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October 4, 2001

The Daily Prospectus

Huntin' 'n Peckin'

by Joe Sheehan

Lots of stuff...

  • Barry Bonds choked again last night, failing to hit a home run on any of the three strikes he saw in five plate appearances. At the rate he's going, 180 walks is within reach, as is a .520 OBP. Anyone looking to criticize Bonds for his plate discipline should note that he scored after all three of his walks last night, keying rallies that helped the Giants stay within two games of the Diamondbacks.

    I have no problem at all with the way the Astros are pitching to Bonds. Yes, as fans, we all want to see history made, but this is a pennant race, and unless you're Bob Brenly, winning the game takes precedence over individual achievement. This is the critical difference between this chase and the one in 1998, and while it may cost Bonds opportunities to make personal history, I have no doubt that if the outcomes continue as they did last night, he'll take it.

    Should the Giants remain in the races, this weekend will be interesting. The Giants play the Dodgers at Pac Bell Park, which was the same scenario in which Bonds hit his 500th career home run earlier this season. That blast actually turned a one-run Dodger lead into a one-run Dodger deficit in the eighth inning, after which the Dodgers had to watch a ten-minute on-field ceremony honoring Bonds.

    Now, maybe that's water under the bridge. Maybe. But there's still a distinct Dodger/Giant rivalry, and don't believe for a second that the boys in blue wouldn't love to be the ones to end the Giants season, or that they've forgotten what happened in April.

    It's worth noting that the Dodgers pitched to Bonds with a one-run lead, the tying run on second base, first base open, and no one out in the ninth inning of last Wednesday's game. Perhaps that's an indication of how Bonds will be treated this weekend. But if it's not, and Bonds continues to see just a couple of strikes in every meaningful Giants game, don't spend a lot of time criticizing Jim Tracy. He has an obligation to try and win every game, and not giving Bonds pitches he can drive has to be a part of a winning strategy.

  • Jeffrey Loria, Jim Beattie, Peter Angelos, Syd Thrift...I really don't care who was responsible for the decision: all of you get kudos from me for uniting Tim Raines and his son. Raines Sr. has long expressed his desire to play alongside his son, and with the season dwindling to a few short days, and Tim Raines Jr. spending those days getting his first MLB cup of coffee with the Orioles, the move was a natural one.

    I want to address one point. On "Baseball Tonight," Tim Kurkjian tried to differentiate between this and the 1990 situation, when Ken Griffey Sr. played with his son as a Mariner. Kurkjian did so by pointing out that Griffey Sr. had been a good player that year, hitting .377 in limited time.

    Well, that's not entirely true: he did hit .377/.443/.519 with the Ms, but had been terrible before being traded to Seattle: .206/.235/.286 with the Reds. His line for the year, .300/.353/.414 in 140 at-bats, looks a lot like Raines Sr.'s .304/.424/.430 in 79 at-bats. In other words, no apologies need to be made for Raines Sr., who is just as good a player as Griffey Sr. was at the time, and unlike his aging counterpart, is a better player than his teammate son.

    Raines, in fact, is still well worth the roster spot at age 41. With the exception of his lupus-induced .215/.337/.341 in 1999 with the A's, Raines has been an excellent spare part every year since his time as a regular ended after 1995. If he chooses to return in 2002, he'll be a valuable bench player. Maybe the Orioles will choose to get their "veteran leadership" next year from a Hall of Fame-caliber outfielder who can still actually play a little.

  • The Braves gave themselves some breathing room Wednesday, putting together eight runs against a pitcher who had handcuffed them prior to last night, Robert Person. If they win tonight, they essentially end the Phillies season; even if they don't, they control their destiny into the weekend. Clinching prior to Sunday has to be a priority for a team heavily dependent on its pitching staff; they need to be able to set up their rotation for the Division Series.

    I mentioned my dislike of Larry Bowa's managerial style yesterday, which sparked some criticism from readers, essentially along the lines of, "he had the Phillies doing better than you expected, and you give credit to managers you like when that happens, so how can you not give Bowa that credit?"

    Well, the thing is, the Phillies aren't really overachieving. Over the winter, they looked like a team that would be around .500, and that's exactly where they are. Their 83-75 record is actually a couple of games ahead of their Pythagorean record of 81-77. They have the eighth-best record in the league. The only reason we're even talking about them is that the Braves have played the season with half a lineup, and there's no sense in giving Bowa credit for that.

    The Phillies aren't any better than the White Sox or Dodgers or Cubs, and giving them--or Bowa--bonus points for not having a good team in their division doesn't make sense.

  • I've started a longer column on the Diamondbacks a couple of times, and it's something I'll get done before the Division Series begins. They're an interesting team for me in that they've been successful with a formula that goes against most of the things I like to see in building a winning baseball team. It's worth appreciating their success, and looking at it carefully to see what, if anything, can be learned from it going forward. Two--OK, probably two--division titles in three years can't simply be dismissed.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  Ken Griffey Sr.

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