Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The Bucs need Barry Bonds
It’s time, for the good of the game, to bring baseball’s most disgraced player back to baseball’s most disgraced franchise.
Yes, it’s time to bring Barry Bonds back to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Bonds, who turned 46 on July 24, is under federal indictment for charges stemming from his enthusiastic embrace of performance enhancing drugs. He without fanfare retired after the 2007 season just 65 hits shy of one of baseball’s most hallowed landmarks, the 3,000 hit club. Only 27 men in history have achieved the milestone.
The Pirates, his old team from 1986-92, should offer him a one-year contract with the goal of him becoming the third Pirate to get 3,000 hits. The pursuit would be one of the most comical and compelling spectacles sport has ever witnessed.
The often vacant stands at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park would overflow with fans eager to alternately cheer and heckle the surly, tired old slugger. Pirate fans, me included, still haven’t forgiven him for his many villainies.
He was a joyless mope, he couldn’t hit in the clutch and -- worst of all -- he failed to throw out a gimpy legged Sid Bream in the most heartbreaking playoff loss in Pittsburgh history.
A golden era of baseball was passing, a grim new one dawning. Rampant greed and performance enhancing drugs were about to ravage the game as never before.
For the Pirates, the long, steep decline started with the departure of Bonds’s buddy, Bobby Bonilla. The erratic right fielder left Pittsburgh for the hated New York Mets. The Pirates had offered him $25 million for five years (today four players make in excess of that per year).
Bonilla demurred saying he “needed to take care of his family,” a contention that led flabbergasted Bucco manager Jim Leyland to blurt out, “His family? For $25 million, he could take care of Guam!”
It was the early 1990s. Gasoline was $1.09 per gallon, phones were still tethered to walls and the only Cyrus tormenting American pop culture was Billy Ray and his Achy Breaky Heart.
In fact, Mylie Cyrus, born November 23, 1992, has never drawn breath while the once venerable Pirates, winners of five World Championships, were winners. No team in professional sports has ever gone as long without a winning season.
The news probably wouldn’t trouble the singer whose song, “Party in the USA” brought my daughter, 9, to her feet yesterday as we watched the feckless home team lose to the San Diego Padres 6-3.
Tell folks you’re taking a 9-year-old girl to watch the Pirates and many, my wife and mother included, will look at you like you like you left a dainty poodle in the car at noon with the windows rolled up.
They think it’s inhumane.
Nonsense. I adore baseball. I knew, win or lose, my daughter would enjoy the festivities -- and that’s without even getting her drunk on $7.25 warm Bud Lights.
Skeptics say baseball’s boring. I believe the world could do with a little more mandatory boredom.
Baseball invites fans to be as focused or as distracted as they like. I’ve been to games where I was so focused I actually kept a score sheet detailing the result of every pitch. And I’ve been to games where I was so distracted by related activities that I’ve dozed through the final innings, the long ride home and didn’t learn the outcome until past noon the next day.
Of course, there’s nothing like being in a city when the baseball team’s compelling. Every pitch counts. It unites even the most beleaguered of cities.
That’s what would happen overnight in Pittsburgh if the Pirates signed Bonds, even if it was to pinch hit his way to 3,000.
It would be the talk of the sporting world. And it would be mutually beneficial to both Bonds and the Pirates.
Bonds, as the most hated man in baseball, would have a chance to redeem his dismal reputation. Perhaps he’s eager for another shot at those 65 tantalizing hits to 3,000.
The Pirate would sell tens of thousands of tickets, and I’m sure Bonds would agree to play for the league minimum.
It’s not like he has to take care of Guam or something.