Bay Area Buzz 2/24: Barry Bonds, Jim Harbaugh And The BBWAA On The Case


The incongruity of Bonds’ HOF exclusion

Barry Bonds will work as an instructor for the San Francisco Giants, writes Alex Pavlovic, and in a roundabout way, this hiring demonstrates the complete incongruity of the Hall of Fame voting.

From Pavlovic’s story:

Barry Bonds is scheduled to return to the Giants from March 9-17 as a special instructor for the organization’s young hitters, as first reported by this newspaper. Bonds has long wanted to take on a more active role with the organization, but the two sides have not been connected in an official capacity since 2007, Bonds’ last major league season.

The years since have been filled with performance-enhancing drug allegations, a perjury trial and a felony conviction for obstruction of justice, but the Giants are not worried about Bonds being a distraction.

“He’s part of what we’ll do here,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s going to be part of the group of instructors, like (Will) Clark, (J.T.) Snow or (Jeff) Kent. He’s going to be like the other guys and help where he can.

“I don’t have any concerns.”

During an appearance at AT&T Park in 2012, Bonds told reporters that he had approached Giants CEO and President Larry Baer about working for the club in some form. The conversations have continued informally since then, and the Giants felt that the timing was finally right to bring back one of the best players of all time, albeit one with a complicated history.

“Collectively within the organization, we felt that given Barry’s desire to continue to contribute to the Giants, we should be open-minded about giving him the same invite that we have given to other players in the past,” Baer said Saturday.

As far as Major League Baseball is concerned, Bonds is a member in good standing; the Giants can hire him and use him as they see fit, and Bonds is free to work in any MLB job he can get. This is unlike Pete Rose, who is serving a lifetime suspension for betting on baseball. Rose would love to work for the Reds, and if you gave truth serum to the team’s honchos, they would tell you they’d love to have him on board, given his overwhelming popularity with Cincinnati fans. But Rose is not permitted employment, having been exiled because his baseball crime is deemed by MLB to be significantly greater than that of Bonds or Mark McGwire or Ryan Braun or Melky Cabrera or Nelson Cruz or any other user of performance-enhancing drugs. Cruz was suspended for 50 games last summer and just got an $8 million contract, in fact.

As far as the Hall of Fame is concerned, Bonds is a member in good standing, having appeared on its ballot repeatedly; again, this is unlike Rose, who has never appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot.

The only group treating Bonds as an outcast now is the Baseball Writers’ Association of American, currently positioned as the steroid police of the industry, and there are no signs that the BBWAA will move out of its standing as the designers of history.

The Giants — and by extension, Major League Baseball — are treating Bonds as a star of his era, with his 762 homers, seven Most Valuable Player awards and career .444 on-base percentage. His records and feats are fully acknowledged by the Hall of Fame, because, as president Jeff Idelson has said rightly over and over, the Hall documents history — good and bad.

The majority of the baseball writers regard Bonds very differently than how the rest of the institution of the sport does. In Bonds’ first year of eligibility, he received 36.2 percent of the vote from the body of writers, and in his second year, he received 34.7 percent.

School crossing guards could only pray for a higher degree of effectiveness.

The Hall of Fame already includes players who used performance-enhancing drugs, had police records, drank enough to be incapacitated in their jobs and openly cheated against rules on the books, and a former commissioner who worked diligently to keep the sport segregated.

But not Barry Bonds.

– Buster Olney, ESPN.com

Giants counting on seeing a new Barry Bonds

Drove by the Giants’ ballpark Sunday to see if construction was under way. I assume the Giants will be knocking out a clubhouse wall to create the new Barry Bonds Annex: room for a locker stall or four, a leather recliner, a wine cellar …

Just kidding! I know Bonds will appreciate a little levity to help break the ice on his impending return to the Giants as a short-term hitting instructor.

Actually, Bonds didn’t have much sense of humor when he played. But he is a different man now, much different. Or so he and the Giants believe, otherwise this new gig would not have happened.

I hope he has changed. The old Bonds made Richie Incognito look like a TV game-show host. Seriously, remember when Bonds came to spring training and had his chauffeur park Barry’s limo across three handicapped parking stalls? The new Bonds claims he is the new Bonds, and now he has a chance to make a positive impact on the Giants.

We’ll take some questions from the audience.

Q:What will Bonds do in his one-week cameo as guest instructor?

A: His first goal will be to show that he can walk into a clubhouse without dragging down the mood like your parents returning home unexpectedly just when the party’s rolling.

Once Bonds more or less blends in pleasantly, he will try to find two or three hitters willing to listen to him and learn.

If he can do that, Bonds will be back. His role then could expand: occasional drop-ins, trips to the minors, eventually a full-time job. Manager? Don’t be silly. But a full-time hitting instructor someday? Sure.

Q:Won’t his presence be a distraction?

A: Will everyone please stop using that word when discussing any intriguing new element in a clubhouse, such as an openly gay player or a Barry Bonds?

Pro athletes are not as easily distracted as kittens in a yarn factory. There are exceptions. Bonds, during his home-run-record chase, was a distraction because he tried very, very hard to be one.

Bonds now, talking to a media person or two, at his locker or in the dugout, won’t distract any Giants.

Q:Which Giants might benefit most from Bonds’ instruction?

A: How about Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt?

Poor pitch selection has always been a Sandoval shortcoming. Bonds was so selective, he forced pitchers to throw hittable strikes. Even a small improvement in that area by Sandoval would make him a monster.

Belt and Sandoval both have potential power that they have yet to fully unleash. Who knows more about power unleashing than Bonds?

Also, Belt and Sandoval both have become more open to constructive criticism and advice. Perfect timing.

I’d be surprised if Buster Posey didn’t try to sit down for a few minutes with Bonds.

Q:What can Bonds offer that hitting coach Bam Bam Meulens doesn’t?

A: Maybe nothing, we’ll see. But Bonds has given us glimpses of a man who not only could hit a baseball, but knows exactly how he did it, on a very scientific level, and can explain it.

Is Bonds that rare genius of the art and science of hitting? We’ll see. It’s worth finding out. Most major-league hitting instructors are kind of helpful, and interchangeable. Mark McGwire hasn’t revolutionized hitting instruction.

Maybe Bonds has that rare gift for dramatically improving hitters. All it will cost the Giants to find out is the price of a few ham sandwiches in the clubhouse kitchen.

–Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle

Jim Harbaugh’s relationship with 49ers brass is getting worse

Things are not getting better behind the scenes for the San Francisco 49ers. There was a persistent rumble throughout the combine about the extent of the rift between coach Jim Harbaugh and the team’s front office. It doesn’t seem like it will go away, and there is increasing buzz that the team might have to decide between Harbaugh or GM Trent Baalke.

The men are barely speaking, I’m told, and almost all communication is through email. Harbaugh also has a strained relationship with team president Paraag Marathe, sources said, and he has clashed with many within the organization. It could prove untenable. If anything, the impression I got this week was that the situation there is actually much worse than how it has been portrayed in the media, and helps explain the delay in giving a new deal to the coach, who has two years left on a contract he has outperformed.

Harbaugh has done nothing but reach, at least, the NFC championship game since coming to San Francisco three years ago, and the longer this goes on, the worse it might get. To almost anyone I posited the question to, the response was pretty much the same — there is no way they can’t extend Harbaugh. But then again, in the NFL, you never know.

I’ve long expected Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to attempt to trade for Harbaugh, and we all know he already tried to hire him before firing a coach in the past. I’m also not surprised that the Browns made an attempt to land him as well, although, from what I have heard of that situation, Cleveland’s approach did not get very far. Still, if other teams sense a vulnerability there, they will continue to explore, and it’s hard to imagine Harbaugh coaching out a lame-duck year there in 2015 if he hasn’t received an extension by then.

This is a matter that will need attention this offseason, one way or the other. When the 49ers landed Harbaugh, his intensity, personality, potential issues getting along with others, etc., were no secret. Some wondered how long it might be before issues arose, with Baalke also very intense and strong-willed himself. If they did in some way move on from him — via a trade or whatever — many believe defensive line coach Jim Tomsula would be positioned to slide in.

– Jason La Canfora, CBSSports.com

Tags: Barry Bonds Jim Harbaugh San Francisco 49ers San Francisco Giants