Apparently the Philadelphia Phillies failing to complete a trade with the Seattle Mariners in 1993 for Randy Johnson wasn’t the worst missed opportunity that the franchise had in the 1990s.
The great Twitter account @FranzkeLA recently re-shared a story from the March 6, 1991 edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer where Frank Dolson says that the Phillies passed up on a chance to reach a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates for arguably the greatest hitter in MLB history, Barry Bonds:
The best player in the National League could be traded before spring training ends — if the Pirates find a taker.
As a matter of fact, Barry Bonds was available last spring.
“You know they offered him to us a year ago,” Phillies president Bill Giles said yesterday.
Although Giles wouldn’t comment further, the Phillies probably could have had Bonds if they had been willing to part with Von Hayes. On the surface, it would have been a terrific deal for the Phillies.
Terrific turned out to be the understatement of all understatements. Bonds won the first of his record seven National League MVP Awards in 1990, which would have been his first season with the Phillies. After finishing runner-up to Terry Pendleton in voting for the award in 1991, Bonds again won the NL MVP in 1992.
Never mind the player that Bonds became in the late 1990s as a member of the San Francisco Giants when he’s believed to have begun using performance-enhancing drugs, the player he was in the early-1990s as a Pirate was one of the best all-around players the sport has ever seen.
So why didn’t the Phillies pounce on the opportunity to trade for Bonds when he was only 24 years old?
And yet, for all of that, the Phillies are not at all sorry they passed on the opportunity to get Bonds. If anything, they’re thankful they said no. And yesterday, both Giles and Phillies general manager Lee Thomas made it clear that they have no interest in acquiring Bonds this year, either.
“I would not take Barry Bonds,” Giles said. “I think they would have a hard time trading him if they tried to.”
This, of course, had nothing to do with Bonds’ talent, but rather his poor reputation as a teammate and a person. This article was penned shortly after then-Pirates manager Jim Leyland famously cursed Bonds out during a spring training practice:
Still, the Pirates did try to trade Bonds a year later, and had tentatively reached an agreement to send him to the Atlanta Braves. What stopped the deal from going through? Leyland “went absolutely haywire” when he found out about the trade, and the Pirates ultimately squashed the deal. He may not have liked Bonds personally, but Leyland clearly realized how great of a player he was.
The idea that the Phillies wouldn’t trade Hayes — who last played in the league in 1992 — for Bonds because they feared that they wouldn’t be able to manage his ego, possibly cost them a World Series title in 1993 and the chance to have more than one winning season in the 1990s.
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