Friday, June 16, 2006

Safeco + Bonds = 2007 Good Idea!

I realize it's waaaay too early to even start thinking about the possibility of Barry Bonds wearing Mariner Blue in 2007. At this point, even discussing it could be considered rather unfruitful, since it would be mere speculation whether or not he'd actually play here, let alone get the Howard Lincoln seal of approval. So, pardon me for jumping on the hot story cliche of the week.

But what if I told you that one of the things I'd heard over the offseason (from a couple of different people) that Bavasi was at least a little interested in seeing what the Giants would want in trade for Bonds? When I first heard that, my initial reaction went something like this: "No way! a) it would never happen - Howard Lincoln wouldn't let it happen; b) Barry Bonds would not want to come to Seattle and c) a lot of M's fans would disown the team." I filed it in the back of my mind as one of the rumors to completely ignore.

Now that I've had a few months to mull it over, however, not only am I not entirely averse to it happening -- I now believe it could be a very, very, very good thing for the M's to seriously consider this offseason. Especially after watching the game tonight.

Hear me out.

Why Barry Bonds Needs the Mariners in 2007, and why the Mariners would be completely stupid not to make him a high priority.

1) The shell of Barry Bonds, at 50-75% of the player he was a few years ago is still a better hitter than 100-120% of any Mariner under contract for 2007, and any in the M's farm system. Yes. Even Jeff Clement. Even "Doyle". Even Ichiro (although Ichiro's probably as good in his own way -- but he still cannot drive himself in, and needs a Bonds-type hitter to bring him home). Considering all the controversial stuff, too, he's still one of the best hitters of all time.

2) He's a West Coast kind of guy. He'd probably love the isolation from the east coast media spotlight that our little flannel-shirt wearing, latte-gulping corner of the US (right across the street from Alaska, right?) provides -- the same isolation that causes other potential free agent targets to avoid the M's. Without a doubt, he'd still get tons of media attention. Something tells me, though, that the extra buffer between Seattle and the rest of the country might actually attract him.

3) Again, even at 42, he'd be THE DEFINITION of Lefty Sock. Even better than a 5-years-younger Ken Griffey Junior. The M's are still in desperate need for true lefty sock. Sure -- he'd be another hitter coming from the NL, and an over-the-hill one at that. But, seriously, does anyone believe that would be a problem for him? In Safeco as a Lefty? Worst-case scenario, he'd put up numbers similar to Edgar's age 40 season. Except, being a lefty in Safeco, I'd give him about 10-15 more HRs (and 10-15 more runs scored -- bumping 'em closer to 100 in my 'worst case scenario').

4) In spite of his legs being darn near completely useless, and being one of the sure players, like Edgar, who would certainly stretch a sure-fire double into a single ;-), he'd do just fine on the bases. The Mariners could offer him the DH spot, unlike his current team, and still allow him to hide in left field during interleague play.

5) He'd fill up the stadium, darn near every night -- even during the mid-week afternoon matinees vs. Kansas City. Look at the crowd tonight. Do you honestly think that the people there showed up to see the return of Randy Winn? To boo and hiss at Omar in their unforgiven hatred for his Arthur Rhodes earring whiny-ness? To come out of their Giants-loving closet? To see "King" Felix? Well, okay, I'll grant you there were probably a lot of people there who specifically went to see the matchup between Bonds and Felix. Indeed, though, I'd be willing to gamble that a significant number of people specifically bought tickets tonight to a) Boo Barry b) hope they catch HR# 718 and/or c) see one of the best hitters ever to play the game.

6) The extra ticket sales alone would give Howard Lincoln at least half-an-ear open to considering it. It would be an absolutely brilliant business decision. You wanna see a 2/3rds empty stadium fill up to at least 2/3rds full overnight? You want to make an increasingly-apathetic fanbase start giving its attention to your team again -- overnight? About the only way the M's could do just that would be by signing Barry "Freakshow" Bonds.

Sometimes, even in the eyes of the CEO, negative attention is a good thing. It's a whole lot better, when you're trying to increase revenue, than having their attention diverted elsewhere -- especially when their loyalty is rapidly morphing into apathy. An apathetic fan is an Entertainment-Business-CEO's worse nightmare. If folks don't care, they won't buy what you're selling. If they can be entertained elsewhere, they will be. Negative attention -- the right kind of negative attention, of course -- can be a good thing (and I'll try un-confuse you about this a little later). Would there be a lot of fans that would disown the M's? Sure there would (probably people, though, who don't spend very much direct money on the team in the first place). But there'd be enough other fans more interested in buying tickets -- even if it's specifically to boo Bonds -- to fill in whatever holes those fans open up. Definitely more interest than there likely is right now. It was sure something to hear the crowd tonight -- fervantly booing when Bonds first strolled up to the plate; exuberantly cheering when he whacked the ball into the stands for #718; pumping their fists and hi-fivin' complete strangers when Putz K'd Bonds on a splitter to end the game.

It's about the only time this year that I can honestly say that each and every person in attendance at Safeco got more than their money's worth. As we saw in 1995 -- it's the allure of seeing these types of things that consistently draws fans in. Excited fans, too, help to create excited players. Positive energy from the crowd helps create positive energy for the players. But I'm starting to ramble, and go in other directions...

7) Barry Bonds probably will not reach 755 this season. I'm guessing that he wants to cross that line. He's a selfish dude, after all (or so I'm told :-) Even if he does, though, I'm sure he'd at least consider 800 to be a nice target to cross. I'm sure Sadaharu Oh's 868 is safe for awhile, but as long as Bonds is mostly healthy, I'm sure he'd strongly consider shooting for 800. As much as it pains me to believe that my all-time favorite hitter's record is about to be broken -- and indeed one of the most revered sports records anywhere -- it's inevitable that Bonds is going to be the next one to carry the torch. I can hate the guy all I want, but it'll do me absolutely no good to fret about my favorite player's record being broken.

I can, however, turn that negative into a positive. If it's inevitable that he's going to break that record, then I'd MUCH rather have him do it wearing the uniform of my favorite team than have him draw negative notariety to a pitcher wearing that same uniform. If you haven't read Bedir Than Average/Dave J Clarke's "Go Boldly" thoughts, go read them right now. If signing Bonds in 2007 isn't the very essence of Bedir's Boldly, then I don't know what is. The thing that Bedir writes that sticks out in my head here especially is this part:
At the end of the offseason either your team gets the guys that make a difference or one of the other teams do. This problem is made much worse when it is a division rival and/or a perrenial playoff attender gets that player.
More likely than not, the 2007 Bonds is one of those guys. The sting of missing out on getting a .900 OPS 35-40 HR guy is made much, much worse by having him do some damage to the win/loss record as a member of one of our division rivals. I seriously doubt he'd cross the bay and finish off his career in Oakland. There's a much, much better chance of him heading down to "Los Angeles" and borrowing the Angels' DH spot. Not sure about Texas, but the HR-friendly confines of Ameriquest would definitely help pad his HR totals.

8) Now about that negative attention thing... Take a specific look at the negative attention that surrounds Bonds. Like I said before -- negative attention can be better than no attention (aka apathy). There are, for good reasons of course, boundaries to the kind of negative attention, though, that should be drawn. Barry Bonds is no OJ Simpson. He's no Leonard Little (did I just see Citizen K's ears perk up a bit???). He does have the reputation for being a "Jerk" (although I cannot say for myself; I've never met him personally). Even if he's a world class "jerk", it's not like he's the only world class "jerk" in professional sports. The two biggest knocks on Barry, then, are that a) he's a roidin' cheater and b) he's the bullseye for one of the biggest scandals ever to hit MLB (steroids). Okay, well, the M's have kinda cornered the market of players who've been suspended for steroids. What's one more? That is, provided he actually tests positive.

It certainly appears that there's overwhelming evidence that he's a steroid user, but while non-prescribed steroid use is technically illegal - it's not like it's an isolated problem in MLB. If Barry Bonds was truly the only one who caused it to be a scandal, then you have to say that Bud Selig would exercise his full authority and ban him from baseball entirely. All of the 'cheaters' equally tarnish the game. Heck, Gaylord Perry was an over-the-hill milestone-coveting known cheater that at least a few M's fans, I'm sure, were able to cheer for.

Just because one who allegedly is in the 'roid' crowd has some monster numbers, doesn't mean that he wouldn't have some pretty huge numbers were he not a part of that crowd. If he is a roider, would they help him? Probably. But would they help him any more than they help the other users who were equally neurotic about and had similar habits with their usage? Probably not. His alleged "jerk-ness" and the fact that he's encroaching on one of the most coveted records in all of sports probably exacerbate the negative attention thrown his direction. There are much, much worse things that negative attention could be focused on. I'm not giving Bonds immunity by any means -- I'm just trying to keep some perspective. The evidence I have leads me to believe that more likely than not, he's a cheatin', roidin', world-class jerk.

9) One other reason it'd be good for Bonds: The M's indeed have the cash. Anyone who believes that the M's are a small-market team that can't afford to give a 1-year deal in the neighborhood of Bonds' asking price probably doesn't understand the business of baseball. If you can honestly look at the Forbes stuff, and have other evidence that might convince me that they don't have the cash, I'm willing to listen. But I believe the M's can afford Bonds, and that Bonds himself would benefit from remaining on the West Coast.

I mentioned the media isolation, and the lefty-hitting friendliness of Safeco. The fans are also quite willing to forgive and forget, as long as you're helping their cause. While there certainly would be folks that would boo, and folks that would be mean, the majority of fans here are terrific people. It's a very positive environment. Again -- I look at how the Safeco crowd applauded -- cheered madly -- Bonds' home run. Bonds himself even acknowledged that Safeco is a beautiful park, and a positive place to play. He acknowledged the fans, and the great atmosphere that Safeco provides. If there's a place that's similar both in culture and in climate to Bonds' Bay Area roots, it's Seattle. He'd be darn near right at home playing here.

I can't believe I just spent 2.5 hours of my time spelling out my thoughts on Barry Bonds. The likelihood of him wearing a Seattle uniform in 2007 is miniscule at best. Still, there are reasons why it should not only not be a definite "no" but, in fact, should be one of the things that Howard Lincoln and Co. should very strongly consider this off-season.

I'd certainly have a hard time seeing Bonds in an M's uniform. He's one of my least-favorite players. But I cannot deny that he's one of the best hitters of all time, and (even on bad 42-year-old knees) the shell of Barry Bonds would be the best hitter the M's could inject into a woefully impotent offense. The thought of him taking those hitting skills to Anaheim, Oakland, or even Texas frightens me terribly.

The dream of exciting, edge-of-your-seat, stadium-filled baseball, like we witnessed tonight, however, sweeps under the carpet most of the guilt I might feel for rooting for the M's to sign him.


At 6/18/2006 8:27 AM, Blogger true_slicky said...

Frightens you? I'd LOVE to have LA, Oakland, or Texas deal with the burden of having Bonds on their roster and finding a way to put his whiny, brodding self into the line-up each day.

Bonds projects to a .250/28 HR season this year, which indicates a decrease in skills, which will only further erode on his 42 or 43-year old body.

Bonds will sniff Aaron's record, but it's too much of a gamble to sign Bonds with the hopes that he'll break it in a Marienrs uniform.

Best way to placate an apathetic fanbase? Win ballgames. And if you haven't noticed, the Mariners are playing at a .667 pace in June- that could be anotehr factor as to why the Safe was packed on Friday (as well as being the only homestand in two weeks).

By not signing Bonds, the Mariners would have the chance to play their best players at DH. I think Everett should be dropped- now- and Morse should be the full-time DH this year. ANd once Doyle proves he can make it through a year with four limbs intact he should be the DH next year. Homegrown players gelling together and learning to win would add to a long-term success for the team much more than some aging freak on the trail for selfish goals.

Oh, and you mentioned that Bonds was selfish. Safeco might be lefty-friendly, but it won't exactly boost any hitter's HR totals. I'd say that Americaquest's power-inducing abilities provides much more incentive for Bonds than Seattle's isolation.

Anyways, good post even if I disagree with your overall sentiment. Dear lord I hope BB isn't in a Mariners uniform next year....

At 6/19/2006 10:40 PM, Blogger Mike L said...

I dunno I don't think I agree that attendance numbers would increase the way you're saying. Like slicky said, you want to bring in fans, you put a winning team on the field. If you think adding Bonds will provide that, then you could be right. But I just don't see the appeal of going to see Bonds every nigh being that big of a deal to Mariners fans. It was cool for the weekend, but for the whole season I don't see it.

Good post though. You certainly put some thought into it. I'm not totally opposed to the idea, but I'm not overly excited by it either.

At 6/20/2006 2:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic post, PosotivePaul. I agree about 95%. I think he would boost attendance (though not to the degree you're suggesting). But most importantly, I think he'd be a great addition to the lineup.

First of all, he'd play alot more games as a DH than he's playing as a LF, so the suggestion that he'd hit LESS than the 28 HR's he's on pace for this year is ridiculous. Also, unless I have something mixed up, Safeco is MUCH more friendly to lefties than Pac Bell. Bonds is a pure pull hitter in the ultimate sense of the word. Even if his numbers took a hit from switching leagues (which I doubt), they'd get a boost from being in a more friendly park for his style.

More importantly, his OBP is to die for. Do you realize what a .450 OBP can do for an offense?!? OMG. Combined with the improvement from our youngsters, Bonds would single handedly make us a contender. Sign Daisuke to replace Pineiro and suddenly you're talking World Series.

I'm glad someone else appreciates what Bonds would do for this team.


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