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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Signing On to a Treasonous Proposal

Moises Alou is 41 years old.

In baseball terms that's old, but age is never the issue with Moises in a couple of different ways. He will always have the bat speed of a 25-year-old and the physical resilience of a 55-year-old — a 55-year-old leper in a minefield. He's out until May, and if you really believe May means May when an Alou return is what's being discussed, you've apparently forgotten all about last year. (Which I acknowledge wouldn't be a bad idea.)

Between now and Moises' return, the Mets will apparently fill the left-field job with some combination of Endy Chavez, Angel Pagan, Damion Easley and Marlon Anderson. Oh boy. Endy is a superlative defender and dear to our hearts, but he's a fourth outfielder who'll be exposed — as he has before — as a regular player. Pagan is much the same player, with less superlative defense. Neither Easley nor Anderson is a natural outfielder or likely to develop into much of one. And there's no help in the pipeline — Carlos Gomez and Lastings Milledge are gone and Fernando Martinez isn't ready to arrive.

The Mets have a young core, but they also have a fair number of key players (Delgado, Castillo, El Duque, Pedro, Wagner) that are old and/or infirm, making the stakes especially high for this year. The difference between the NLCS and the World Series was agonizingly small in '06; the difference between ignominy and the playoffs was agonizingly small (as well as just plain agonizing) in '07. Given the state of the NL East in 2008, we could easily be looking at the wrong side of another razor-thin margin this year — only to find ourselves with a team that's forced to retool in '09. In a situation like that, in the right spot, seems to me that you go for it — especially if the going for it doesn't demand an enormous commitment.

What does going for it mean? You probably guessed already: employing Barry Lamar Bonds.

Buster Olney started the talk; since he works for ESPN, that turned this into a story. Witness David Lennon addressing it today.

I know, I know: Barry's 43, has Castilloesque knees, is being pursued by the federales and is, well, a jerk of rather astonishing dimensions. But his on-base percentage last year was .480. He hit 28 home runs. He slugged .565. That's a heck of a replacement for Alou, let alone Chavez/Pagan.

There are all sorts of objections, I know. (Emily's reaction: “What? Do you want Clemens to pitch, too?” No, I don't.)

What if he gets hauled away in a paddy wagon? Well, then we're back to Pagan and Chavez — which we will be anyway when in July or August Moises pulls a hamstring or falls out a window or whatever insane thing will inevitably happen to him.

But isn't he awfully old and a lousy left fielder? Indeed. You also just described Moises.

What about the effect on clubhouse chemistry? Chemistry? Really? Last year's team spent four months playing bored, lackadaisical baseball when they weren't needlessly provoking umpires and pissing off the other team. That's not exactly the clubhouse chemistry you figure out how to bottle. Lennon quotes one veteran as saying he wouldn't want to be “answering for Barry all the time.” Fine, Mr. Veteran — let's talk some more about how you were two games under .500 after Memorial Day. That sound better?

Bonds knows this would be his last go-round. He knows — or, one presumes, would quickly find out — that there's no room beneath Shea Stadium for a row of lockers and a recliner and a pack of hangers-on. The prospect of his own baseball mortality isn't going to turn Bonds into Cal Ripken on a farewell tour — he wouldn't be Barry Bonds if he contained such possibilities. But he's no longer the man who held the San Francisco Giants hostage, and it's lazy to automatically make comparisons to that.

Would Bonds be a mercenary with a noxious relationship with the media and a difficult relationship (I'd guess it would equal parts cheers and boos at first) with the fans? Well, yeah — he's Barry Bonds. But we're not talking about bringing in Bonds through 2012 and making him the face of the franchise. We're talking about a one-year deal, with all the escalators and escape clauses you can imagine, and if Barry finds that beneath his dignity he can go back to swatting away court orders. His name and ours wouldn't be tied together for eternity — that link would be more the stuff of last-campaign trivia, like Babe Ruth as a Boston Brave or Hank Aaron as a Milwaukee Brewer. (And like you were going to remember the late-aughts as the Moises Alou era, anyway.)

I'll confess to complicated feelings about Bonds — two years ago I called his story the stuff of Shakespearean tragedy, and while I don't like him and will never like him, I'll stand by that. Part of what motivates me, I confess, is something I know must motivate Bonds: He has 2,935 hits. For a lot of fans, Bonds's 762 home runs will always come with a king-sized asterisk. Three thousand hits, though, would be harder to dismiss. I don't want that goal for Bonds's sake — I don't particularly care what he wants, or think he deserves any sort of reward for anything. But he's a player we're going to be discussing and remembering and arguing about for our entire lives, and I do think we'll come to regard him somewhat differently, as we get more of a grasp on the steroid era. We won't necessarily regard him any more kindly than we do today, but we will look at him differently.

Is he a cheater? Only the most-committed fantasist would say otherwise. Was he the best cheater in an era of rampant cheating? I bet that description will come to fit Bonds. A player with Hall of Fame numbers if he hadn't cheated? That will come to fit him too. With that in mind, it makes me uneasy to think he'll be kept short of a milestone because he was blackballed and made the scapegoat for an epidemic of cheating. It's not unfair — Barry's karma is pretty godawful — but somehow it doesn't sit right with me.

And more simply: He wants at least 65 more hits. We could use those hits on our ledger. He wants a ring. We want a bunch of those too. He's a left fielder, and still a pretty good one, all things considered. And man could we use a left fielder.

I know it's not as simple as that. But given everything at stake and the alternatives, I think I'm willing to live with a year of it.

32 comments to Signing On to a Treasonous Proposal

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jason,
    Those of us who blasted Omar for rewarding Mota with a multi-year contract or want the records returned to Aaron and Maris would be hypocrites by rewarding either Bonds or Sosa (who is also available) with a Met contract. If we expect certain standards for players, we must abide by the same standards for us as fans.
    Emily is right – it would be no better than getting Roger Clemens. I'd rather sink or swim without any of them.

  • Anonymous

    Seriously? I just don't see how that could be remotely good for the team. It'd be like dropping a morale-sinking bomb into the clubhouse. Just what the Mets need.

  • Anonymous

    Hear you loud and clear, respect all that, and don't think for a minute I'd be doing cartwheels if we did give Bonds a contract.
    But that said…
    1. The real problem with Mota isn't that he cheated, it's that he sucked. We held our noses about his history with Piazza until he threw a stupid pitch to Spiezio. We wrote him off entirely once he was terrible in '07, with the outrage level over steroids somewhat conveniently going up after that.
    2. IMHO, there are far too many factors to overturn records from any era. The most important thing, to me, isn't the number but whether Aaron and Maris are remembered and properly esteemed. I think/hope they are.
    3. Sosa is nowhere near the player Bonds is now. Solely on baseball terms I'd rather go with Endy and Pagan and Easley and Marlon.
    4. Clemens is no longer of any use to a major-league baseball team, and comes with a poisonous Met history that Bonds lacks. Two factors that would make me exclude him before his alleged cheating even came up.
    I'm all for standards — I'd rather go 0-162 than employ Roger Clemens, not because he may or may not be a PED user but because he's a Neanderthal dickhead. But I caution myself to beware about swearing excessive allegiance to standards as a fan. I don't now loathe Paul Lo Duca because of what he's copped to, for instance. And I'd rather not feel like I should erase my feelings about a slew of 1990s Mets whom I wouldn't be surprised to find out didn't compete entirely on the up-and-up.
    The whole era was dirty. Are we going to write off everybody who turns out to have been part of the mess? If so, OK — I respect that. But it's a little too scorched-earth for me, particularly when we need a left fielder and there's a pretty great one out there.

  • Anonymous

    The following words come to mind:
    NO!
    HELL NO!
    FUCK NO!
    (Insert Multiple Expletives Here) NO!
    I would sooner welcome back T#M F'N GL@V!NE back than have to endure however many games Barroids would give us. I'd rather welcome T#M F'N GL@V!NE back than have to endure ONE game of Barroids in a Met uniform.
    Jason, I realize last year depressed you greatly as it did us all. I didn't realize it had sent you completely over the edge.
    For the love of Mookie, come back to us!

  • Anonymous

    This is a Spring Training story…or non-story, the kind of “what if?” I have disciplined myself to not get caught up in this year. But since you have raised it:
    No.
    I'm not high and mighty on morality where Barry Bonds is concerned. I'm almost a Bonds apologist when it comes to his feats. He's been too great a player to write off as a one-injection pony. I will never see another player perform as this one did, both in the prime of his career and in the explosive/enhanced second prime of his career. I am grudging in my admiration for his performance but I do admire it if not the performer.
    But no. Not to preserve the precious team chemistry that avalanched on our heads down the stretch, not to take a stand against doping, not even because the man is a wretched phony.
    No because this isn't 1993. No because this won't work. No because you don't sub for a doddering race horse by inserting pegleg mule. Yes, Barry Bonds had some productive months in 2007. 2007 is a long time ago in Bonds years. Draining 65 hits out of his knees, half the time in the one ballpark where he's never hit particularly well, and putting up with the sideshow…no.
    Saw a commercial for Kohl's tonight that used the refrain from America's “Horse With No Name”: in the desert, you can remember your name. You used those words as a headline in May to describe an unlikely Mets victory in their BOB away from home. I thought of that while I watched the commercial, and about two seconds later, I was immersed in “how did they not win their division, how, how, HOW?” September 2007 will never go away, not fully. Yet with that black mood still lingering from the Kohl's ad, you can tell me Barry Bonds might scorch 65 hits and make the difference between falling one game shy and getting over the hump, and I still don't want him.
    The in-house solutions aren't perfect, but better the Angel you know, y'know?

  • Anonymous

    Right there with you, Jason.
    -Z

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jason,
    Of course, there is little that one can do to re-write what has already been done (even though what they accomplished using HGH and/or Sterroids was not deserved), however, we've come too far to deploy what has already occured to turn a blind eye to those still using it now.
    I will never respect ownership for encouraging players to take the stuff by turning a blind eye to the problem for more than a decade but would have given players a chance to redeem themselves by simply being honest with the public (except for those who continued doing it long after the heat and public outcry began). BTW – the disdain for Mota began in ernest when he was rewarded with that multi-year deal and he did get a cold reception as he approached the mound for his first appearance in June (before even throwing a pitch).

  • Anonymous

    I'm intruiged, but it's a mistake. Consider what hasn't been mentioned yet:
    Bonds would want to wear #24.
    What happens to Barry if the Mets say no? What happens to us if the Mets say yes? And dare I ask, what happens to the team if they employ another over-paid fat cat wearing #25? If I'm worrying this much about the drama that would come from a uniform number, it's probably not a good sign.

  • Anonymous

    With a gun held against my head: would I put up with Bonds if it meant a ring?
    Geez…I don't know. Is a ring still a ring if cheating's the thing?
    I think the answer's no.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, Jace…wow…
    In this one post, you've brilliantly encapsulated what Sarah & I have been going through this weekend.
    See, we're househunting. We currently rent, have been since we got together. We love our townhouse, and would love nothing else to buy it, but our landlady doesn't want to sell. Can't say as I blame her in this market, and she deserves to make a buck as much as anybody. It's not for any dissatisfaction that we want to leave, but there won't be a much better time to dive in: the market's down and due to more than a few unfortunate circumstances find ourselves with the wherewithal to make a purchase. And we also need to be mindful that Sarah and I have the exaxct same commute, time-wise, but in opposite directions.
    We've been dabbling for a couple of months, but this weekend we had to take a hard look at what we actually want. Do we go for the house in a somewhat shabbier zip code that has a phenomenal pricetag with more bells & whistles and we get taxed to the hilt for the rest of our lives or do we go for the bigger purchase price in a more prestigious neighborhood for somewhat less house and muchmuchmuchMUCH lower taxes?
    Bonds would be in the lowercase neighborhood…

  • Anonymous

    Agreed. Don't really care what he did or didn't inject. No bigger dickhead than a dozen players I could easily name, although still a dickhead of colossal magnitude. Can tear the cover off the ball like few others.
    But still, I'd rather not go there. Everything else aside, baseball-ly speaking, the last thing we need is yet another crazily overpaid senior citizen limping around out there, when he can walk at all. He needs to either retire or go to some underachieving team in the AL.

  • Anonymous

    To consider past and current Mets as somehow “pure” with regard to PED's is, at best, naive. And I don't mean just the Paul Loduca / Guillermo Mota level of player either. I would have no problem with adding Bonds if he would help. I just don't think he would. From the great Tim Marchman:
    The far better answer is that the Mets don't really need him, which is a simple thing to show. According to most projections, the Mets' best lineup, including Alou, should score about 5.1 runs a game. Pencil in someone like Marlon Anderson or Detroit reserve Marcus Thames, in whom Omar Minaya is rumored to be interested, and that number drops all the way to 5.0. Pencil in Bonds for a line of .250 BA/.450 OBA/.550 SLG, and it might rise to 5.3, depending on where he bats in the lineup.
    Pass.

  • Anonymous

    Marcus Thames?! Um, yes please.

  • Anonymous

    I may as well pile heresy upon heresy: I've never thought a couple of seasons of decaying Willie Mays was reason enough to put 24 on ice. (And if the Mets wanna retire it, they should really retire it instead of being all coy about it.)
    It would be an interesting question. If Bonds did come here, he could say the right things and take up 24. On the other hand, Bonds NEVER says the right things, and he's amassed quite a body of work in 25.

  • Anonymous

    Good take by Marchman, as usual. I wish I could do even remedial math. For the curious, here's the link.

  • Anonymous

    At this stage of his career, Barry Bonds might only be concerned by the number on his contract.
    Though I do think it would be nice if he wore 25 and honored Del Unser.

  • Anonymous

    Hey, I never understood the Mays thing either, especially from a team owned by a Dodger fan. But it is what it is.

  • Anonymous

    so you don't want barry bonds and his .450 obp, but you do want marcus thames and his sub .300 obp. interesting.

  • Anonymous

    I'm sorry, did Marcus Thames suddenly turn into an ancient, overpaid, washed-up, hobbling, sideshow of a cancer when I wasn't looking? No? Then I don't really see the comparison.

  • Anonymous

    I'm sorry Jason but I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.
    No.
    I'd rather lose 100 games without Barry than win 100 with him. The Yankee fans can have the asterisks next to their championship seasons. I don't want any

  • Anonymous

    There is no comparison: Bonds's OBP is > .150 higher than Thames's.

  • Anonymous

    The left-field question is explored over at MetsGeek — with Xavier Nady getting a long look. Of course he'd cost something from the mostly bare cupboard.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry Jason,
    It really doesn't matter to me what the numbers might or might not be with Bonds in the lineup to replace Alou.
    After the Spitzer scandle surfaced I can only re-interate what matters more is retaining what little bit of integrity we have left in the things we believe in.

  • Anonymous

    No. Fucking. Way.
    Not. Interested.
    I'd rather finish dead last that have that fuck on my team.
    -sjg$

  • Anonymous

    Jason, please… this is just cruel. I've had a candle in my window and a yellow ribbon tied 'round my old oak tree since that fateful day. :-(

  • Anonymous

    AND?? Geez, pal… there's a whole lot more to being a productive member of a team than .150 in OBP. Besides, Bonds can come up 4 times, never take the bat off his shoulder, and his OBP goes up. You're acting as if he's smacking the ball around like Albert Pujols every time he comes up. He's not. And he's of little to no use when he's not at the plate, let alone all the negative attention that constantly surrounds him like a swarm of flies around a big pile of crap. Which is an apt description, and shoots his value down way more than .150.

  • Anonymous

    i'm sorry, did marcus thames turn into a productive major league when i wasn't looking?
    and who cares if bonds doesn't take the bat off his shoulder? he gets on base. that's sort of how you score runs, fyi.
    regardless of your hate for the man, bonds would be much, much better than marcus frickin' thames for this team.

  • Anonymous

    major leaguer*

  • Anonymous

    another addendum: bonds rc/g: 10.6
    thames: 5.2
    but if you include the “sideshow factor” and “clubhouse effect” (neither of which affects professional baseball players)…nope, thames still sucks.

  • Anonymous

    Um, here's an addendum: you don't have to tell me what does and doesn't affect professional baseball players.
    Whatever. Give me Thames over Bonds any day. Bonds is done. A one-trick pony at best, and brings more negatives than positives to the table for an NL team. As Greg said, this isn't 1993.

  • Anonymous

    getting a little touchy, aren't we? and as for “one trick pony,” that refers to: ryan howard, prince fielder, adam dunn, et al. you wouldn't want them on your team?