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Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The unlikely story of how No. 762 became Barry Bonds final home run

At that point, Bonds had homered every 16 plate appearances for the season and had played in 84 percent of the Giants’ games. With 22 games remaining on the schedule (plus the rest of the current game), he’d likely bat about 75 more times. The chances of Bonds going homerless in 75 consecutive plate appearances were a tick less than one in a hundred.


Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: September 05, 2017 at 05:22 PM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: barry bonds, collusion, home runs

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   1. SoSH U at work Posted: September 06, 2017 at 10:48 AM (#5527010)

Did anything ever come out of that long-delayed collusion case against MLB?

   2. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: September 06, 2017 at 03:27 PM (#5527366)
Yes, Frederic Horowitz ruled against Bonds' claim in 2015. He's the same arbitrator who'd upheld Alex Rodriguez's one-year suspension a year before. The Players Union fired Horowitz in 2016, following his ruling in a much higher profile case involving the assignment of Charlie Culberson.

Rumors were quickly replaced with one club after another denying interest in [Bonds] -- often in the most explicit language possible. Astros manager Cecil Cooper said he'd quit if Houston signed him. He wasn't a fit for the Nationals, manager Manny Acta said, "choking back laughter." The Rays didn't respond to Bonds' agent's text message. The Mets "laughed off" the idea. "Not interested," said the Pirates' president, Frank Coonelly. The Mariners "emphatically stated [they] will not sign Bonds under any circumstances at any time." "Barry can't play for my team," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.

Speaking of laughter, it's always cringe-tastic fun to revisit the 2008 New York Mets' strategy for left field. It's like rewatching a favorite horror movie. The Mets ran through 12 different left fielders that season, even as Bonds' agent was saying Bonds was available for the pro-rated league minimum. The division-winning 2008 Phillies used four left fielders, with three of them combining to play 8 games at the position.

Bonds' final OPS+ in 2007 was 169. The 2008 Mets featured two players with an OPS+ over 130: David Wright, and pitcher Brian Stokes, who was 2-for-3 at the plate.

The Mets' opening day left fielder was supposed to have been 41-year-old Moises Alou, but despite his relative youth to Bonds, he started the year on the DL. Alou returned a month later, ultimately playing LF 13 times. The Mets knew Alou was done for the season a month before the All-Star Game. There was plenty of time to act. The Mets pounced on June 13, trading for Trot Nixon. Trot Nixon played 6 games in left field for the Mets, out of his 11 total. Nixon's acquisition by the Mets came one week after Bonds' impossibly distracting trial was postponed until the following year.

In descending order-- and oh, how it does descend-- the 2008 New York Mets left fielders were Fernando Tatis (284 innings), Daniel Murphy (249 innings), Endy Chavez (197), Nick Evans (186), Angel Pagan (170), Marlon Anderson (166), Moises Alou (92), Trot Nixon (44), Damion Easley (26), Chris Aguila (26), Brady Clark (15), and Andy Phillips (9).

The longest streak any 2008 Met had in LF was Angel Pagan, who started the first 13 games of the season. The second-longest steak was 5 games in a row, by Nick Evans (once) and Fernando Tatis (once). Tatis had never before played left field in his twelve-year career. On the other hand, he was well-rested, with just 56 at-bats in the previous four years combined.

Of course, Bonds was 42 years old. Had the Mets signed the rickety Bonds at any of the various points where it would have made sense to sign him, it might have turned into the last season for a declining player. It just wasn't worth the chance. But by deliberately avoiding Bonds, the Mets jnstead got to play FIVE different left fielders in their final seasons. (It would have been six, but Marlon Anderson got 4 at-bats in 2009.)

2008 Mets revolving LF batting production (all 12 players): .273/.334/.396, 10 HR, 68 RBI, 84 R, 57 walks (701 PA)
2007 Barry Bonds batting production: .276/.480/.565, 28 HR, 66 RBI, 75 R, 132 walks (477 PA)

The 2008 Mets left fielders finished with an OPS+ of 87.

The big punchline is that, despite this suckhole production in left, the 2008 Mets mostly held first place from mid-July until September 16, before falling 1 game short. The team was eliminated on the last day of the season, in a crushing and distressing fashion, for the second consecutive year. But that was a small price to pay for the fans, who didn't have to stomach seeing Barry Bonds in a Mets jersey in the 2008 playoffs.
   3. dlf Posted: September 06, 2017 at 05:11 PM (#5527479)
Yes, Frederic Horowitz ruled against Bonds' claim in 2015. He's the same arbitrator who'd upheld Alex Rodriguez's one-year suspension a year before. The Players Union fired Horowitz in 2016, following his ruling in a much higher profile case involving the assignment of Charlie Culberson.

My understanding is that Horowitz is the first of the "permanent" arbitrators^^ that was fired by the Union. Every other one, from Seitz to Das, either declined to accept new cases or was fired by the League. I never saw the opinion and award in the Bonds case, but regardless of what one thinks about Rodriguez, the writing in Horowitz's decision in that case was atrocious. He conflates the findings of fact with a statement of what the parties' position on those facts were such that you can't tell what he, as the finder of fact, found. (Loving the alliteration there!) Then he doesn't tell us what the union's arguments were or why he rejected them. Then he rarely cites to the CBA or the Joint Agreement for support for his conclusion which, broadly stated, was that if you fail a drug test, there must have been multiple drugs you were using, so the discipline may be aggregated for each but at the same time, the aggregation of charges couldn't equal any of the agreed upon periods that were set out in the JDA. Ugh.

^^There are two types of arbitrators for baseball: permanent and salary. The latter are comprised of about a dozen folks who sit in rotating three-member groups to hear the salary cases each spring. New folks are added pretty much every year and both union and management have removed arbitrators from those panels. The "permanent" arbitrator serves from the time he (there have been many female salary arbitrators, but I don't think any permanent ones yet) is selected until a party deselects him, which has happened very quickly a few times like Dana Eischen, who heard one case, the JD Drew case seeking free agency after he and the Phillies failed to come to terms.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: September 07, 2017 at 01:15 AM (#5527619)
FWIW, the 2003 Mets got +0.3 WAA out of their LF menagerie. The teams that really stunk in LF that year were the Nats, Braves and DBacks. Of course the Mets were just 1 game out of the playoffs and the DBacks just 2 so in either case, Bonds could have easily made the difference. The Mets, DBacks and Dodgers (who beat the DBacks by those two games) were also bad at 1B which maybe Bonds could have helped with. Over in the AL, only the Twins/White Sox was really close. The Twins were a game behind and, conveniently, were 1.2 WAA/WAR behind at DH relative to the White Sox. All told there were 4 AL teams that got replacement level production out of their DH slot.

Then he rarely cites to the CBA or the Joint Agreement for support for his conclusion which, broadly stated, was that if you fail a drug test, there must have been multiple drugs you were using, so the discipline may be aggregated for each but at the same time, the aggregation of charges couldn't equal any of the agreed upon periods that were set out in the JDA. Ugh.

Been too long since I read that decision but this bit doesn't jive with my memory of his logic. First, I don't think he can be blamed too much for not citing too often to the JDA/CBA since there was essentially no guidance there as to how a case like this should be handled. I don't know if the later version was improved but, at the time, nearly everything in there related to positive tests and there was nearly nothing about how to address "non-analytical positives."

What he did seem to rely on was the couple of clauses about positive tests, informing the player their test was positive, and what would happen if there had been a second positive in the interim. That was written such that if a player tested positive for the same substance, then (since he hadn't been informed), there was no additional penalty. However, if he tested positive for a different substance, then that was a new positive ... but (possibly implied, memory foggy) a second first positive since he hadn't been informed of the first first positive. In the current (?) version, this is covered in 7L which sounds familiar to me so may be (mostly) unchanged since ARod's day. The singular "same Prohibited Substance" rather than the plural seems important here:

If the notification requirements of Section 3.G are satisfied, a
Player will not be disciplined for a second or subsequent positive test
result involving a Prohibited Substance that occurred prior to the time
that the Player received actual notice of his first positive test result for
the same Prohibited Substance, provided that the Player’s discipline for
his first positive test result was not overturned or rescinded.

The logic then was that ARod had been shown to have used in at least three different seasons and that there was evidence that he had used different substances in those years. Since ARod had never been informed of a "positive", the arbitrator treated this as 3 distinct first positives. In short, he used substance A in year 1 but was never informed of his positive; he then used substance B in year 2 but still had never been informed; he used substance C in year 3 and finally he was "informed" (i.e. caught and "charged"). That is permissible under the current 7L.

Seems to my non-legal brain that he didn't have a lot of options. He could have declared it a single first-time violation (certainly the simplest thing to do) and the only other option he had was to declare the JDA such a mess that was sufficiently silent on "non-analytical positives" that he had no grounds to punish ARod at all. But the recognition in the JDA that a positive for a second substance before being informed of the first violation constituted a distinct positive opened the door for his ARod logic.

They have cleaned this up a bit with 7(G)2:

A Player may be subjected to disciplinary action for just
cause by the Commissioner for any Player violation of Section 2
above not referenced in Section 7.A through 7.F above, including, but
not limited to, non-analytical positives. Notwithstanding anything to
the contrary elsewhere in the Program, any Player who is permanently
suspended pursuant to this Section 7.G.2 is prohibited from attending
Spring Training or entering Club facilities during his permanent

7A lays out the penalties for 1st to 3rd testing violations (B through F cover other stuff from stimulants to actual sale and distribution). Section 2 is the "don't do these drugs" section. So it still doesn't lay out a set penalty schedule as far as I know but it clarifies that a penalty can be applied for non-analytical positives. There's a reasonable argument here since, like ARod, a non-analytical positive might turn up multiple years of use while the logic behind a positive test is that the player at most used between his most recent non-positive test and this positive one.

Section 3H I think is also new and partially clarifies the multiple positive issues. If a player tests positive a second time for the _same_ substance, then they can apply to the medical review board arguing that it is the residual from the usage that led to the first positive. The board decides whether this is reasonably true or not. If not, it's a second violation. This clarifies that if the second positive is for a second substance then it is a second violation.

I'm referencing the version found here which is the most current as far as I know. I'm sure somewhere out there in the internet, it's possible to find historical copies of the JDA. We also discussed and referenced the existing document at the time.
   5. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: September 07, 2017 at 01:20 AM (#5527621)
FWIW, the 2003 Mets got +0.3 WAA out of their LF menagerie. The teams that really stunk in LF that year were the Nats, Braves and DBacks.

The Nats didn't exist in 2003.
   6. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: September 07, 2017 at 02:29 AM (#5527626)
The 2008 Twins get half a pass, because they opened the season with a 22-year-old left fielder coming off a promising rookie season, and a 26-year-old DH. Both played the full year and didn't suck. It's easy to look back and speculate that Bonds might have outdone either's batting line, but the Twins had sensible reasons to stick to their plan, even if they should have picked up Bonds anyway.

In June 2008, the Cardinals were about 3 games out and playing Skip Schumaker. Passing on Barry Bonds at any price is tougher for them to explain. I guess La Russa was sticking to his strict "no steroids in my clubhouse" policy.

Arizona was in first place, and Conor Jackson did well playing half the games in LF, but the other five guys had season OPS+'s of 76, 68, 62, 45, and 44. At least that adds up to more OPS+ than Bonds had had in '07.

The Indians were 6 or 7 back, and spent 2008 playing a melange of Ben Francisco, David Dellucci, Shin Soo-Choo, Jason Michaels and Franklin Gutierrez in left field. Some of whom also spelled a crappy Travis Hafner at DH, with help from Ryan Garko. This was a very obvious landing spot for Bonds.

And let's not forget the Giants. The Giants let Bonds go with no particular explanation, so that the Fred Lewis Era could begin for some reason. Surely no one made any suggestions to Giants ownership.

The Dodgers were about 5 out and had Juan Pierre doing nothing. Nobody thought to use him as a caddy for a 6-inning Bonds? However, L.A. did trade for Manny Ramirez later on, and won the division in September, so that's a pretty good alibi (after the fact).

The Marlins had an okay 40-year-old Luis Gonzalez shuffling in left. Detroit had Marcus Thames in LF and Gary Sheffield as DH; neither did anything special.

And so, the Mets were by far the most egregiously obvious and obviously egregious blackballers. They went into 2008 with a 41-year-old LF who'd just spent half of 2007 and 2006 on the disabled list, then immediately lost him again. Their emergency triage process played out in real time, over and over again, as they received multiple opportunities to change course. But they wouldn't. And this all took place following a catastrophically painful collapse to end their 2007 season, which they proceeded to duplicate in 2008.

Outfield alignments aside, a pro-rated, league-minimum-salary Barry Bonds could probably have squeezed onto all 30 benches as a pinch hitter.

And let's not forget that there was virtually no clamor from the national sports press, nor locally, to sign Bonds. There was essentially no criticism of these teams that supposedly wanted to ride out their mediocre options just a little longer, to see what was gonna happen, when Surly Roy Hobbs was a phone call away.

I guess the sportswriters simply weren't into nitpicking and sideline managing in 2008.
   7. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: September 07, 2017 at 02:46 AM (#5527628)
*Forgot to emphasize that Arizona, which was in first place without Bonds in June, eventually slipped out of the lead and out of the postseason.
   8. Rally Posted: September 07, 2017 at 10:09 AM (#5527716)
The Nats didn't exist in 2003.

All the more reason to assert that Washington didn't have a left fielder who was better than Bonds.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: September 07, 2017 at 07:47 PM (#5528167)
In case there's anybody who hasn't figured it out, 2003 was a typo for 2008 ... albeit an odd typo but there you have it. Getting Bonds in 2003 would have been even better for all of the teams mentioned.
   10. Sleepy's not going to blame himself Posted: September 08, 2017 at 08:44 AM (#5528280)
In June 2008, the Cardinals were about 3 games out and playing Skip Schumaker. Passing on Barry Bonds at any price is tougher for them to explain.
There was a lot of talk about this on the Cardinals forums like VEB that year, but i'm pretty sure the stltoday folks just flat dismissed the idea. I still don't understand why they would do that.

Anyway, skip put up 1.8 bWar that year, sp he wasn't the problem. I suspect that the orgs continued hope that Chris Duncan would bounce back was a bigger factor, and there was a lot of hype about the rule 5 guy Barton, but neither of those really explain it; if Bonds was really available for the league minimum it was inexcusable not to bring him in to be a late innings pinch hitter.

Maybe there was bad blood between bonds and Pujols over the couple of MVP awards that Pujols should have won? Keeping your MVP happy would make more sense.

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