Saturday, December 09, 2006

As Barry Turns... the Saga Continues

Hey Folks,

I really don't care what you think. I'm glad you've chosen to read this, but your opinion really means close to nil to me right now. I mean, in general, I care what some people think, but not when it comes to one subject: Barry Lamar Bonds.

I am twenty-one-going-on-twenty-two years old. In 1992, I was just a stupid little misbehaved kid who liked the sports that my dad watched and liked the teams that he liked. I was a Giants fan, I was a 49ers fan, and God help me, I was a Golden State Warriors fan. I vaguely remember seeing news reports and such on TV back then about the San Francisco Giants moving to Florida. Not Miami... not Tampa, but St. Petersburg, Florida. I had never heard of this St. Petersburg, Florida, and didn't understand why the team that I was supposed to like might move to a place like that. Well, it had to do with the same reason that the 49ers are moving to Santa Clara; the city of San Francisco wouldn't help build a stadium. But that's a whole 'nother story.

Luckily the deal to St. Petersburg was nixed by baseball, and Safeway King Peter Magowan bought the team. After almost abandoning its fans, the organization needed something big to get the new regime off to a good start. There was a big fish out there. He was just entering the 15 year prime of his career. He had just won his 2nd MVP award and was a Gold Glove left fielder, a stolen base threat, and had ties to the Bay Area where he attended Serra High in San Mateo while his father wrapped up his own solid major league career.

It was a ton of money at the time, but it was worth it. They signed Barry Bonds away from Pittsburgh to an unheard of $44 million, 6 year deal. He responded by leading the team to a 103 win, MVP winning-season with .336 average, 46 dingers, 123 RBI, and 29 steals. I believe if it weren't for Solomon Torres blowing the last game of the season in L.A. (which I was at), that the Giants would have won it all that year. That was the season that saved the Giants.

The years that followed '93 brought much of the same for Barry. Absurd offensive numbers, award winning defense, and positive attention to a team that had almost been banished to the baseball equivalent of purgatory (Florida). In those years, you could count on a few things: Barry putting up crazy numbers and Candlestick being mostly empty due to its terrible baseball dimensions, fan experience, and morbid weather. The rest was hit or miss.

Candlestick was a problem. No one was coming out to games. This had been going on for too many years. This was why the team almost moved to Florida in the first place. On a Wednesday night versus the Padres in the middle of the summer, the temperature would dip into the 50s with fog pouring into the top of the stadium, bizarre wind tunnels developing everywhere, including the field, which had garbage and flying debris in the right field corner. It sucked for the 8,000 or so fans who showed up to these games-- even with Barry there. These were the diehard fans. These types of people can now be found only sporadically at the Giants' new home--mainly in the bleachers. If you really want to see what Candlestick was like during the mid to late 90s, go to an A's game on a Tuesday versus Toronto. You'll find it cold, drunken, sparse, and passionate.

As much as I like things cold, drunken, sparse, and passionate, the Giants needed a new situation. They needed to compete with the Braves and the Mets, and the rest of the jerks out there. After Brian Sabean became GM, the Giants, with the help of Barry, won the NL West in 1997. I was at the game when they clinched the division. After two gawd-awful years in 1995 and 1996, this one was sweet. I remember being about 20 or so rows behind the dugout where Barry finally left his stoic nature on the field as he was overcome with positivity and joy. He climbed up on top of the dugout, high fived fans, and gave bearhugs to complete strangers. That was and still is, my favorite Barry Bonds memory. It really showed that there was a human side of Barry Lamar Bonds that was seldom seen outside his own private life.

After more success on the field and some promise for the future, the Giants had their very own privately finanaced ballpark, right on the water; the crown jewel of all sporting venues. It was The House that Bonds Built. It still is the House that Bonds Built. It will forever be the House That Bonds Built. If anyone tries to tell you different they are either: ignorant, not a baseball fan, or a complete imbecile.

Only Yankee Stadium has such a nickname, and we all know who built that stadium. Coincidentally, Mr. Ruth was passed on the all-time HR list by Barry last year.

It is true. No matter how you look at it, Barry Bonds saved the Giants, and because of his baseball prowess, the organization was able to parlay that into the best stadium in baseball. He also made the Giants perennial contenders, and revitalized an entire area of San Francisco (ahem, you're welcome Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom, you eurotrash assholes).

With all of his amazing numbers and 7 MVPs, the single season HR record of 73 HRs, and 22 HRs shy of being the undisputed HR King, I just can't understand the hatred.

A million rappers once said, "Don't hate the player, hate the game." But they all just keep hating. Sure, Barry isn't an approachable guy, he's not the best teammate, he is self-absorbed, he doesn't do things publically in the community, and he's not the nicest guy on earth. So what, I ask? So the fuck what?

He's paid to be a baseball player, and that's what he does. He hits the ball out of the ballpark, even at age 42 with a bone-on-bone knee, and a surgically repaired elbow. Last year, while people like Gary Radnich, Bruce Jenkins, and Jay Mariotti were dogging him for one thing or another, he was keeping the Giants watchable and in contention with a bum knee and bone chips in his elbow. These physical ailments were in concert with the ridiculous cacauphony from the media circus following him where ever he turned. Some people think he deserves it. I don't think anyone deserves the type of double standard applied to Bonds.

Jason Giambi admitted using juice and had a horrendous, injury plagued season the year before his admission of guilt. Jose Canseco wrote a book about all his steroidal escapades in the late 80s and early 90s. Brady Anderson hit 50 homers one season for Baltimore after never hitting more than 21 before, the late Ken Caminiti was a big time juicer, and after his impecable MVP season of 1996 he spent the rest of his career hamstrung (literally and figuratively). Even Rafael Palmeiro, who has been blacklisted for life, has had it easier.

Not one of these people has endured 1/25th the amount of horseshit that Barry's gone through. Giants fans, players and management have had to deal with it too, but we always stick it out. They stick it out to see #25 absolutely turn on that high and inside fastball-a pitch only he could hit- and watch it sail into McCovey Cove.

Back to the double standard though... Why is it that Bonds has a media storm surrounding him with allegations that are fuzzy at best, when folks like Giambi who are admitted users get standing O's in New York of all places, where it seems like all is forgiven and forgotten? Is it because Giambi is white? Is it because Giambi isn't as good? Is it because the East Coast-biased sports media thinks that their shit doesn't stink over there? I mean, what the fuck? Maybe it's because Bonds is a jerk to reporters. You know what? That's exactly what it is.

I honestly believe that the shitcloud that has been following Barry for the last couple years is a product of a media, whose collective feelings have been hurt by Barry's insolent and abrasive behavior toward them for years. They're tired of getting blamed for everything and they take it out on Barry Bonds. McGwire hit 70 homers with Androstenedione (an anabolic steroid) in his locker, and Barry hit 73 in the stadium that he built, with no proof of wrongdoing, convictions, or indictments, and he's villanized on a scale with Scott Peterson and Timothy McVeigh!

The worst part of the whole BALCO (there I said it) thing, is that all of these books and leaked Grand Jury testimony that defamed Bonds was done by two local reporters for our "hometown" San Francisco Communist Manifesto---- I mean Chronicle.

Did Barry hurt your feelings when you bothered him after a game? Did he ignore you like he did to all the other reporters? Did you put a jihad on him after he told you to ask him baseball only questions? My question is, who's side are you on? You're obviously out to get him, and to promote yourselves, but this is ridiculous. Does anyone remember what China Basin was before the House that Bonds Built? I'll tell you. Abandoned warehouses, the occaisonal murder, unused and dilapidated piers, and wasted bayfront property. Now look at it. Palm trees lining the median, streetcars shuttling passengers past beautful restaurants like Momo's, exclusive highrise townhomes,ferries bringing drunken kids from Marin to the ballgame. Instead of homeless people sleeping in abandoned buildings, they have crews filming Docker's commercials.

When a book like Game of Shadows comes out, it is just an absolute slap in the face to a guy who has done so much for true Giants fans. It makes me sick, and they should be ashamed of themselves. I've never seen a man accomplish so much, and get so little credit for it. Why do people have to dwell on the negative?

Barry's not badmouthing his coach or his quarterback (Ahem, Terrell Owens), he's not shooting guns outside a strip club at 3 a.m. (Ahem, Stephen Jackson), he's not raping girls and cheating on his wife (ahem, Kobe Bryant), he's not killing his limo driver (ahem, Jayson Williams), he's not killing his wife and writing a book about it (Ahem, OJ Simpson), he's not jumping into the stands and beating up fans (ahem, Ron Artest), he's not using racial slurs or demeaning people of other backgrounds, cultures, or ethnicities, (ahem, John Rocker), he's not using a corked bat (ahem, Sammy Sosa, and he's not getting arrested for gun, drug, spousal abuse, and DUI charges (ahem, the 2006 Cincinnatti Bengals).

Not one of these people aside from OJ has had to deal with anything close to what Barry has. What did he do really? He is rude to reporters, doesn't bond with teammates, and may or may not have used some cream on his injured knee. Is that fair? Honestly, is it really?

Another example of the double standard is the NFL. You wanna talk about a league who thinks that their shit don't stink; they take the cake! 5 weeks ago, rising star and well-known (to football fans) Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman got busted for using "without a doubt, steroids". He served a 4 game suspension, it got a little play on San Diego's sportstalk circuit, a couple of minute long segments on PTI and SportsCenter, and that was it!

Obviously Merriman is more likable than Bonds, but this type of double standard is both journalistically irresponsible, and societally unacceptable. Here is a guy who was proven to have used performance enhancing drugs, and he was back on the field last week, terrorizing JP Losman and the rest of the Buffalo Bills to the tune of 2 sacks and multiple forced fumbles. He seemed to do pretty well considering he was now off the steroids. Which brings me to my next point.

Even if Barry used something, he wouldn't be using it now, and he's still playing at the highest level a 42 year-old can play at (other than Roger Clemens). He won 3 MVPs while skinny as a rail and stealing bases like a theif in the night. He changed his style and workout routine, got bigger and stronger, and won 4 more MVPs, a batting title, a home run record, multiple Gold Gloves, and got within a Dusty Baker managerial error of leading the Giants to a World Series against the Los Angeles Angels Formerly of Disney Who Still Reside in Anaheim Which is Like Two Hours From Los Angeles on A Day With Good Traffic-- or The L.A.A.F.D.W.S.R.A.W.L.T.H.F.L.A.D.W.G.T for short.

What I'm really saying is, the guy was a first ballot Hall of Famer before any steroid accusations, and you don't hit .370 and win batting titles when you're 40 years-old because of any drug or flaxseed oil.

No one outside of San Francisco understands why we love Barry. Even A's fans don't understand why we love Barry. We love him because Barry is the Giants.

Willie Mays is the Giants. Willie McCovey is the Giants. Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda are the Giants. Barry Bonds is the Giants.

We have been priviliged to call him one of our own for 15 years, and he hasn't let me down yet. He saved us from moving to another city, and has broken record after ancient record in a Giants uni. Yeah, I wish he was a nicer guy and less self-serving, but his pros outweigh all the cons.

With ALL of that said, the Giants had to resign him this year. They aren't a hot a spot for free agents as they should be. We tried to get Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano, we even tried to overpay for Gary Matthews but were turned down. We wanted to get Manny Ramirez, but we've got nothing to give except unconditional love and some minor league pitchers.

Give Sabean and Magowan all the shit you want Bruce Jenkins; they had no choice. Would you rather see them refuse to sign Barry and end up with a lineup that looks like this?

1) Dave Roberts
2) Omar Vizquel
3) Rich Aurilia
4) Ray Durham
5) Pedro Feliz
6) Randy Winn
7) Mark Sweeney/Todd Linden/Homer Simpson/Ghost of Christmas Past
8) Bengie Molina
9) Not Jason Schmidt

I've seen some mediocrity, but that is just pathetic. Do you see now why they had to resign Barry? They had no choice, and neither did he. Trust me, we all wanted to move on. Sabean did his best to move on. Even Barry tried to move on. It's like a couple that keeps breaking up and making up one more time... just one more time.

I agree that $16 million was steep for an old man like Barry, but the market was insane this offseason, and they didn't have any choice. The Giants will be extremely mediocre this season, and they will still be very old. But at least there's still a reason to go to The House That Bonds Built this season, and if we can't win, we might as well witness history in motion, because there will only be one Barry Lamar Bonds; and I for one, have enjoyed the ride.

Thanks for making me a fan of baseball for life.