Barry Bonds: “I was a dumbass. I was straight stupid”

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Barry Bonds had a reputation as standoffish, grumpy, surly and selfish during his playing career. No one ever doubted his greatness as a baseball player but many — the media, his teammates, his managers and coaches and no small number of fans — deemed him to be an unpleasant piece of work. And not without reason.

Since he retired and since the legal cloud of his perjury and obstruction of justice conviction lifted, Bonds has seemed like a different person in interviews and on social media. He’s usually smiling, usually doing fun, positive things and he’s often seen with his family or at least talking about them. Is Barry Bonds just a guy who grew up and loosened up or is all of this one big con? And if it’s a con, who the heck would he be trying to con at this point anyway?

Bonds, now the Marlins hitting coach, sat down with Terrence Moore of Sports on Earth recently. Moore has known Bonds for many years and might’ve gotten Bonds to open up even if he was still that surly old guy. But he’s a lot more open now and it’s pretty astounding how forthcoming and self-deprecating Bonds is in this interview.

The short version — but you should totally read the long version because Bonds expounds in great detail — is that when he broke into the bigs he was a young dumb kid with a lot of promise who didn’t handle the pressure well and, as a defense, he withdrew and lashed out in more or less equal measure. As he got older he had just gotten used to that posture even though part of him knew he should try harder to be a nicer guy. At some point it just became so much of his habit and routine that not being a jackass to everyone actually made it harder for him to play and prepare so he just leaned into it for the rest of his career. Bonds calls himself “a dumbass” and “stupid” and regrets his behavior and his attitude now. That much sounds genuine.

But it’s not that simple, of course, and he neither can be or should be easily forgiven by people he mistreated. The pattern of negative behavior reinforcing and begetting negative behavior Bonds describes is one all of us have observed or can relate to on some level, but it’s also the case that we are responsible for our actions. If those actions are the product of circumstances in which we simply couldn’t be ourselves for good reason, well, tough. We are what we pretend to be so we must be careful who we pretend to be. It’s also the case that, beyond his surliness, Bonds was accused of some pretty bad acts at various times of his life too, and those can’t be brushed away with “hey, my life was weird in the early 90s” rebop.

All of that said, Bonds does sound like someone who has grown up a lot over the years. One hopes that the people he actually hurt or mistreated have long ago gotten apologies for that beyond that which appears in a Sports on Earth story. One hopes that who we’re hearing in this story and who he appears to be in other interviews and on social media is the genuine article and that he’s a positive force for people who are close to him.

For the rest of us, though — people who Bonds doesn’t really owe anything, even if a lot of us like to pretend he and other athletes do — this is a pretty fascinating profile.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.