Sunday, October 01, 2006
CELEBRATING BARRY BONDS
Barry Bonds doubled yesterday and got a nice hand from the crowd at AT&T park in San Francisco.
That very well could have been his last at bat in a Giants uniform... maybe his last game at all.
And while the standing o was nice, isn't it odd that more wasn't made of it.
Oh I know... BALCO.
And all these horrible things that he probably did.
And oh yeah, he was a bad guy.
And was greedy, leaving the Pirates for the biggest contract (at the time) in baseball history.
"He is a disgrace to baseball" I hear people say.
"Good riddance" I even hear some Giants fans say.
Good riddance? Imagine what would have happened to the Giants had he not arrived.
Lest we forget, in 1992 the Giants were an aging and irrelevant team not only in baseball but in the Bay Area. The 49ers were still a force and the A's still good.
The Giants were playing in windy, ugly, hard to get to, impossible to sit in Candlestick Park (or 3 Com, or Monster or whatever they were calling it.)
The Giants wanted to build a downtown ballpark and with the team in 1989 World Series, it seemed like it was going to be built... until the quake hit before Game 3 of the series and spending money on a ballpark seemed unseemly.
How quickly people forget that the Giants were so close to moving from San Francisco to Tampa Bay that people were printing out "Tampa Bay Giants" shirts and having "Welcome the Giants" rallys in St. Pete.
(Isn't it funny how Tampa Bay always was the bargaining chip teams used for a new ballpark? Give us what we want or we'll move to Tampa! And now we know Tampa has the worst stadium and is the worst baseball market in the country... how lucky for the Giants, White Sox, Rangers, Expos and Twins that they didn't follow through on their threats!)
New ownership came to the Giants and they brought in Bonds... then lean, quick and an all around player.
The Giants instantly became relevant again, winning 103 games, missing the playoffs by a game to the Braves. Why the ATLANTA Braves played in the WEST will always be a mystery to me. This geographical anomaly was corrected a year too late when the divisions realigned in 1994.
But Barry had arrived, along with his homers, his swagger, his "I don't care what you think about me" attitude and the Giants were THE team in the Bay Area.
The Giants were in the playoffs in 1997, forced a one game playoff in 1998, made the playoffs in 2000, missed by 2 games in 2001, won the NL pennant in 2002, won the NL West in 2003 and contended until the last weekend in 2004.
And with Barry leading the way, the Giants built a new stadium, with private money off China Basin in San Francisco.
Bonds is responsible for keeping the Giants in San Francisco and more than a decade of excitement when they could have easily become the Royals of the National League.
"Yeah, but what about the steroids?"
Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield keep getting standing ovations in New York... and believe me, if Rafael Palmeiro would be too if his production hadn't dropped off.
We'll never know who was using what during this era, and we'll never know how many of the pitches Bonds deposited into the Bay were from juiced pitchers.
And look carefully at the teams that won during the "Steroid Era." Look to see how many of them had players whose offensive statistics spiked dramatically between 1995 and 2002. Should some of those teams return their titles?
I want Giambi's two home runs off of Pedro Martinez in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS back.
"What about how he destroyed the integrity of baseball?"
First of all, there will always be conflicts in the integrity of baseball...
Lest we forget segregation, which in a way should put a giant asterix next to any record set before 1947.
Or what games, besides the 1919 World Series, were compromised because of gambling?
Or what teams could have been contenders if not for collusion in the 1980s?
Or which Cincinnati teams could have made the playoffs if Pete Rose weren't betting between 1985 and 1989?
Bonds is a product of the era, not the cause.
"Yeah, but he seems like a jerk!"
When will any of us hang out with ball players? Seriously, who cares if he has a Barka lounger in his locker room?
Besides, if Bonds has a mistress for a long time, then he is a horrible person.
But Kirby Puckett, whose wife needed to call the police, was a heartwarming ambassador to the game.
We NEED jerks in baseball to celebrate and root for or against.
Whether it is a cocky Larry Bird, a flamboyant Reggie Jackson or an out of his mind Terrell Owens.
"He is a disgrace."
A biggest disgrace than the Tampa Bay Giants?
Keep in mind, Detroit has a statue of Ty Cobb in front of their new ballpark.
If there is a bigger disgrace in baseball history, then I haven't heard of him
He saved a franchise and built a stadium.
He made a team relevant again.
Whether he was a jerk or a cheat, he deserves a little recognition for that.
I am reminded of the scene in The Godfather Part II when Hyman Roth tells Michael about Moe Greene and how he built Las Vegas.
"And there is not even a statue or a plaque that bears his name there."
McCovey Cove? Hell Wille never played there.
That's Barry's Bay!
I'll applaud him, even if it isn't the popular thing to do.