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.

Shapiro, Murray defend Dellin Betances after arbitration feud

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Dellin Betances #68 of the New York Yankees and the American League pitches against the National League during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.

Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”

Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”

Royals will experiment with Alex Gordon in all three outfield spots this year

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 7: Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals reacts to a fan while on first base during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 7, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.

Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.

According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.

While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.