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August 20, 2003
Ode to Barry
I truly hope that Bobby Bonds got to see last night's Giants game.
If any other player was doing the kinds of things Barry Bonds is doing this year, they'd start a cable channel in his honor: ESPN 25. "651! Every Homer, Every Angle" "World's Scariest 3-1 Pitches" "Keen Eye of the Big Guy" "Thigh-High Fastball: My Short and Painful Life"
Forget the raw stats, the RBI Baseball numbers he's putting up for the third straight season. Forget how opposing managers handle him the way Arnold Schwarzenegger handles an issue question. Forget how he's about the only left-handed hitter in the world who hits homers at Pac Bell Park.
Just think about last night. The Giants were tied in the 10th inning with their likely NLCS opponent, carrying a five-game losing streak. The Diamondbacks had already won, drawing to within eight games of a team that had been two laps ahead just a minute ago. Injuries had forced almost the entire starting infield to the bench.
Bonds? He had spent the weekend with his father, who is gravely ill from the effects of cancer and open-heart surgery. Stepping to the plate to start the tenth inning, he saw Ray King on the mound. Bonds doesn't see many strikes in high-leverage at-bats, and the ones he does see tend to come from guys like King. As he stared in for the sign, King had allowed no home runs to left-handed batters this year. Or triples. Or doubles. In fact, he hadn't allowed an extra-base hit to a left-handed batter since September 8, 2002.
Like it matters. Bonds turned on a 2-1 pitch and got a baseball wet, and just like that, the Giants were once again healthy.
Last year, Miguel Tejada was voted the AL MVP for doing exactly the kind of thing Bonds did last night, except he wasn't also the best player in the league. And he wasn't the best human-interest story in the game. And he wasn't so good that he dominated every single day from batting practice through the post-game spread. Bonds has an otherworldly performance record for a division leader and has been the hero a bunch of times. That's not an MVP candidate. That's the MVP.
Look, I appreciate that Albert Pujols is a great player having a peak season, even a historic one. I appreciate that he's played more than Bonds has, and that because he's actually allowed to bat in game situations, he gets more SportsCenter highlights and RBIs. In 95% of the seasons in baseball history, he'd be the MVP, and in many of those the unanimous choice.
But he's not Barry Bonds. There's no crime in that, there's no insult, and there's nothing Pujols can do about it.
Sometimes, someone has to play Salieri.
Let me be a dorky stathead for a minute. Here are some fun Bonds splits I dug up last night. All of the numbers are through Monday's action, unless noted: