This season could be a walk in the park for Bonds
By JOSH DUBOW, AP Sports Writer
March 20, 2006
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Whether it's the swing that has made him the most feared hitter of his generation, the bad knee that makes him a liability on the bases or the steroid accusations that make some hope he doesn't break Hank Aaron's home run record, there are plenty of reasons for teams to walk Barry Bonds.
So many, that San Francisco Giants manager Felipe Alou says his slugger might get free passes nearly half the time he comes to bat this season.
"I'm afraid so," Alou said. "There are many reasons why that I don't want to discuss. They want to make it tough for him. I'm not saying it's intentional, I'm just saying they won't give him a pitch to hit."
That's not new for Bonds, who already is baseball's king of walks, breaking Rickey Henderson's career record and his own single-season mark in 2004 when he drew 232 free passes -- 120 of those intentional.
"I don't really care to be honest with you," Bonds said. "I don't care if they walk me or not. I have to run the bases then. There's more to baseball than just swinging the bat. I have to get on base and run the bases."
Bonds enters the season with 708 home runs, seven shy of passing Babe Ruth and 48 from breaking Aaron's mark of 755.
There surely are many in baseball who would prefer that Bonds falls short of Aaron's record. An upcoming book that alleges Bonds rampantly used steroids late in his career will certainly get even more people rooting against him.
Cubs manager Dusty Baker, however, can't envision that influencing strategy against the seven-time NL MVP.
"They're avoiding him because he can hit you out of the ballpark," said Baker, who managed Bonds for 10 seasons in San Francisco. "It doesn't have to do with anything but that. That's it. I don't believe any manager would let personal feelings -- no matter how they feel -- get in the way. They're trying to win games."
Bonds has shown no signs of rust at the plate this spring, after playing only 14 games following three operations on his right knee last year.
He was 8-for-11 with three homers in his first five exhibition games, yet another sign he might not see many pitches to hit once the games start to count. But Bonds believes the number of walks he will draw depends less on how he's hitting and more on his teammates.
"It's not based on how I do. It's never been based on how I do. It's based on how the team does. It's based on what the guy is doing behind you," Bonds said. "If I'm a pitcher and I have a guy hitting behind anyone who is hitting in a slump I'm going to pitch around him to pitch to the next guy who is in a slump. That's baseball. That's common sense."
Bonds' walks are just one way he impacts the Giants, putting runners on base for his teammates and turning the lineup over to give everyone extra chances.
For all the talk about the injury to closer Armando Benitez, the struggles of ace Jason Schmidt and anything else that went wrong last season in San Francisco, the No. 1 reason the Giants finished below .500 for the first time since 1996 was Bonds' absence.
The Giants suffered severely without him, scoring 201 fewer runs in 2005 than the previous season. They fell from 91 wins to 75, even though they allowed 25 fewer runs last season than in 2004.
The team's on-base percentage dropped from a league-leading .357 to an NL-worst .319, San Francisco was second-to-last in the NL in walks and third worst with 128 home runs.
"All the pitchers that you see, I guarantee you that when they find out Bonds is not in the lineup, they feel a whole lot better," Cubs first-base coach Gary Matthews said. "He not only changes the complexion of your team by making it better, he's changed the whole league.
"You know, for instance, that if a guy is hitting in front of him with one out, that 90 percent of the time or more he will get a pitch to hit because they don't want to face this man with a guy on base. They know the margin for a mistake with him is between nil and none."
What could make the Giants especially tough this season is having Moises Alou protecting Bonds in the lineup. That was the plan last year, but the two only played a handful of games together because of Bonds' injury.
Consider the game last season on Sept. 20. San Francisco trailed 2-1 in the ninth at Washington and had a runner on first and two outs. Livan Hernandez threw four straight balls to Bonds. Alou then hit the next pitch for a home run to win the game.
"A guy like Alou hitting behind him won't take kindly to Barry always getting a free pass," said Matthews, who coached Alou for two seasons in Chicago. "If they're both healthy, those two guys make that whole club."
In fact, Alou said when he arrived this spring that if Bonds could play 100 games, the Giants would win the NL West.
"Everybody saw what a difference he made when he showed up last year for the few games that he played," he said. "We are hoping and he is hoping that he's going to be in a lot more games this year. If he is able to do that, we will be a lot better this year."
I'd like to see him walked every time it is feasible when he's here in Cincinnati or when we visit Pac Bell Park. Do our part against this cheater if Benedict Bud is too weak. :thumbdown
Shame, barry bonds, shame
And I'll be at every game in Cincy, right behind his dugout, heckling him every time he shows his shrek-sized hiead. Although, I'm sure what I say (and many others, I guaratee you) will pale in comparison to what he'll face from fans in many other cities (if the pansy even plays) :thumbdown :thumbdown :thumbdown