to Houston.  If Cano feels disrespected, then he has a complex.

7: in fairness, you only really get to buy up the prime years of guys in your own system.

Kershaw: 25 y.o., 32 WAR so far. 7 yrs $215m
Felix: 27 y.o., 38 WAR so far, 7 yrs $175m

Pretty comparable.

nice piece, Matt….vivid prose….really reached out and grabbed me!

31 maybe Jay Z planted that idea in Cano’s head to bolster his own agent cred.

I think if a team picks up Wells the yanks recoup $500k

33. Thanks a lot! I’m totally cool if someone found it unenjoyable, too… I’m just at a point where I don’t want my sports pieces to resemble anything else out there, for a variety of reasons.

Did I miss this at the time?

Curt Schilling is front page news this morning, not for something he did, but rather for something he said. According to Schilling and as noted by Peter Abraham in Friday’s edition of the Globe, a former member of the Red Sox “medical staff” approached Schilling in 2008 about the prospect of using human growth hormone to save a dying career. Schilling’s motives for disclosing the information certainly are worthy of discussion, but his admission sheds light anew on the conspiracy that was baseball’s Wild West - namely, the Steroids Era.

[37] I remember that being pretty big news, but the Red Sox appear to be immune to steroid nonsense.

yeah, given the messenger it’s not too surprising that it blew over. But I’m sure that if someone on the Yankees had said that there would be a full investigation, complete with bribery and extortion.

Wow, CC just signed with Jay Z. Weird.

[40] Can the Mariners take him too?

great writing Matt. nice pacing and narrative style.

Although Monsieur Bonds vanished, someone else appeared.  Perhaps they, too, were doping, perhaps not.

Regarding Monsieur Cano, I’d guess he was far more insulted by Cashman’s insulting remarks than the money offered.  Also he was likely insulted by the hedidntwanttoplayinNewYork.

Also this Fallon appearance:

When CC was fat I thought he could do with a bit of weight loss, but he seems to swung full tilt the other way. So unusually/oddly thin.

[40] CC thinks he’ll be signing another MLB contract after he finishes what is essentially a 9 year deal with the Yankees concludes? Does he plan to transition to a LOOGY to extend his career? Or is this all about the global marketing opportunities? I can’t imagine the hundreds or zeros of dollars he is getting for that Fallon appearance, so the move to Jay-Z already paying dividends.

I’d assume it’s more for post-baseball opportunities.

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