Friday, October 18
Bonds: 'It's something I've worked for forever'
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Barry Bonds tugged on his new black-and-orange Giants cap, the one with a World Series logo stitched on the side. After all those at-bats, all those games, all those near-misses, at last it was a perfect fit.
No one in baseball history ever played more before finally reaching the World Series. And now, the moment he'd wanted his entire career was almost at hand.
"It's something I've worked for forever,'' the San Francisco slugger said Friday.
Starting Saturday night, it'll be the Giants vs. the Anaheim Angels, baseball's first all-wild-card Series and a matchup full of neat subplots -- former teammates Dusty Baker and Mike Scioscia managing against each other, the fresh face of Francisco Rodriguez and, of course, the Rally Monkey.
But for fans and most everyone else, all the attention will be on Bonds, whether the Angels pitch to him or not.
Because for everything Bonds has done -- four-time MVP, home-run king, batting champion, records and Gold Gloves galore -- this next week will define the career of perhaps the greatest player of this generation.
At 38, in his 17th major league season and his postseason failures in the past -- for now, at least, the chance is his.
"If I didn't get here, I would go back to training and try again,'' Bonds said. "I think that's what we all do. I have the opportunity to be here.''
Bonds has played 2,439 games in the regular season, far more anyone before getting to their first World Series. Tim Raines used to hold the mark with 2,112, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Others waited longer and never made it. Hall of Famers Ernie Banks (2,528 games) and Billy Williams (2,488) had the misfortune of playing for the Chicago Cubs too long, and Hall of Famer Ted Lyons pitched 21 seasons for the White Sox through World War II and never got there.
Rarely has a World Series been so overshadowed by a single player going into Game 1. Over the years, the likes of Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson and yes, even Jose Canseco, created quite a stir.
But not to the point where it skewed the whole Series.
"I just think the fact that we're talking about Barry Bonds and the discussions we're having on doing things that you would never consider being done before -- certainly I've never run across this -- speaks to the magnitude of his talent,'' Scioscia said.
"So putting it in that light and bouncing names like Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and the baseball immortals, and how he surpassed numbers those guys have put up, I think just speaks to the talent that he is,'' he said. "But that Giant club is more than Barry Bonds. I think that if you are going to try to paint the Series as, 'OK, you hold Barry Bonds down, you win,' I think you're wrong.''
Still, what to do with a guy who batted .370, hit 46 more home runs to move within 142 of Hank Aaron's all-time mark and reached base 58 percent of the time?
"We have tons of information on Barry Bonds and what his stats are and what percentages will show,'' Scioscia said. "Some of them say, 'Barry Bonds, if you walk him every time for 25 at-bats, they'll only score two runs.' There will be a lot of things you have to rely on -- the situation, the score of the game.
"No, there's not one chart that you can systematically look at and say, 'OK, we're up by three runs, there's one out in the seventh, we can pitch to Barry Bonds or you can't,''' he said.
Atlanta and St. Louis tried different strategies in the NL playoffs. They pitched around him. They pitched to him. They challenged him. They teased him. None of it worked.
No wonder Bonds set records with 198 walks, 68 of them intentional.
Then again, factor in this stat: Under Scioscia, the Angels issued only 24 intentional walks, tied for the fewest in the majors.
"I don't remember it. Probably chose to not remember,'' Washburn said.
"Hopefully, he'll come up every time with nobody on base and we get to go after him. That's ultimately what I would like to happen,'' he said. "I've never faced him, I'm looking forward to it. But at the same time, if the situation calls for pitching around him, I have to swallow my pride a little bit and be smart. If the situation calls for me to walk him, I'll check my ego at the door.''
Maybe a wise move, one that an old-time Giant did not heed.
In 1923, Hall of Famer manager John McGraw scoffed at suggestions that his pitchers avoid Ruth. After all, the Babe had homered only once in the previous two World Series against the New York Giants.
"Why shouldn't we pitch to Ruth? I've said before, and I'll say it again, we pitch to better hitters than Ruth in the National League,'' McGraw blustered before Game 2.
That day at the Polo Grounds, Ruth homered twice and went on to lead the New York Yankees to their first title.
Either way, someone is going to win its first championship this month. The Giants' last title was in 1954, but they've been blanked in San Francisco. The Angels are appearing in the World Series for the first time.
For Bonds, Game 1 brings back memories of being 13 years old when his dad, Bobby, played for Anaheim.
"Oh yeah, I remember it all. Just had the Big A out there. They were losing every game, but we were still coming to the games,'' Bonds said. "I remember being out here all the time. We used to have family softball games against the Disney characters.''