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Okay, let’s dig into this a little more. Barry Bonds recently showed up on Alex Rodriguez’s YouTube channel to do what two former all-time sluggers do best: bash the modern game.
Jesting aside, the Hall of Famers in spirit actually weren’t too curmudgeonly. Bonds even admits that the game has changed. “I don’t blame the ballplayers of today,” he says at one point. (Of course, he tips his hand with the suggestion that someone is, in fact, to blame.)
Despite that concession, Bonds still can’t help but lambast modern players for not being “complete” hitters at the plate. And as you can guess from the headline, one of the reasons why he believes that is because no one bunts anymore.
It’s hard to reconcile this stance with the existence of batters like Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich, and Will Smith, but given the era during which Bonds played, perhaps it makes sense why the home run totals fail to impress while the increase in strikeouts is particularly galling. After all, as Rodriguez mentions, Bonds finished his 2004 season with more home runs (45) than strikeouts (41). That was an absurd accomplishment back then, but it’s downright mythical in today’s game.
Thankfully, Bonds seems to avoid the traditionalist trap of advocating for the bunt as an effective baseball tactic. Because—and I hate to say this to you old schoolers out there—it isn’t. There are articles going back to 2013 explaining why. Rather, the giant among Giants looks at it from the angle of batting fundamentals—using the bunt as a means to reestablish one’s approach at the plate by slowing down the process, squaring up the ball, and maintaining balance through the swing. It’s a unique perspective on a much-maligned tactic, and regardless of whether it’s an effective approach, it’s interesting to hear one of the greatest hitters of all time talk about the bunt in relation to his own batting style.
Bonds’ hot take on bunting is getting the headlines, of course, including on this website. It’s a shame, though, because there are a lot of fun bits in here. Bonds talks about the “X factor” of his swing. He talks about working on his approach at the plate with his father, Bobby. He talks about being mentored by Tony Gywnn. He talks about mentoring Dexter Fowler. He also offers a fascinating hypothetical: If Bonds had bunted more, he would’ve hit .400.
The episode ends on a somewhat sour note, as the former slugger laments the modern state of the game with a particularly baffling take on the impact of sabermetrics, in which he discredits the rise of computers as harming “late bloomers.” Again, it’s hard to square that with reality, as players like Chris Taylor and Max Muncy exist. Heck, the Giants boast one of the season’s best stories with their own late bloomer, Mike Yastrzemski. To suggest that sabermetrics harmed them seems to be ignoring all evidence to the contrary.
Still, it’s a fun 15 minutes or so of Bonds talking baseball, and that’s always worth it. It would be nice, though, if Rodriguez invested in some decent audio equipment.
Lock your car doors next time, A-Rod.