Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bad attitude…

Barry Bonds
· 7 MVPs
· 13-time All Star
· 8 Gold Gloves
· 12 Silver Slugger Awards
· Third member of 700 Home Run Club
· Only member in 500/500 Club
· Single Season Home Run King (73)
· Two-time N.L. Batting Champion (2002, 2004)
· Player of the Decade for the 1990's by The Sporting News
· All-time Major League walks leader
· Set single-season walks (232) and intentional walks (120) record
· Set single-season OBP record (.609)· Holds Major League record for consecutive seasons with 30-or-more HR, accomplishing this 13 times
· A first-ballot, 95-99% of the vote Hall-of-Famer-
no questions asked.
I guess I just took a week off. At least, this is what it amounted to. Ideally, I should have said something and that I didn't was not very responsible. I know that not having been here for a week upset a few of my closer friends. I know this because a few of them showed signs of exhibiting some guilt for my having disappeared. Sorry about that; this is not what I was thinking of.

Probably the week was like an alcoholic agreeing to toss the fight and throw back a couple of beers. Last Friday, instead of making a blog, I just said no. I knew that I wanted to and that I had set it for my goal, but I had a bad attitude that day and just didn't do it. Saturday was my day off, so I didn't write anything. Sunday I probably should have done something, but the bad attitude was still there and after painting the kitchen floor and making a newspaper, I didn't bother writing anything.

Monday was for sure a work day and for sure I had every intention of changing my attitude and doing some writing but it was also one of Tanya's two days off so we spent it on the farm and by the end of the day, after a little work and a lot of BBQ'd chicken, I had all my other catch up work to do and after that, well, there wasn't much I wanted to say. I was thinking of maybe writing later in the night but when I tried, I simply wanted to sleep and decided to get started again Tuesday morning. Tuesday morning however, I was required to take Anya to the doctor to get a paper to return to the kindergarten. And of course there was a line.

I really wanted to write on Tuesday night but instead, I got caught up in of all things, a baseball study. I started playing with and this is where I really lost it.

Do you like studying baseball stats? I did when I was younger. I was fool for it; bought every Bill James book that came out and owned several Baseball Encyclopedias. I know that people can and do grow out of these things but it is hard to put completely behind you something you once loved and it is especially difficult when there is an impending moment of greatness on the horizon. I am speaking of course of Barry Bonds and his now rather slow moving quest to break Hank Aaron's lifetime HR mark. Actually, there are several big moments coming up if you consider Glavin's 300th win and A-Rod's way-too-young-to-have-done-it 500th homerun. But what had me in the books studying, aside from my own bad attitude towards writing these blogs, was that Barry Bonds is getting booed for coming close to breaking the all-time homerun record. This to me is simply wrong.

I like Barry Bonds. In fact I really like him and I think he is without question one of the greatest baseball players ever to take the field. To me, he should be, along with A-rod and Maybe Greg Maddox, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson, a first-ballot, 95-99% of the vote Hall-of-Famer- no questions asked.

Do you want to say no? Do you wan to say that you don't like Barry Bond's attitude? Or, perhaps his records are tainted because he took steroids? Do you want to say that you don't like him because he lied, because of his marital issues, tax evasions or because he does not particularly like suffering the daily harassment of sportswriters? Or hey, how about the Lay-z-Boy, the entourage in the locker rooms or those annoying Christian skyward finger-points after hitting a home run? Obviously, it you want to go into the reasons for being negative about Bonds, you don't have too many problems finding just cause.

But I say Barry Bonds is arguably the greatest baseball player ever to take the field. I say Barry Bonds was our generation, for all intents and purposes Babe Ruth. There is no other way to really say it. Barry Bonds is Babe Ruth.

And who was Babe Ruth? He was an icon, just like Bonds. He was this mythical incarnation who came to play big league baseball straight out of the orphanage and was simply so much better than everybody else, and by such a large margin, that his light simply made people blind to whatever else was around him. Babe Ruth's records are the gospels of baseball. His life's story is a Horatio Alger-esque epic. There was no one before him and, but for a handful of exceptions (Mantle, Mays, Williams and perhaps the guys mentioned above), there has been no one after. The pinnacle of greatness of the game of baseball itself has come to be measured against his name since 1920.

And who is Barry Bonds?

Well, he comes from baseball royalty rather than humble beginnings, but Barry Bonds has had the same sort of career and posted the same sorts of numbers as Babe Ruth; better in many instances and not just better, but better in Ruthian proportions. Here are some numbers from Tuesday:

1. Barry Bonds has hit more home runs in a season than anyone else. He also will have hit, at some time in the very near future, more homeruns in a career than anyone else.
2. He has the sixth highest career slugging percentage of all time, has led the league in this category seven times and holds the single season record as well as three of the top five spots ever (as well as two of the four times the mark has been over .800).

Now right here I know you are going to say that these were during the years when he was juiced. Well, to this I point out the following:

3. Barry Bonds holds both the top two and 3 or the top 10 places in the on-base percentage category; same as babe Ruth and is again sixth over a career.
4. He has drawn more intentional walks than anyone else ever. He has the three highest totals for a season (including 120 (!!!) in 2004). He also was first or second in this category every year but one between 1991 and the current season. He was also intentionally walked once with the bases loaded, one of only three times this has ever happened since the beginning of baseball.
5. He has won 7 MVP's. No one else has ever won more than three. But aside from winning, there were also two other 2nd place finishes, a fourth place finish and two fifth pace finishes, which means in 12 of the 21 real seasons he has played in he was at least considered one of the best five players. There was also an 8th place and a 12th place vote in there too.
6. He has won "only" two batting titles but has been in the top ten six times.
7. He has also "only" won two HR titles, but has come in second five times and has 12 (!!) top five finishes
8. He was also in the top five in OB% 14 times (eight times he was 1st),
9. He was 13 times in the top five in slugging (seven 1st)
10. He was 11 times in the top five in runs scored.

This is juice or no juice. He is also coming up on 2000 rbi's (fifth all time) and 3000 hits, had more HR's than K's in 2004 (has only once been over 100 k's), and in case we forgot, stole over 500 bases. And perhaps this is the biggest point of all, Unlike the babe, Barry Bonds did all this in a time when there were always relief pitchers with fresh, lightening-bolt arms coming in to pitch in the late innings, microscopic video reviews of every moment, live, up-to-the minute coast to coast coverage of every game and of course, Barry Bonds lived in an era when defaming a hero meant status elevation for the press, rather than at a time when he would have been painted as a hero despite his flaws for the sake of the kids.

Therefore, I see no reason to harp on what we have going in baseball right now. Barry Bonds? He is great and has been great since he began playing this game. If you want to say that you don't like him, that you want him to stop or to go away, well, I guess they said the same thing to the Babe. I don't think we would do so now, but at the time they did. But not me. And I won't say it to Bonds either.

Oh, and as a last thought, I have seen Bonds play. I saw hem several times with Pittsburg early on, but one moment I will never forget was when I was in San Francisco in 1998 and went to a game at Candlestick. I don't remember who the Giants were playing or what the score was, but I remember something Bonds did. He hit a double and after, while he was taking his lead off of second, he crossed his arms across his chest. I never saw anything like it. It was like… an act of arrogance and disdain for the situation. Not boredom, just… like he was having some sort of high level conversation with someone despite the fact that the game was in progress. They tried to pick him off, but they couldn't and he showed his disgust for this as well; he just acted even more annoyed. I guess the gesture might have been aimed at the batter saying: "Come on, man; why can't you just BE better already? Show me you can drive me in for a change. Show me something!" Could you just imagine that in a big league baseball game? That's who Barry Bonds was.

The batter struck out and Bonds tossed his helmet and gloves away with the same arrogance and disdain. A lot of people say he had a bad attitude but I say he just never understood why everybody else couldn't be better than they were. They brought him his hat, sunglasses and glove and he trotted out to left.

So Baseball is a funny game. And yes, I like Barry Bonds. When I was a kid, my head stuck firmly in the Baseball Encyclopedia, I always felt jealous that I didn't get to live in a time when there were gods walking the earth. Now that I am a little older I realize that I have lived in such a time. And the biggest of them all was Barry Bonds. No question. To me, I say that while he was playing, having him out there meant that every single time he stepped on the field, something special might very well happen. And as for the attitude, well frankly, Bonds probably was one of those rare, rare humans who actually and truthfully could justify that he was above… everything.

Sorry for the lapse. I'll try not to let it happen too often.

More soon…