The New York Sun’s Tim Marchman on Barry Bonds’ decline (link taken from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory). Thankfully, Marchman is able to survey the situation without once making reference to Babe Ruth, in stark contrast to ESPN.com’s resident Bobby Blotzer apologist.
It would be a happy outcome for MLB if Bonds were unable to play and thusly unable to break Hank Aaron’s record for career home runs. While it seems for all the world as if they’re getting ready to sacrifice him to appease the angry mob, if he would just go away it would doubtless be an even better outcome.
The stats point to an inarguable truth: Bonds looks done. Yes, he’s drawn seven walks and scored four runs, but if he literally can’t hit the ball, even Bonds’s batting eye isn’t going to make him a productive player. The problem is his right knee, the same one that needed several operations last year, complications from which kept him out from playing until September.
Somewhat insanely, given the amount of coverage the man has received, I don’t think fans (and even most baseball pundits) realize how grave the problem was. Bonds has nothing in his knee but bone. An infection in the knee last year caused bacteria to eat everything else away. That’s bad enough for anyone, but for a a 41-year-old ballplayer, it’s the end of the line.
A major league hitter depends on his legs more than anything else. The force with which he hits the ball is generated from rapid, explosive movement in his hips and torso, which in turn rely on a stable base, with around 60% of the player’s weight balanced on his lead foot, the rest balanced on the back foot. Bonds is a left-handed hitter who weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 230 pounds, and he’s resting all that weight on a knee that doesn’t really allow him to walk all that well. If his bat looks slow, that’s because it is slow; he can’t generate the force he’s used to generating. He’s trying to break 110 mph in a car with blown front tires.
The horrible thing is that given how charged everything associated with Bonds is, if he comes out tomorrow, says, “I just can’t do it anymore,” and retires, the witless commissioner and his crony are going to get the credit for it; if he stays in the game and goes for the records, he’s going to be turned into the exemplar of the systematic corruption of the game and offered up as a human sacrifice.
This may be an example of a guilty man being framed, or something of the sort, but it’s a sad outcome nonetheless. At least it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.