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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.

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