The only thing worse than days without baseball during the regular season are days without baseball during the playoffs. As usual, the best remedy for baseball-less boredom is actually just more baseball; often in the form of Baseball-Reference Play Indexing and ridiculous Barry Bonds stats. As if I haven’t written about Bonds enough, I decided to turn (mostly) away from the statistical side of Barry Bonds and look back into the person he was in his playing days. One of the more interesting looks into Bonds’ life was the short-lived ESPN reality series, “Bonds on Bonds”, which aired during the latter half of the 2006 season, Bonds’ penultimate season in San Francisco. This series is certainly hard to track down, but some unclear portion of it is indeed on YouTube (embedded above) for your viewing pleasure/displeasure. While I definitely recommend watching the whole thing, here are some of the highlights:
1) At 17:30 – Bonds on his defense:
“There was always a cardinal rule: if I ain’t gettin’ no hits, you ain’t gettin’ no hits.”
I very much doubt Bonds was the first one to employ this mantra, but he carried it out better than most, especially over the first half of his career. For example:
the only 4 players to have a .900+ OPS and produce 10+ dWAR over their first 10 seasons: Griffey, Barry Bonds, Mike Schmidt, and Wade Boggs
— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) October 9, 2014
2) At 19:21 – Bonds on his time at Arizona State University:
“I always tell everybody my major was MLB. That’s what I mastered at. I think the rest of it was just a waste of time…but I did major in criminal justice and um…I never went that far.”
There is a very, VERY small part of me that wishes Bonds pursued his major further and became some sort of state trooper or prison warden.
3) At 24:17 – Bonds on the value of his home run balls at that stage of his career:
“A home run has become a lottery ticket. You have the opportunity to better somebody’s life by hitting a home run. To me, that’s satisfying. ‘Thank you Barry Bonds, goodbye!’ You are welcome *laughs*.”
Bonds was at the point in his career where every home run he hit was worth serious money. Sure, the bundled-up fans sitting in their canoes in McCovey Cove looked crazy but they were simply waiting for a legitimately lucrative baseball to come falling from the sky into the freezing waters beneath them. I can’t totally blame them. It’s also pretty awesome how much Bonds enjoyed hitting those magical lottery tickets.
4) At 37:00 – Jimmy Rollins on Barry Bonds:
“I remember how I felt when I was younger just seeing the name ‘Bonds’ across his back. And I was like, ‘Bonds’…that’s one hell of a name.”
5) At 38:47 – Bonds on chasing records:
“I didn’t have to hit the home runs. I didn’t have to do a lot of things I do. I didn’t have to. I had that choice. But I chose that I wanted to be like Willie [Mays], and I wanted to be like Hank Aaron, and I wanted to be like Babe Ruth.”
Sure, Bonds had more natural baseball talent than 98% of the players that came before, during, and after his time. But it’s easy to point to countless immensely talented players that never really produced the way we hoped they could. From premier prospects that flamed out before even reaching the big leagues to decent major leaguers that never quite turned into the superstars that we expected, there are so many examples of raw talent failing to reach its full potential. Bonds understood the talent he possessed and did everything in his power to assure it was not wasted. As former manager Jim Leyland said, despite already being the best, Bonds worked harder than anyone to get the most out of his natural abilities. He was fully committed to becoming the best player he could be, which turned out to one of, if not the greatest player of all time.