Baseball superstar Barry Bonds has lost his collusion case against Major League Baseball.
Baseball arbitrator Frederic Horowitz has ruled in favor of MLB in the case in which Bonds claimed he couldn’t get a playing job following the 2007 season due to a concerted effort by MLB to keep him out of the game, CBS Sports has learned.
Bonds' career ended at the time, when no job was forthcoming.
The ruling, made within the last few days, came in the form of an opinion written by Horowitz, who heard Bonds’ case back in May.
Bonds, with the assistance of union lawyers, tried to make the case through circumstantial evidence that MLB’s powers must have colluded against Bonds, as no free-agent players coming off an excellent year fails to get a job. The best evidence came in the form of Bonds' statistics, which were excellent in 2007: a .480 on-base percentage, a 1.045 OPS and 28 home runs in 126 games.
The basis of the case is believed to have gone something like this: How many folks with a 1.045 OPS can’t get a job?
However, there was said to be no smoking gun in the case, and the arbitrator apparently didn’t find the case compelling enough. While Bonds was still one of the better hitters in the game in 2007, perhaps the arbitrator believed there was leeway to wonder whether all 30 teams independently decided they didn’t want an aging superstar such as Bonds, with serious baggage.
The union's winning 1989 collusion case against MLB over free agency and teams' unwillingness to make fair-market bids that year was also based on circumstantial evidence (i.e. superstar Andre Dawson signed for $500,000 with the Cubs). But that case resulted in a smashing victory for the players.
Bonds midway through the offseason of 2007-08, with no offer forthcoming, actually offered publicly to play for the minimum salary but still garnered no offers.
Bonds has long believed there was a concerted effort to keep him out of the game by baseball's powers. He waited to proceed with his case until his legal issues related to BALCO were resolved, and in April a US Court of Appeals reversed his 2011 felony conviction for obstruction of justice related to grand jury testimony in 2003, completely clearing him in that case.
Bonds, who made $19.3 million in 2007, including about $5 million in incentives, has had an uneasy relationship with MLB since reports surfaced linking him to BALCO, the Bay Area lab that supplied major-league players with PEDs. While there has been no thought of stripping him of any MVP awards -- he has a record seven MVPs -- MLB powers were obviously less than thrilled when he broke baseball's most coveted record, previously held by the beloved Hank Aaron with 755 home runs. Bonds, unpopular in many baseball circles due partly to his cantankerous personality as well as the PED connection, only received 36.8 percent of the votes in the 2015 Hall of Fame balloting despite his standing as an all-time great. That represents less than half the votes needed for enshrinement.
Bonds had some talks with MLB in recent years about working out a deal in which he would receive a job in the game, but it appears nothing came of those discussions. Bonds worked as a spring instructor with the Giants, to rave reviews from players, and has assisted certain players on his own time, including controversial slugger Alex Rodriguez, who has made a great comeback this year, and Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler.
Bonds’ longtime agent Jeff Borris declined comment. Dan Halem, MLB’s chief legal officer, also declined to comment.