THOUGH BARRY BONDS missed a couple of games on the GiantsO latest road trip, his name was still listed under OIBB.O No, he didnOt get any intentional walks sitting on the bench. In this case, that all-too-familiar abbreviation stood for OInjuredNBad Back.O
But Bonds was walked intentionally 29 times in the 33 games prior to his back spasms. ThatOs already more than Mark McGwire received during his entire 70-homer, 1998 season. Andy Pettitte faced 1,586 lefthanded batters in nine years with the Yankees without walking one intentionally; that streak ended 4 innings into his NL career, when he threw four wide ones to Bonds. Over the past six-plus years, Roger Clemens has issued 8 IBBs to 5,448 batters not named Bonds; during that same span, heOs given Barry three intentional walks (plus a conventional walk and an HBP) in only seven confrontations.
Not only is Bonds in line to surpass his own big league mark of 68 IBBs (set in 2002) this season, not to mention Rickey HendersonOs all-time walk record of 2,190, but opposing managers also are ordering free passes in increasingly illogical situations. On May 11, Larry Bowa ordered Kevin Millwood to put Bonds on to fill the bases with none out and Philadelphia leading by four, bringing the tying run to the plate. Philly gave up one run.
That pales in comparison to Reds manager Dave MileyOs strategy on May 9. With the score tied 6-6, Miley ordered Danny Graves to put Bonds on leading off the top of the 10th inning. A two-out intentional walkNeven with the bases emptyNis one thing; such runners score only about 10% of the time. But whatOs the chance that even Bonds would do something that would hurt the Reds more than a leadoff walk? HereOs the math: even if we consider only BondsO superhuman seasons starting in 2001, he still has hit a double, triple or home run on only 15% of his non-IBB plate appearances. Why, then, create the leadoff-batter-on-first situation, which results in a score about 50% of the time?
Over the past 30 seasonsNa span of time that includes more than one million batters leading off inningsNonly one other time did a manager order such an intentional walk. In 1996 the RedsO Ray Knight had Jeff Brantley walk none other than Bonds leading off the bottom of the ninth with Cincinnati ahead 3-2. That worked, but MileyOs strategy backfired. Edgardo AlfonzoOs double and a sacrifice fly by Deivi Cruz brought Bonds around, and the Giants won, 7-6.
But the IBBs keep coming, and Bonds accepts them without complaint. Hey, part of his job is to drive opposing managers crazy.
Steve Hirdt is executivevice president of the Elias Sports Bureau.