Must-clink link: Barry Bonds, cycling through retirement

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Gwenn Knapp of Sports on Earth has an excellent profile/catch-you-up with Barry Bonds. What’s up with the Home Run King? Some highlights:

  • Spurred on by his girlfriend, former world champion and Olympic silver medalist cycler Mari Holden, Barry Bonds’ new obsession is cycling. He’s good. Not great, but good. And has taken to it with the same sort of abandon to which he used to take baseball, working out and generalized surliness.
  • But he’s not as surly these days. People who know him describe him as relaxed. He never handled the spotlight well. Now he’s out of it. You get the sense that Bonds, for the first time in a long time, is at peace. Maybe because he is not expected to be the absolute best, either by himself or by others.
  • Because of his obstruction of justice conviction — his very dubious conviction, but conviction all the same — Bonds is barred from owning a firearm. Which was problematic for him as, before cycling, he had become an avid skeet shooter and hunter. There’s a bit in there about Ryan Klesko introducing him to hunting that, I feel like anyway, could have become a sitcom circa 2003.
  • Oh, and there’s a better anecdote in there about him telling Kirk Reuter’s wife how to get pregnant. Which, well. Just read it.

But the more interesting stuff comes after that. Stuff about his playing days and relationships with teammates. Some of it is old, some of it new (at least to me) but all of it looks different now with some years between us and a time when Bonds was the biggest star in the game. And it looks different in light of the stuff Knapp talks about earlier in the piece.

It doesn’t serve as any kind of apology for Bonds, his cheating or his surliness. You don’t come away from it liking Barry Bonds as a result (I think that’d be hard regardless). But you do feel like you understand the guy a little more. Or at least understand why you’ll probably never understand him.  All of which is exactly what a good profile of a famous person should do.

Great piece.

Hideki Matsui thinks Shohei Otani should pitch and hit in MLB

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Yankees’ special advisor and former outfielder Hideki Matsui expects to help the club “convince or recruit” Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani, according to a report from MLB.com’s Deesha Thosar. The Yankees are currently viewed as the favorites to sign Otani, though there still figures to be plenty of competition for his services when he finally becomes eligible to enter Major League Baseball.

Matsui also told Thosar that while he hasn’t seen a player find success as a hybrid pitcher/slugger in the majors, he’s taken notice of Otani’s success in both areas. “He’s done well in Japan, so as a baseball fan I’m looking forward to how he’s going to do here in the Majors and in the U.S.,” Matsui said, later adding, “If [pitching and hitting is] something he wants to do, and the team wants it, then why not?”

Neither the Yankees nor any other suitor should be too concerned with Otani’s ability to translate his .332 batting average and 3.20 ERA to MLB — at least, not just yet. There are still a few roadblocks in his path to the major leagues, most notably the lack of approval from the Players Association. Per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, the union doesn’t want to sign off on an agreement that would give the Nippon Ham Fighters a $20 million posting fee in exchange for Otani’s services. According to the posting system rules, Otani himself would be eligible to receive no more than a $4 million signing bonus.

The good news in all of this? The union agreed to reach a final decision by Monday, November 21, so there’s still a chance Major League Baseball will see the talented two-way player bring his unique skillset to the field in 2018.