Barry Bonds

A dozen days in the life of Barry Bonds

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A lot of people are talking about the awesomeness of Miguel Cabrera … and rightfully so. He’s the best hitter on earth right now. I love watching the guy hit baseballs. Thing is, I heard someone on television the other day say something like: “I’ve never seen a better hitter than Miguel Cabrera.” And I thought to myself: OK, look, maybe we want to forget that baseball happened from 1995 to 2005 or so. Maybe that time period was irredeemably tainted by performance enhancing drugs. Maybe it will come to be viewed as an inauthentic time … kind of the garbage-in, garbage-out school of thought.

But, you know, it DID happen.

And nobody — I mean nobody who ever lives — will be a better hitter than Barry Bonds was in 2004.

Before even getting to Bonds, we should mention Albert Pujols, who has fallen from grace so rapidly that it seems people forget that everything Cabrera’s doing now, Pujols did it first.

Miguel Cabrera hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBIs to win the Triple Crown?

Pujols in 2006 hit .331 with 49 homers and 137 RBIs (and, incidentally, didn’t lead the league in ANY of the three categories).

This year, Cabrera is hitting .360 with 40 homers and 120 RBIs.

In 2003, Pujols hit .359 with 43 homers and 124 RBIs, plus FIFTY ONE doubles and he scored 137 runs.

In his decade, Pujols hit .359, 357 and four times hit hit between .329 and .331. He hit between 41 and 49 homers six times. He drove in 120 runs six times. And those were just his triple crown numbers. He also stole some bases (twice stealing 16), won a couple of Gold Gloves, was touted constantly for his intangibles while still managing to lead the league in that much debated WAR statistic four years in a row. As I’ve written before and will write again: Miggy is a demigod. But Prince Albert was there first.

And then, to be fair, Frank Thomas was there before Pujols.

Then there was Bonds. And he’s an entirely different category. You can argue, if you like, that every single thing Bond ever did on a baseball diamond is tarnished and blemished and unworthy of memory. That’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. The counter argument is: Whoa! That’s all. Whoa! It seems to me that even if you THINK you remember how ridiculous he was, you probably don’t. I didn’t. I went back and found 12 games he played from August 10 to August 21 in 2004. I kind of picked the games at random — I was only going to do one series, but then I kept going because, frankly, it still absolutely blows the mind. He broke the game, that’s what he did. He tilted it. He blue screened it.

Take a look:

August 10 (Giants lose to Pirates 8-7)
AB 1: Runner on 2nd. WALK (five pitches).
AB 2: Runner on 1st. WALK (on full count)
AB 3: Runner on 3rd. FLY OUT (warning track in right)
AB 4: Leads off. HOME RUN
AB 5: Nobody on. STRIKEOUT (looking)

August 11 (Giants lost to Pirates 8-6)
AB 1: Bases loaded. WALK (on full count)
AB 2: Runner on 2nd. INTENTIONAL WALK.
AB 3: Nobody on. FOUL POPOUT.
AB 4: Nobody on. GROUNDOUT (first base).
AB 5: Leads off inning. INTENTIONAL WALK.

August 12 (Giants beat Pirates 7-0)
AB 1: Runner on 2nd. Pitched to! DOUBLE (off centerfield wall)
AB 2: Runner on 1st. WALK (five pitches)
AB 3: Runners on 1st and 2nd. LINEOUT.
AB 4: Runners on 1st and 2nd. WALK (full count).

August 13 (Giants beat Phillies 16-6)
AB 1: Nobody on. WALK (five pitches)
AB 2: Runners on 2nd and 3rd. INTENTIONAL WALK.
AB 3: Runners on 2nd and 3rd. INTENTIONAL WALK.
AB 4: Runner on 2nd. SINGLE.
AB 5: Nobody on. HOME RUN.

August 14 (Giants beat Phillies 7-6 — Bonds did not start game)
AB 1: As pinch hitter in eighth with nobody on base. INTENTIONAL WALK.

August 15 (Giants beat Phillies 3-1)
AB 1: Runner on 2nd. INTENTIONAL WALK.
AB 2: Lead off inning. FLYOUT (To deep centerfield)
AB 3: Lead off inning. WALK (full count)
AB 4: Lead off inning. GROUNDOUT (to 2nd base)

August 16 (Giants beat Expos 8-5)
AB 1: Runner on 2nd. INTENTIONAL WALK.
AB 2: Runner on 1st. STRIKEOUT (looking)
AB 3: Lead off inning. WALK (five pitches)
AB 4: Leadoff inning. POPOUT (third baseman)
AB 5: Runners on 1st and 2nd. WALK (four pitches)

August 17 (Giants beat Expos 5-4)
AB 1: Lead off inning. HOME RUN
AB 2: Runner on 1st. HOME RUN.
AB 3: Runners on 1st and 3rd. INTENTIONAL WALK.
AB 4: Nobody on. FLYBALL (Deep centerfield)

August 18 Game 1 (Expos beat Giants 6-2)
AB 1: Pinch hitter in eighth, runners on 1st and 2nd. POP OUT (third baseman)

August 18 Game 2 (Giants beat Expos 14-4)
AB 1: Runners on 2nd and and 3rd. INTENTIONAL WALK
AB 2: Runner on 1st. WALK (five pitches)
AB 3: Lead off inning. SINGLE.
AB 4: Nobody on. HOME RUN.

August 20 (Giants beat Mets 7-3)
AB 1: Nobody on. SINGLE.
AB 2: Runner on 1st. SINGLE.
AB 3: Nobody on. DOUBLE.
AB 4: Runner on 1st. GROUNDOUT (shortstop)

August 21 (Mets beat Giants 11-9)
AB 1: Runner on 2nd. WALK (full count)
AB 2: Lead off inning. TRIPLE.
AB 3: Leadoff inning. WALK (four pitches)
AB 4: Runner on 1st. DOUBLE.
AB 5: Runner on 1st. SINGLE.

It’s a cartoon. It’s a busted video game. In those 12 games, Barry Bonds hit .556. He slugged 1.333. He hit five home runs. He walked 21 times, nine of them intentional. His on base percentage — are you ready for this? Yeah: .750. He got on base three-fourths of the time he came to the plate.

But is that surprising? Heck, his on-base percentage for the entire year was .609. That was the crazy level of fantasticality Barry Bonds achieved. One year he hit 73 home runs and slugs .863, the all time record. The next he hits .370 and walks 198 times. The next he slumps to .341/.529/.749. And in 2004, the year he broke the game, he hit .362, walked 232 times, was intentionally walked 120 times, nobody will ever have a year like that again.

Everybody has their own thought on the steroid part of the equation. But the truth is that in 2004 (and it wasn’t very different in 2001, 2002 or 2003) someone became so good at the game of baseball that there was really no way to deal with. It was like an alien coming from outer space with some weapon we simply cannot counter. It was like some running back coming along who is 10 feet tall, weighs 475 pounds and cannot be tackled even by all 11 men. The guy on TV who said he’s never seen a better hitter than Miguel Cabrera might want to exclude players he believes cheated the game, and that’s absolutely his right. But, make no mistake: He HAS seen a better hitter.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.

Masahiro Tanaka throws off mound for first time since October elbow surgery

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According to the Associated Press — via Chad Jennings of The Journal News — Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October.

The throwing session took place in New York, and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild later told the media in Tampa that all of the reports he heard were good.

Tanaka might be behind some of the Yankees’ other pitchers when spring training officially begins, but he should be ready for the start of the 2016 regular season.

The 27-year-old native of Japan posted a 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season for New York. He owns a 3.16 ERA (123 ERA+) in 290 1/3 innings since becoming a major leaguer in 2014.

Tanaka is still pitching with a partially-torn ligament in his right elbow that could eventually require Tommy John reconstructive surgery. His surgery last October was of the arthroscopic variety and simply removed bone spurs.

Bud Selig to teach a class at Arizona State law school

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Before Bud Selig ultimately retired, he had a couple of false start retirement announcements only to have the owners beg him to sign on for one more term. In one of those false starts he talked about how the University of Wisconsin had set up an office for him in the history department and that he’d be doing some research and teaching a class now and again. And he has, in fact, taught some one-off seminars at Wisconsin’s law school and the like.

Now something a little more permanent along those lines is in the works for The Greatest Commissioner in Baseball History. The Arizona Republic reports that Selig will join the Sports Law and Business program at Arizona State University’s law school where he will teach and advise as well as start up a speakers series in which he will bring in high-powered guests. No word on how many speakers will talk about big, important historical sports law cases like, say collusion in baseball, which was orchestrated by an ownership class in the mid-to-late 80s, of which Bud Selig was far and away the most influential member. That could get sort of awkward, I suppose.

Either way, it’s a good way to keep busy. I mean, that’s what it has to be as he’s not hurting for cash, what with the obscene $6 million severance package the owners gave him to, I dunno, not give interviews about bad stuff that happened back in the day like Fay Vincent does all the time. Stuff like collusion. Maybe he gets the $6 million for some other purpose. Who can say, really? It’s never made any sort of sense otherwise.

Anyway, good luck in Tempe, Bud. Maybe I’ll stop by your office at ASU when I’m there next month — I always stay in Tempe — and we can chew the fat or climb that butte with the big A on it or something. First round at Four Peaks afterward is on me.

White Sox sign first baseman Travis Ishikawa

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First baseman Travis Ishikawa has agreed to a minor-league contract with the White Sox that includes an invitation to spring training.

Ishikawa was previously reported to have a minor-league deal with the Mariners last month, but the signing was never finalized. Now he joins the White Sox, who have Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche ahead of him on the first base/designated hitter depth chart.

Ishikawa had some big moments for the Giants in the 2014 playoffs, but he’s a 32-year-old journeyman with a lifetime .255 batting average and .712 OPS in 488 games as a big leaguer.

It’s possible the White Sox could keep him around as a bench bat and backup first baseman/left fielder, but Ishikawa seems more likely to begin the season at Triple-A.