Sports

A Modest Proposal for Barry Bonds as the Yankees' New Hitting Coach

The New York Yankees need a hitting coach. Barry Bonds doesn't really need a job, but he would be a good fit. Also it would be hilarious. So let's do it.
October 23, 2015, 7:10pm
Photo by Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 New York Yankees lived—and eventually died—by their offense. They were second in the MLB in runs, behind only Toronto, thanks to a powerful lineup of old-ish to old sluggers who range along the crustiness spectrum from Brian McCann (extremely crusty, not terribly old) to Alex Rodriguez (poreless and crust-free, but quite old). It was no surprise, really, that they faltered down the stretch, posting a sad .233/.309/.393 line as a team from the beginning of September before flailing futilely at Astros starter Dallas Keuchel en route to a shutout loss in the American League Wild Card Game.

Once the season was over, the Yankees moved quickly to fire hitting coach Jeff Pentland. They couldn't really do anything else: all of these swinging codgers are under contract next season, and the team has players locked into every position except second base. Any improvement will have to come mainly from within. The Yankees need a hitting guru, a man who can command respect from players like McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira. They need a man who can mold promising sluggers Greg Bird and Aaron Judge into superstars. They need someone A-Rod will listen to, even as he approaches the career home run total of Babe Friggin' Ruth.

In short, the Yankees need Barry Lamar Bonds.

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The all-time home run king already has made a coaching contribution to the Bronx Bombers with Alex Rodriguez, who famously sought out Bonds for hitting advice after serving a yearlong suspension. A-Rod shocked the baseball world by coming back to hit 33 home runs in his age-39 season, his highest total since 2010. From time to time, Bonds chimed in about his star pupil via Twitter:

How about that — Barry L Bonds (@BarryBonds)August 19, 2015

Rodriguez isn't the only hitter to benefit from Bonds's knowledge; Bonds has also tutored Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler for the past few years, and occasionally moonlights as a special instructor for the San Francisco Giants, his former team. He clearly enjoys coaching, and the Yankees clearly need a coach. New York missed out on Bonds in 1992, and George Steinbrenner eventually gets what he wants—even (spooky voice) from beyond the grave.

There's another, more practical reason to want Bonds working with the Yankees. Last year's A-Rod/Bonds collaboration was a good start—a first step on the road to revolution. Baseball is a beautiful game lorded over by haughty, hypocritical doofuses. Somebody needs to expose them, and who better to do it than the two most loathed players in recent memory?

When you tie Barry Bonds's record, because Barry Bonds gave you advice. — Photo by Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Bonds will never get the same "welcome back" treatment afforded to Mark McGwire, who slipped seamlessly back into the game as a hitting coach behind Tony La Russa with the holier-than-thou Cardinals. Despite lying before Congress—and McGwire did, to his credit, come clean before taking the job—it was always going to be easier for non-threatening, milquetoast Big Red to win back a measure of acceptance from baseball traditionalists. That's never going to happen for Bonds, at least not outside the friendly confines of San Francisco. So why not join with A-Rod and the Yankees for a late-career, Hulk Hogan joins nWo-style heel turn?

Baseball, like any form of entertainment, needs a proper, compelling antagonist. Both Bonds and the Yankees provided that in years past. Now Barry spends his retirement cycling around California, and New York is just another club mired in American League parity. I suppose it makes for competitive sport, and Barry seems happy on his bike, but the alternative could be a lot more fun.

The TV networks are certainly catching on. Even with his team eliminated from the postseason, Rodriguez is all over the airwaves, throwing footballs through TV screens and fist-bumping with Pete Rose. If MLB had the authority, they would probably shoot both Rose and A-Rod into the sun; yet here they are, laughing it up onstage minutes before the American League Championship Series. It's baseball as a Martin Scorsese film: the bad guys are just more fun to watch.

Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, and Mark McGwire were all vital members of the generation of players who helped revive interest of the game following the 1994 strike. They also—still allegedly, in Bonds's case, even after a costly and public federal trial—used performance-enhancing drugs, and were thus cast aside once MLB found it convenient to do so. Some players tainted by steroid accusations—McGwire, Andy Pettitte, David Ortiz—were quickly accepted back into fold. Rodriguez and Bonds were made into pariahs partly because they were breaking "sacred" records, but mainly because they pissed off the wrong people.

Yes, I know this is a pipe dream. The greatest hitter you or I have ever seen will almost certainly continue walking the Earth, like Caine in Kung Fu, imparting hitting wisdom on those he deems worthy without ever standing around a dugout in uniform. But we have chance right now to see magic happen—genuine, horrifying, dark magic. Barry Bonds as the master; A-Rod and the Yankees as his disciples, burning this mother down to the ground. It sounds like a damn monster movie, and just in time for Halloween, too.