The primary athletic genius of Barry Bonds is expressed this way. He is the only player in the history of sport to be among the absolute elite of his game in two entirely different ways.
As a young man, Bonds was a multiple time MVP due to a stunning combination of speed, quickness, assertiveness and dexterity. At this stage of his career Bonds’ primary statistical accomplishments came in the categories of SB, RBI, and runs. Bonds also received substantial recognition (8 Gold Gloves I think) as a stellar defensive player. Bonds versatility was highly prized in this era. In fact, because he only had one, his single weakness was so obvious as to be universally recognized as such. You know it’s his throwing arm, don’t you? You did, right? Well, even if you didn’t remember it initially, you remembered knowing it as soon as you read it.
As time passed and Bonds was transformed by age and BALCO (don’t stop reading!) he became an almost completely new player. In the process Bonds went from a lithe, flexible gazelle to a hulking, immobile elk. Unlike virtually every other athlete whose body mutated with the passage of time, Bonds didn’t get worse, he got better. He focused on a narrow set of skills and utilized them to create an unprecedented second act.
As a sporting elder, Bonds transcended history by becoming a second stage multiple time MVP due to a stunning combination of power, intimidation, patience and dexterity. At this stage of his career Bonds’ primary statistical accomplishments came in the categories of walks, average, home runs, runs and non-traditional statistical measures as OBP, VORP, OPS and the like.
It still strikes me as almost impossibly odd that no MLB team is willing to take a flyer on this wholly unique player. Considering the recent history in this sport of collusion, a phantom drug policy and accepted on field cheating (it’s not called borrowing signs, is it?), I’m still waiting for a good explanation as to why Bonds is at home. I imagine him scratching his massive head in wonder at it all. And I’m not sure I blame him.
*- corrected on 4.10.08