March 23, 2005

Giants Have No Plan B

Tim Kawakami has an excellent column on Barry Bonds in the San Jose Mercury News called Giants Must Now Pay the Price. The team has enabled this guy, refusing to ask the questions they didn't want to hear answers to, and putting up with his petulance and self-absorption. Now they're in it up to their necks. It's hard to feel sorry for the Giants. And I'm having a real tough time mustering up any sympathy for Barry either, no matter how much he whines.

(If you aren't registered , you can read the whole article at the link below)

Tue, Mar. 22, 2005

Giants Must Now Pay the Price

Tim Kawakami
Mercury News Staff Columnist

Now the Giants come to the recriminations phase of a blindly co-dependent relationship with an aging, hobbling, steroid-deprived, self-pitying, federally investigated sourpuss and theoretical adulterer/tax dodger, who, by the way, is also one of the greatest baseball players ever.

During the Barry Bonds Era here, that, of course, has been the most powerful "by the way" in the history of sports. The Giants have won games, gotten rich and impressed their fans because of it.

This was a "by the way" that blotted out the Giants' personnel gaps, covered up for Bonds' personality prickles and explained the franchise's inability to think beyond the short-term dream of Bonds leading it to a first-ever San Francisco World Series title.

Now there's a new Bonds "by the way," and it is a doozy: The Giants are good on paper, but by the way, Bonds said Tuesday that he might miss a majority of the 2005 season or more.

This is because his knee isn't recovering fast enough from two surgeries and apparently his feelings have been wounded so deeply by various perceived injustices by media and government, most recently the San Francisco Chronicle's report that an alleged former mistress testified that Bonds had told her he used steroids and that he might have broken tax laws.

"You guys wanted to hurt me bad enough," Bonds said Tuesday. "You finally got there."

This is so typical, I-am-the-center-of-the-world-foo-on-you Bonds frustration. Fine. Everybody gets upset when things don't go well, especially cranky 40-year-old demi-gods with a potentially very angry wife.

But for the Giants? That sudden whisp of ice-cold fear is exactly what they have feared for years, but always ignored.

Bonds is the Giants' sun, moon, source of energy and resident immortal. They played successful baseball by the grace of Bonds. They ignored his weaknesses, his inability to show up for the team picture or be a regular teammate. They snapped at anyone who would dare mention these things.

Purposely, the Giants never had a Plan B: How to compete if Bonds slowed down before reaching the home-run record. The Giants never let themselves address the notion that Bonds' longevity might have been artificially enhanced.

They wore blinders, basically.

Instead, they planned ceremony after ceremony to salute Bonds' epic achievements, they penciled in 50 homers, a .340 average, 200 walks, an MVP season and, assuming they filled in a bunch of veterans around him, about 93 victories.

Just this off-season, as in every Giants off-season, the Giants didn't get younger around Bonds, because that might mean suffering through growth periods. No, and there was logic in it, the Giants wanted Omar Vizquel, Moises Alou and Mike Matheny, all nearing 40.

Even their young guys -- Pedro Feliz, Tony Torcato, Jason Ellison, Todd Linden -- aren't very young.

Last September, long before they had to, the Giants guaranteed Bonds his $18 million salary for 2006 and voided the clause that forced Bonds to get 400 plate-appearances to guarantee the cash.

Back then, General Manager Brian Sabean said there was no risk on the Giants' side because Bonds would get to 400 appearances "in his sleep."

Oops. Now Bonds is talking about possibly missing the entire season and who knows what comes after that. Now, the Giants don't have the option of wiping away Bonds' salary and seeing if they can buy a younger hitter.

They've built everything around one guy; they've refused to admit the truths of it, and now what?

"I'm tired guys, just tired," Bonds said. Tired of what? "Everything."

I remember sitting across from Sabean at the winter meetings in December 2003, as the first serious Balco-Bonds reports were emerging. I asked him plainly if the Giants had any questions that Bonds needed to answer about steroids. For their own purposes. They are the ones paying him, after all.

Sabean was indignant and angry and his only response was: "That's not even a question. There's no reason to answer it."

OK, good. I understood then and I understand now that Sabean wasn't being mean, he was only being truthfully blind. The Giants had no answer for any Bonds-steroid questions and didn't want to know if Bonds was cheating or not.

He is one of the greatest players ever, but, by the way, Bonds' status in that group, as of Tuesday, probably just changed from present tense to past.

By the way, the Giants' status as a contender, through 2006, probably just changed, too.

Posted by dan at March 23, 2005 11:05 PM