Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Name's Bonds... Barry Bonds

Soxaholix today suggests a replacement for the injured David Ortiz. It's so obvious, yet so unpalatable.

Baseball's all-time home run leader, a first-ballot hall of famer, is not apparently in serious decline. Barry hit for a 1.045 OPS last season, virtually equaling his career average. He's 43 years old, so he could chat with Wakefield and Schilling about... nah, never mind. And with no contract this late in the season, he won't cost more than $1 million guaranteed.

Is this seriously doable? Would the fan reaction be so overwhelmingly negative? Not if the team and Bonds play their cards right. Boston more than any other MLB team has a history of racism (see Green, Pumpsie), and Bonds more than any other current player has (occasionally) used the race card to defend himself. By signing an angry black man, the Sox would be distancing themselves from the old Yawkey ownership, whose antebellum attitudes kept the Sox from winning a world series for half a century. At a minimum, that storyline distracts from the more obvious "mercenary" storyline which would be the only story at any other ballpark. And maybe Boston could shed, once and for all, the old trope about being an unfriendly place for black ballplayers.

And suppose Bonds succeeded in Boston, hitting 20 homers and winning a clutch game or two over New York Tampa Bay? We all know he's clean now, so that's not an issue. And baseball has always been about winning uber alles - that's what led to the integration of the sport in the first place.


Chops said...

Eric Wilbur's take for the Globe.

gary said...

The red sox have, probably the best brand name in baseball. They sell out every game. They've won two world series in the past four years, and they've been doing an incredible job marketing their team.

Few care about the racist past of the Sox, those who do won't be persuaded by anything the current ownership does. Certainly not by signing a player.

Barry Bonds is the most tarnished name in sports (outside of the Vick family).

While its possible that the Sox could end up more popular for having signed Bonds, (or even probable), the upside is relatively small. Another series win would be good and generate new fans and goodwill, but we're clearly into the diminishing marginal returns phase of the Sox current dynasty.

The downside to signing Bonds is big, if they sign Bonds, and then start to struggle (even if its totally unrelated to Bonds), it will be blamed on him, by EVERYONE.

Not signing Bonds is an easy sell, even if somebody else does. Even if that somebody else wins the series. All Luchino and pals have to say is that that they're committed to fair play, and signing cheaters is a violation of that. (granted, that would be a lie, (see Eric Gagne), but that's beside the point).

Basically, to sum up my argument in a sentence, signing Bonds may be a good baseball move, but for the Sox, its a pretty bad marketing move.