Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Do you root for the player, or the jersey?

I don't make it a point to read the ESPN Insider blogs on a daily basis, as it is the evil dot com entity of the so-called WWLiS, and it's a pain in the posterior to seperate the wheat from the chaff. But The Daily Fungo pointed out Buster Olney's latest post that mentions the Tigers prominently. And he's not talking about the Tigers torrid start.

Instead, Olney peers into a crystal ball and predicts the future of Barry Bonds. First, he assumes that Bonds is not walking away from the game. Going with that premise, and knowing that Bonds is a total and absolute liability in the field, he'll move to the AL and DH. Olney, thru the process of elimination (Need, fit, intangibles, so on), says there are two AL franchises that fit Bonds' needs, and vice versa. One team is obvious, the Yankees. The other, not so obvious. That other team is...wait for it...the Detroit Tigers. (For what it's worth, The Daily Fungo beat Olney to the punch and pondered this same scenario a few days ago.)

Here's Olney's reasoning:

No person in baseball has been more supportive of Bonds than his former manager, Jim Leyland, and it may be that no person in the game will have more influence than Leyland in this offseason, if the Tigers make the playoffs. You have to believe that if Leyland wanted Bonds, and asked for Bonds, he would get him. And Leyland is a strong and stubborn man who would give Bonds a chance if he thought it was good for his team.

It does make a ton of baseball sense. Bonds would fill a huge hole in the Tiger lineup. That being the their desperate need to balance out the batting order with a left handed bat that has some pop. Barry Bonds fits. Almost too perfectly. Bonds, even though he's no longer an otherworldly presence at the plate, is still an OBP machine with tremendous power. I hate to say it, as the term was used in the past on stiffs like Greg Jefferies and Bip Roberts, but Bonds is a professional hitter. He is the professional hitter.

After this season, the Tigers will be losing the anchor that is Dmitri Young, the last professional hitter signed. They will also jettison his 8 million dollar conract, so the DH position and a contract slot will open up. Considering that Bonds will be looking for a short term deal, the Tigers can afford him.

So, we have these facts:

Bonds fits a Tigers lineup need.
They have a manager, in Jim Leyland, that Bonds respects.
Leyland isn't afraid of, or is imtimidated by, Bonds.
The Tigers should be, at the very least, wild card contenders.
The Tigers will have the money to spend.
Mike Ilitch has been willing to take chances, see the Juan Gone contract offer, and the signings of Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez.

So a hall of fame (That's a debate for anoher time) caliber hitter would be a perfect fit for the Tigers. What's not to like?

Well...where do you start? Pure and simple, Bonds is a despicable human being. He treats everyone, media and and fans alike, with utter contempt. It's all but certain that Bonds used 'roids. He didn't break any baseball rules, but Bonds was skirting on the edges of the law and morality. He would bring along a media circus, and the closer Bonds gets to Henry Aaron's record, the bigger that circus would become. Bonds isn't exactly known as a good teammate, just ask Jeff Kent. His creaky knees are in awful shape, how many games would Bonds be able to play? Did I mention that Bonds is an abhorrent cad of a human being?

Which brings me to the question I posed at the start. Say the Tigers do sign Bonds. Do you cheer for him, forgetting the bile one may have spewed about Bonds in the past? It's the conundrum Jerry Seinfeld famously brought up in an episode of "Seinfeld," are you rooting for the player, or the jersey they wear?

I'm positive going to hate myself or saying this, but if acquiring Bonds makes the Tigers a playoff contender, I'd be all for their signing him. Call me a slut for winning. Feel free to call me a hypocrite as well, I deserve it. Sell the Tigers soul for a World Series title? Damn straight.

Lets get real, no team is made up of 100% boy scouts, and it's never stopped we fans from cheering our teams on. We loved and encouraged Bob Probert's craziness, probably to the detriment of his physical being. We think Rasheed Wallace is the shiznit, but Portland fans would tell a diferent story. Bill Laimbeer is a God in Detroit, and considered the anti-Christ in every other NBA city. Denny McClain was a miserable teammate and a worse human being, but his excesses were tolerated till he lost his fastball. If you want to go back decades, Ty Cobb was cheered, and he was a racist and (unconfirmed) murderer. Matt Millen was quoted saying every team needs a "Rat." To go the other direction, it was thought that Grant Hill and Joey Harrington were too much the boy scout type.

For me to say that I wouldn't cheer Barry Bonds as a Tiger, I'd be lying. I'd be like every other fan, cheering for the Tigers to win. Does that make me a bad person? No, but it makes me a honest fan.


  1. Why the hell not, I am all for it. Besides, like you said, I just want a winning baseball team damn it! Where is the devil, I will sell my soul with you!

  2. One other interesting side plot would be Barry Bonds breaking Hank Aaron's home run record in an Olde English D. As much as we can agree him holding that record is bogus, if he's going to break it, it would be interesting to see him do it at Comerica Park..