Archive for Friday, May 12, 2006

Commentary: In Bay Area, Bonds can do no wrong

May 12, 2006


— One night and three time zones removed from hitting his 713th home run, Barry Bonds was given time to rest his aching knees and elbow. He was out of Felipe Alou's lineup when the San Francisco Giants played host to the Houston Astros on Monday night, a game that was rescheduled after April rainouts.

The Chicago Cubs can't catch a break, can they?

That means Bonds should have recovered from any lingering jet lag by Tuesday night, when his old manager, Dusty Baker, arrived with his Cubs for a three-game series.

Even when he's not in the lineup, there's no place like home for Bonds. As much as any player in history, Bonds has come to live a parallel existence.

He is stubbornly celebrated in San Francisco, where he has been protected by Willie Mays, his godfather, while being relentlessly demeaned at the other 29 major-league parks.

His Sunday night homer off Philadelphia's Jon Lieber gave him something to show for a miserable trip on which Commissioner Bud Selig gave him a cold shoulder, and fans at Milwaukee's Miller Park and Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park taunted him with chants and banners about steroids.

In San Francisco, where he has played since 1993 and won the last four of his seven National League Most Valuable Player Awards, fans seem willing to ignore Bonds' involvement with sport's biggest steroid scandal, centered around the nearby Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

They either believe he has never "knowingly" taken steroids, as he claimed at a 2003 grand jury hearing, or don't care what has driven his late-career surge in power.

They support him like he was a high school quarterback, playing only to earn a letter jacket.

"Bonds Is The Man," read a sign a fan held up behind the Giants' dugout Monday night.

This has been a difficult season for Bonds, who never has fully recovered from three surgeries on his right knee in 2004 and '05, the last of which was complicated by an infection afterward.

He has not looked like himself at the plate and admitted Sunday night in Philadelphia that he was having trouble keeping his head "screwed on right."

Alou, who became the Giants' manager after Baker left to join the Cubs following the 2002 World Series, lets Bonds decide when he plays and when he rests.

"It's pretty much his call," Alou said. "The knee tells him when he can play and when he can't play. He hasn't looked right in a long time. He still limps. He favors the knee, and sometimes that's how you have problems with other things."

Bonds has hit the biggest home runs of his career at this ballpark by the bay, which Alou calls "Pac Bell-SBC-AT&T; Park," using all the names it has carried in its brief existence.

Bonds hit the last three of his record 73 home runs here in 2001. He also hit his 500th, 600th, 660th (tying Mays) and 700th here.

"I might as well keep the tradition alive," Bonds said.

Bonds said during a low moment in April he did not think his body would hold up long enough for him to catch Aaron, but now he says he's not sure.

"I really don't know (about catching Aaron)," he said. "I'm just going to keep on playing and keep on playing."


BrianR 12 years ago

Sorry Barry, steroids = your record means nothing. Try hitting 714 hungover like Ruth was a lot of the time.

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