The news surrounding the free-agency decision of Shohei Ohtani became one of the most followed events in sports history, drawing comparisons to LeBron James’ decision to leave Cleveland for Miami. All of the hype around Ohtani’s decision brought plenty of fanfare, conspiracy theories and everything else that comes with a free agent of his stature. His plane departing for Toronto was the perfect distraction, just for the Japanese superstar to announce he’s moving to the nearby Dodgers for a 10-year, $700 million dollar contract.
The Pirates were never one of the teams rumored to have a shot at Ohtani, as Pittsburgh is more known for losing players to free-agency than gaining them, and there was perhaps no bigger loss to the open market than the infamous Barry Bonds.
Much like Ohtani today, Bonds was one of the premier superstars of the ‘90s and was on his way to becoming one of the most dominant hitters ever. Ever since his days in college at Arizona State, Bonds was known for having an ego that could fill a room and was not well liked by many of his teammates. After violating a team curfew and refusing to pay the punishment for it, ASU coach Jim Brock put it to a vote whether Bonds should return to the team, with most of his players voting against it despite him being the best player on the team. “Rude, inconsiderate and self-centered,” is how Brock described his star player and his tenure in college.
With the sixth pick in the 1985 MLB draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Bonds as he was viewed as the kind of player that could help turn around a franchise. Pittsburgh in the 1980s was a grueling team in a struggling market following the infamous drug trials against several Major League stars. With attendance issues and lack of team success overhead, Bonds made his big league debut in early 1986 where he would start his reign of dominance in professional baseball.
Ohtani of course similarly signed with the Los-Angeles Angels following a successful pro career in the Nippon Pacific League with Hokkaido. Ohtani would spend four years playing in Japan before making the jump to the MLB, where other than few injury plagued seasons, he has so far enjoyed mostly success. The hot start that Ohtani has enjoyed is once again very similar to that of Bonds.
Bonds would win his first MVP in 1990, as he and the Pirates were now starting to really get noticed on a national scale. 1991 and 1992 saw the club make it to the NLCS, only to lose to the Atlanta Braves both times in dramatic fashion. Bonds would win his second MVP in 1992, after nearly being traded to the Braves, with manager Jim Leyland nixing that deal. At this point in time, baseball was moving towards larger contracts and Bonds was certainly bigger than ever, with many fans and media members in Pittsburgh growing tired of the “Barry Bonds Show” and his ever growing opinion of himself.
Being that Pittsburgh was not going to be able to make the kind of financial commitment required to keep a player of this caliber, the Barry Bonds sweepstakes were in full swing as several big market teams were competing for this once in a lifetime kind of athlete. The San Francisco Giants became front runners however, after offering a larger deal than the Yankees, and Bonds was quick to go back home and play for the same club as his father (Bobby Bonds) and his godfather (Willie Mays). The deal was at the time the largest in baseball history.
Congratulations to Jim Leyland, who cussed out Barry Bonds AND made the Hall of Fame before him. That’s a mic drop. pic.twitter.com/gDZlKQ8hO2— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) December 4, 2023
Following that contract, Bonds went on to play with the club until 2007, along the way becoming one of the most hated players in baseball for his alleged (albeit blatant) use of PEDs and general dislike amongst fellow players, coaches, fans, and media members. With that being said it still was one of the biggest signings ever, and certainly a moment in sports that will go down as one of the biggest stories ever followed. The story, legend, and hype around Shohei Ohtani has now surpassed that, but there is no doubt that Barry Bonds laid the groundwork for big time free-agents in sports, and the kind of media frenzy that surrounds such an event.
Should Barry Bonds be in the Hall of Fame?
This poll is closed
Yes. Innocent until proven guilty.
No. Absolutely not. His steroids had steroids.
Yes... but only if he admits he was on PEDs