Barry – the one, the only and the best in baseball
Bravo, Barry Bonds.Think about it – 700 home runs, 14 behind The Babe and 55 from Hank Aaron. This is rarefied air, which requires an oxygen tank.He is simply the best baseball player of our generation and the second best in all of sports in that category behind only Wayne Gretzky. Count it up:– Six NL MVPs – and another is coming this winter. Only Gretzky has more in any sport, topping Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.– Eight Gold Gloves – don’t forget that in his younger days, Bonds could fly.– The single-season homer record of 73. This is going to stand longer than many people think because if anyone gets close they’re going to get the Barry treatment – walk, walk and walk.– A batting title at 38 in 2002 when he hit .370 – and another one is on the way when he’s 40 this year.– Not only does he hold the mark of 73, he also broke Ted Williams’ on-base-percentage record in 2002 at .582. By the way, his OBP this year is .618. He also owns the slugging -percentage mark at .863.– Did we mention 13 All-Star Game appearances and 506 career steals, making him the only player in the history of the game with 500-plus homers and steals?Sure, there will be the detractors. Bonds is a jerk. It’s time for the media to get over the fact that Bonds was a pompous jerk when he came up with the Pirates and the press hasn’t gotten over it. Have a microphone stuck in your face at least 162 times a year and even you are going to have a bad day.Bonds doesn’t hustle. There’s a difference between hustling and playing smart. All you need to do is look at Ken Griffey Jr.’s numbers. Fabulous, he runs into walls to make catches. He also lands himself on the DL more than Kobe Bryant made appearances in Eagle County this year. Remember that young Griffey was the one who was meant to chase Ruth and Aaron. Not gonna happen.Meanwhile, Bonds has stayed healthy. There is no sense to running out a routine grounder. If Bonds pulls a hammy in the process, his team’s season is over. I will concede that Barry has slowed in the outfield, but he’s 40. It’s unreasonable to expect him to run around like he’s 27. The Giants should move him to first base next year.And, yes, the steroids. Prove it. Bonds has offered to be tested. There is no evidence, just rumor and innuendo. If he played for the Yankees, the response to steroid allegations would be, “fuhgedaboutit.”In the meantime, all he’s done is revitalized a previously moribund franchise. Sure, the Giants had a brief spurt in the late 80s. But baseball in San Francisco has never been the same since he signed with the Giants in December 1992.He singlehandedly turned around the team in 1993 from 72-90 to 103-59. In non-strike seasons, the Giants have nine winning seasons in 11 years, including three division titles, a wild card and the 2002 pennant.His worst season in orange and black was in 1999 when he hit “just” .306 with 34 dingers and 84 RBI in just 102 games. And the last four years have been simply staggering. He’s hit no worse than .328. He has topped 40 home runs the last five seasons. He’s going to drive in 100 runs in four of the last seasons, despite the sheer absurdity of how pitchers approach him.Speaking of those walks, this proves my point. How good of a player are you when you hit 42 homers in just 340-something at-bats because you’ve been walked 205 times this year? This is like the NBA putting a new rule not allowing Michael Jordan to shoot and his Air-ness still averaging 30 points per game.No one in any sport, besides The Great One, has impacted his sport the way Bonds is. Then-Diamondbacks manager Buck Showalter walked Bonds with the bases loaded in 1998. Amazing.Then, there’s the fact that he, along with Giants owner, Peter Magowan, has saved baseball in San Francisco. The Giants were headed to Tampa Bay in 1992, before Magowan bought the team. Magowan got the Giants a stay of execution, but it was Bonds who made the team legitimate.Remember the Giants were playing in wretched Candlestick. Magowan needed a name upon which to build a new stadium. Without Bonds, there would be no SBC Park, one of baseball’s new crown jewels.Bonds is also great for baseball. The Giants are the second-biggest drawing team on the road. Not surprisingly, the Yankees are No. 1. When the Giants come to town, opposing fans are not coming to see A.J. Pierzynski. Who else could attract 30,000 people to a Brewers game in Milwaukee in September?Love him or hate him, he’s THE best in baseball. Home run No. 700 is just another jewel in Bonds’ crown.Bravo, Barry, on 700 and let the milestones just keep on coming.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 614, or email@example.com.