Thursday, September 28, 2006


No Incentive

Barry Bonds sure isn't making it easy. After announcing earlier that he'd like to return to the Giants for the 2007 season, Bonds also said that he would not accept an incentive-heavy deal (a la the kind that Frank Thomas signed with the A's this year) to play in San Francico. It's looking more and more like the Giants may have to bite the bullet and shell out more big bucks if they want to retain Bonds for next year.

The team is in a bit of a negotiating pickle. They'd surely like to retain Bonds on a deal in the low double digits, but if they can't agree to terms, the only remaining option would be to take Bonds to arbitration, which could be a disaster. Bonds is guaranteed at least $14.4 million if he loses; if he wins (and taking into account his history, it'd take like a Bill James/Alan Dershowitz super-tandem to beat him), the dollars could really skyrocket. If the two parties can't come to terms and the Giants refuse arbitration, the team can't negotiate with Bonds until May 1st, by which time some other team will probably scoop him up. So Bonds is pretty much in the driver's seat. What if he wants a deal worth $15 million for 2007? Is it worth it?

My take is basically this: hell, the Giants are paying Bonds $5 million a year in deferred salary until 2011 anyway, so the team might as well pay him to go out there and play since he's going to get that money regardless. Bonds is a big injury risk, obviously, but remember, it's not like we're talking about Ellis Burks or something, here. We're talking about maybe the best hitter of our generation, a guy who is right now tossing up a 1.000 OPS in a down year.

For all the flak Bonds has taken this season, he's still ranked as the fifth best left fielder by BP's VORP, and second on the team behind Ray Durham in that category. I think that we can justify bringing Bonds back simply because his mere presence in the batting order makes the lineup better. Opposing pitchers still fear Bonds's power, and that leads to a ton of walks, and that means a lot of times on base, which means more opportunities to score, which is always a good thing, unless Pedro Feliz is batting.

My favorite example of the Bonds effect on a lineup comes from 2004. Here's the Giant lineup from that year, with each player's 2004 OPS+ (100 is league average for those not in the know):

2b: Durham 115
3b: Alfonso 93
1b: Snow 144
LF: Bonds 260
CF: Grissom 95
C: Pierzynski 85
RF: Tucker 95
SS: Cruz 90

Feliz (who did get 503 at-bats) 98
Mohr 113
Torrealba 79
Ledee -8 (just thought I'd throw that in for comedy's sake)

J.T. Snow's ridiculous second half notwithstanding, I don't think anybody would call this, with the exception of Bonds, an All-Star caliber lineup. Replace Bonds with even a hitter of the caliber of Moises Alou or something and this team is going to be hard-pressed to score 700 runs.

So how many runs did the Giants score in 2004? 850, second (by just five runs) behind a Cardinal team that featured Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Larry Walker, and Jim Edmonds, and that was with Neifi Perez diseasing the lineup for half the season. This is how awesome Bonds is. His ability to create a ton of runs can turn a run-of-the-mill lineup into a force.

Obviously, it's foolish to expect Bonds to mash to another 1400 OPS next year, but the 2004 example just shows how much he can impact a team even if he isn't quite what he used to be. Even if he plays just a little better than he has this year (not out of the question considering the second-half improvement), he could certainly help give the Giants a more potent offense, especially if the Giants find some adequate replacements for the corners and dump Feliz and Shea Hillenbrand.

But forget all that for a second. Forget the VORPs and the WARPs and all that stuff. I think we can all agree that it'd be worth it to bring Bonds back just to see him retire as a Giant. Nobody wants to watch Bonds, maybe the greatest Giants player ever, break Hank Aaron's record in a Yankee uniform or something. The prevailing wisdom is that the Giants won't be very good next season. Having Bonds for one more year not only gives the team a better shot at winning, but also gives the fans something to go to the ballpark for. And hey, if the team still sucks, we can watch the big guy break perhaps the most iconic record in sports and also give him one last hearty send-off. With a lot of franchise players, this kind of sentimentalism usually trumps common sense for the worst, but in this case I just don't see how the Giants can not bring Bonds back, no matter what the circumstances.

-Random Stankeye Stuff

-I know saves are stupid and overrated and all that stuff, but watching Trevor Hoffman break the all-time saves record was still really cool. Anytime a guy breaks a longstanding record like that it's fun to see the electricity at the ballpark and the emotions from the players. Kinda makes me wish the Giants had a decent closer.

-It looks as though the humidor has been turned off at Coors Field. Good lord

-This has probably been discussed elsewhere, but has anybody else noticed the absolutely horrendous year that Oakland's Antonio Perez is having? Good God, the man's batting line coming into today's game is .105/.190/.211, with 44 strikeouts in 95 at-bats! Somebody light a match! The weird thing is, Perez had been pretty good before this season. He hit a solid .297/.360/.398 as a semi-regular last year, and it seemed like quite a coup for Billy Beane to get him as a throw-in in the Milton Bradley deal. Maybe it's sample size bullshit, or maybe he's having vision problems or something, but he's been historically bad this season.

-For no reason, here are two of the most haunting music videos you'll ever see. This one, by an obscure band called Kenna, is beautiful. This one, by Pink Floyd, is just...weird (great song though).

-Finally, here's a trailer for the most hilarious (and one of the hardest...seriously) XBOX games I've ever played.

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