The NL West looks relatively wide open entering 2009. The Dodgers signedManny Ramirez to solidify the middle of their batting order Wednesday. The Giants have a decent lineup, but lack a power presence in the middle. Barry Bondsstill wants to play baseball, and considering how little interest he's netted the past two years, he'd probably sign a relatively cheap contract.
Considering all the above factors, and also considering how beloved Bonds was in San Francisco despite his many shortcomings as a man, the Giants should sign him to bat in the middle of their order this season. There, I said it.
No one in baseball draws more public venom than Barry Lamar Bonds, with the possible exceptions of Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez, but there are a few key factors to remember. He has never tested positive for steroids (he reportedly did test positive for amphetamines), and he's the best hitter in the history of baseball. I'm not naive enough to believe he didn't use anything, so you have to remember he may not have been the best hitter of all-time had he stayed clean. That's of no matter, though, for the Giants. They need him in the lineup.
The pitching staff, save for the dreadful Barry Zito, is superb. It just needs run support. They have table-setters in Randy Winn and Fred Lewis. They have young up-and-comer Pablo Sandoval. They have good lower-order types in Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria. They just don't have a menacing power hitter in the middle to take pressure off of the entire lineup.
Sure, Bonds is 44 this year, but he had an OPS that was 70 percent better than the league average in 2007 as a 42-year-old. I have no doubt that he could still hit close to 30 home runs and get on base at a ridiculous clip (.450-range). Plus, he'd be protection for the young Sandoval, who could routinely feast on grooved pitches.
The major drawback would be his defense, which is why I'd move him to first base. I love it when people try to tell casual fans how hard it is to play first base. I've played first base a few times -- though I was usually an outfielder -- at a relatively high level. I cannot overstate this: It's an insanely easy position to field. It's the easiest position on a baseball field, and second toughest (left field) isn't even in the same ballpark in degree of difficulty. Bonds wouldn't be a Gold-Glover by any stretch, but he's a good enough athlete to learn to play a serviceable first base. There's always the defensive replacement option if they have a late lead and he's hurting them defensively.
It's not going to happen, and there are sure to be people here screaming about how bad a person Bonds is. I'm not disputing that, though I'll mention there are plenty of bad people playing sports professionally. Really, there are plenty of bad people in most professions. Why is it that baseball should blackball people when, in every other walk of life, people get second chances to prove they have changed? Just leave all this vitriol about Bonds aside, and ask yourself whether or not this is true:
From a baseball point of view, the Giants could really use the bat of Barry Bonds in 2009.