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Bonds to sue MLB for collusion; Is he right?


Bonds thinks he was colluded against after his 2007 season.  photo via

Bonds thinks he was colluded against after his 2007 season. photo via

In 2007, Barry Bonds played in 126 games (missing half of September but otherwise just getting routine days off throughout the season), put up a slash line of .276/.480/.565, with 28 homers in 477 PAs, good for a a 169 OPS+.  A 169 OPS+ would have led the majors in 2014, for context of how strong an offensive season he had.  He led the league in walks, intentional walks and OBP.  He was an All-Star.  His bWAR on the year was a healthy 3.4 … but was hampered a point and a half by his sub-par defense since, of course, he  was in the NL and had to struggle around left field day in and day out as a 42-yr old.

He entered Free Agency … and never signed a new contract.  His last game was a 0-3 random September performance for a 90-loss Giants team against the Padres and Jake Peavy.

This week, now that Bonds’ remaining legal issues are past, he’s apparently contemplating a collusion lawsuit against MLB, alleging that the 30 owners basically got together and collectively agreed not to sign him.  He alleges that this collusion ended his career pre-maturely.

At the time, there was a massive circus atmosphere surrounding Bonds.  In November of 2007, just after the World Series ended and the FA period officially began, Bonds was officially indicted on federal perjury and obstruction of justice charges.  Even notwithstanding an outstanding federal charge, Bonds had just broken Hank Aaron‘s record and had a massive contingent of reporters following him around game to game, with heavy, serious questions about the extent of his steroid usage still unanswered but being questioned daily.  Bonds was also well known for being a surly teammate and a horrible clubhouse presence.  I specifically recall thinking about a possible signing of Bonds and completely understanding why teams may not have wanted to do so, because of the PR hit.

So, which makes more sense, that 30 MLB owners, each of whom is competing against the others to try to win, would each individually arrive at the conclusion that they’d rather not have a PR nightmare versus having a 43-yr old guy still capable of batting clean-up in the majors willing to play for the MLB minimum?  Or that the commissioner would lead yet another collusion effort against a player?

Who wouldn’t have wanted to add a potential 5-win clean-up hitter playing for less than $500,000??

We should note, by the way, that we are talking about a commissioner at the time in Bud Selig who was directly involved as an owner in *multiple* proven collusion incidents, which resulted in millions of dollars of penalties being paid to damaged players through the 1980s and 1990s.  We’re talking about a commissioner who was also (basically) still an owner, who clearly worked on behalf of the owners, and who had taken a massive publicity hit to his reputation for his role in enabling the whole PED crisis in the first place and (in my opinion) was certainly ready to move onwards from the daily embarrassment that Bonds represented to the league.

Here’s some additional good reading material on the topic:’s legal expert Michael McCann studied the case back in 2012 and goes far deeper into all these topics.  Yahoo sports’ Israel Fehr has a nice summary with links to other reporters with more analysis.  And Grant Brisbee has a great retrospective on the idiocy of teams who passed on Bonds but who paid other players that off-season.

My 2 cents: i’m almost certain there was some collusion going on … but that it’ll be very difficult to prove at this point, 8 years onward.  And, there’s enough of an argument that can be made that teams made the same decision that the San Francisco owner made before the season was even over; enough was enough with the daily PR nightmare and he decided to go separate ways.  What do you think?

ps: useless fact: did you know that Bonds was just the 6th pick in the 1st round of his draft year?   Going ahead of him was B.J. Surhoff, Will Clark, Bobby Witt, Barry Larkin and a HS catcher who washed out in the minors named Kurt Brown.  Do you think the Chicago White Sox are kicking themselves for getting absolutely nothing out of their first round pick instead of picking Bonds?  Bonds btw nearly has as much combined bWAR as those four MLBers picked ahead of him … and those are not exactly slouches for players, and includes a Hall of Famer in Larkin.

7 Responses to 'Bonds to sue MLB for collusion; Is he right?'

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  1. I think you nailed it. The collusion, if any, was probably more passive in nature: i.e. the headaches involved in signing Bonds were not perceived as being worth the benefits. I really doubt there was a Selig signed memo to all the owners telling them not to sign Bonds. My bet is Bonds is hoping the owners would rather settle with him rather than taking a chance on having their complicity in the whole steroid mess aired in open court.

    As for the ChiSox, man had they guessed right they could have had a lineup including both Frank Thomas and Bonds. THAT would have been scary.

    Karl Kolchack

    12 May 15 at 5:12 pm

  2. I agree with all of this. He was amazing and also came off like an arrogant jerk. Still, owners play to win, so I was surprised no one signed him.

    I will be surprised if he can still bring a suit, though. The statute of limitations must have run by now.


    12 May 15 at 7:13 pm

  3. I hope he sues. It would be good theater between unlikable parties.

    Andrew R

    12 May 15 at 8:59 pm

  4. Was there collusion? Of course. But did Bonds have more baggage than Southwest? Yep. Was he an epic cheat who might be busted at any time? You bet. Was he an a–hole of biblical proportions and a clubhouse cancer? Guilty. Was he more immobile in LF by that time than Coit Tower? Sure.

    What’s not to like about a case that might embarrass Bud AND Barry, two of my all-time least favorites? Here’s one of the things I don’t understand, though. I’m not a lawyer, but it would seem that in discovery, which allows wider latitude than what is admissible in court, the attorneys for MLB would be able to delve pretty deeply into the level of taint that Mr. Bonds carried.

    The only reason I can think of that Bonds wasn’t draft higher might have been a concern about whether he had enough power to translate to 25+ HRs/yr in the pros. (Yes, this about the all-time HR leader*). He hit 23 his senior season in college but only 22 combined over the previous three.

    Add Brisbee to the list of national writers we should be reading more. I miss the Brisbee-Neyer combo and don’t go through the clicks to seek out either one that much anymore.

    Meanwhile, Harper is moving into Bondsian OPS territory (1117 and climbing). Looks like we should start worrying about Stras. Clint Robinson seems to have a future as a mop-up man, though (with one K).


    13 May 15 at 5:25 am

  5. If Bonds were successful in suing, the Nats’ very own Elijah Dukes might actually have a case. When the Nats dumped Dukes during spring training in 2010, no other team offered him a contract even though he was a 26-year-old with a career .771 OPS. He ended up playing indy ball that year, and the only possible explanation for why no other team took a flyer on him was that he was perceived to potentially be more trouble than he was worth.

    Karl Kolchack

    13 May 15 at 9:45 am

  6. If Bonds does move forward with the case, I think the “clubhouse cancer” aspect would be a central part of the MLB defense. It’s totally subjective and based on perception, but the perception was real and widespread. It would have been a real risk for a contender to add such a volatile personality to the mix, all the more so if there was a concern over how much he might haggle about playing time.

    Barry’s skin had better be thick, as I think they’d roll out a lot of bad stuff about him, beyond just the artificial enhancement.


    13 May 15 at 12:33 pm

  7. Brube; great point on Dukes versus Bonds. Did teams collude against Dukes? No way; they all looked at the potential talent (some, but inconsistent) versus the trade-offs of his attitude (well publicized cancer issues) and his legal issues (many) and arrived at a simple decision.

    Problem is… Bonds was still a cleanup-level quality hitter when he hit FA. Yes he was old … but between his performance and his willingness to play for nothing, his whole case is “why wouldn’t one of the AL teams just taken a non-guaranteed flier for a MLB min guy to fill their DH slot?” That’s my thinking.

    Everything else everyone has noted is true though as well. I distinctly remember thinking that I wouldn’t want him, despite his production, thanks to all the baggage at the time. Maybe that’s enough to disprove collusion in a legal setting. Making the argument that individually it wasn’t that much of a stretch for each owner/GM to do the same cost-benefit analysis we’ve all done and arrive at the “no sign” decision.

    Todd Boss

    14 May 15 at 9:41 am

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