What would be a very bad time for your microphone to go out? If Barry Bonds makes it to
755, I bet KNBR will be putting a few extra
microphones in the booth for every game.
What would be a very bad time for your microphone to go out? If Barry Bonds makes it to
755, I bet KNBR will be putting a few extra
microphones in the booth for every game.
I’m not sure if “honor” is the right word, but in honor of Barry Bonds’ current home run total, here’s Milo Hamilton’s call of Hank Aaron’s 715th home run on April 8, 1974, while both members of baseballrelated.com were ensconced in wombs.
Meanwhile, Albert Pujols is on the cover of Sports Illustrated again, for the second time in less than two months, and why not? Also in the issue is Baseball Prospectus’s projected home run leader board from the year 2020, which I want to reproduce here for posterity:
1. Barry Bonds (765)
2. Hank Aaron (755)
3. Babe Ruth (714)
4. Alex Rodriguez (678)
5. Willie Mays (660)
6. Adam Dunn (638)
7. Ken Griffey Jr. (637)
8. Albert Pujols (620)
9. Manny Ramirez (589)
10. Sammy Sosa (588)
11. Robotic Hitting Unit HR-1 (587)
12. Frank Robinson (586)
One of the above was actually my own addition to the Baseball Prospectus list, solely to make Levi chuckle.
Wow, I stayed up longer than the Los Angeles Times sports department last night! They went to press with “the White Sox quickly took control and built a 10-4 lead after 7 1/2 innings,” but I was awake until I caught up with the TiVo recording in the middle of the 8th inning. Speaking of the L.A. Times, here’s noted class act Vin Scully, quoted today talking about possibly being in the broadcast booth when Barry Bonds passes Babe Ruth’s and/or Hank Aaron’s home run records: “I would just as soon it not happen against the Dodgers….If I had my druthers, I would rather have that awkward moment happen to somebody else.”
Thanks to advanced technology that is currently available to me, I’m now thinking I’m going to attempt to make a post here once an hour today, with the first one around two hours from now, at 11:00 A.M. Pacific/1:00 P.M. Central. I will also attempt to be online on AIM/iChat as trainmanplus all day while I’m watching TV, so feel free to chat. (If I don’t say hi back, it’ll be because the advanced technology has turned out to be too overwhelming.)
Barry Bonds is sitting on 708 home runs. This means he only has to hit 65 to reach 773 and bracket the season with Chicagoland area codes. Actually, health if he could hit 139, advice he could end the season with 847 and make it a Salute to 11 or 12 Years Ago When the Area Code for the North Suburbs Changed.
Given the illegal leaks from the trial last month of that shady character Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi were hanging out with, it’s become more difficult to believe that Bonds has not used steroids. I remain in the innocent until proven guilty camp (a camp that, along with great s’mores, boasts the absence of both our former and our soon-to-be Attorneys General), but assuming the testimony is accurate as reported, then Bonds is either dumb, which anyone who’s watched him play knows he’s not, or he used some steroids that his shady trainer gave him.
So say Bonds used steroids. How does that make me feel about his accomplishments, since I’ve spent the last few years in the “Bonds is probably the greatest player ever” camp? King Kaufman gave his take on it at Salon: Bonds has fallen, in Kaufman’s estimation, from best player ever to one of the best ever.
I still wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Then one day, it hit me. I realize this isn’t by any means a perfectly analagous situation, but I feel a lot about Bonds probably using steroids as I do about Bill Clinton getting blown in the Oval Office: I honestly don’t really much care about the act itself, but I am irritated that either man would be so dumb as to do what he did, knowing the tremendous, irreparable damage it would do to his overall achievements if it came out.
As I said: not exactly analagous. For example, while there’s no rule against getting Oval Office action, there is a rule against using steroids while playing Major League Baseball. And while the damage to Bonds’s reputation is sad for me as a baseball fan (and as a champion of players of this era as, overall, the best ever), the damage to the country from Clinton’s public gelding at the hands of Ken Starr’s inquisition is much, much worse. Bonds’s possible cheating was unfair to those who played by the rules, while Clinton’s definite cheating was only unfair to his family.
But other than that, I find I can’t get all worked up about it. Sure, I wish Bonds definitely hadn’t used steroids. I wish Clinton hadn’t unzipped. But that doesn’t fundamentally change what I saw. With Bonds, I saw the best batting eye I’ve ever seen coupled with baseball smarts, a fierce competitveness, and a punishing work ethic. Without steroids, I firmly believe he would still have been the best player of his generation–he was well on that path way back when he was still skinnny. With Clinton, I saw the best politician of our lifetimes, who, while frequently frustrating me on particular issues, left our country in much better shape than it was when he took office. The fact that the Democrats were unable subsequently to capitalize on that, though partially his fault, doesn’t change my perception of Clinton’s gifts.
We’re less than six weeks away from pitchers and catchers.
Dan: One small point, though… Steriod use was illegal only from the beginning of 2003 (I think), which makes him “legal” for certain for at least 613 of his homers.
Sure, if he was using it, it was an unfair advantage, from the standpoint that he used it and the pitchers (that we know of) didn’t. But it was within the rules, on a very technical level. And all those pitchers could have used the same drugs to enhance their performance, too, during the same period.
All that said, the greatest player of all time remains Howard Johnson. With Barry Bonds and Melvin Mora “among the best.”
Toby: In my opinion, he’s not even the best Giants player ever (Willie Mays) or the best Pirates player ever (Roberto Clemente). Of course that could be a little biased since he left the Pirates (and made no secret he was going to…
I’ve had a bunch of BRPA2004-related items bouncing around my head all week, some new, some forgotten items from our actual trip, but work has been busy. So now, with a free fifteen minutes, a list:
2) In Pittsburgh, for sale on the street near the ballpark, there was a yellow t-shirt with fake bullet holes on it that read, “Where was Ray Lewis when Joey Porter got shot?” On the back, it read, “Scoring dope for a teammate!”
3) And on a t-shirt I saw outside Comiskey, “Baseball’s not boring. You are.” Luke and I agreed that while the shirt was more or less right, we would neither one wear it.
4) King Kaufman of Salon.com has been running the Barry Bonds is MVP Stat of the Day for a week or so in his column, running through all the ways in which Bonds is almost lapping the league offensively. It’s been fun–as King Kaufman usually is–so you might check it out. My favorite part of it was a reader’s response to Kaufman’s suggestion that a new term needs to be created to describe second place when it’s as far from first place as is usually the case when you’re looking at Bonds’s stats. A sad Democrat suggested “Mondale.”
5) The Cardinals clinched their fifth division title in nine years Monday while in Milwaukee. According to the Post-Dispatch, several Cardinals after the audience had left climbed to Bernie Brewer’s house, posed for photos, and slid down the slide. I assume Steve Kline was involved.
6) I can’t find the story, but it was also reported that at Monday’s game, Tony LaRussa was nearly taken out by Bratwurst when he came out of the dugout right in the middle of the sausage race. Where’s Randall Simon when you need him?
Jim: It mentions the Tony LaRussa bratwurst incident in the same Post-Dispatch story where it mentions the Bernie Brewer slide incident.
By the way, for those not fortunate enough to be hangers-on: after Levi saw the “where was Ray Lewis when Joey Porter got shot” T-shirt, it was pretty much all he talked about for the rest of the trip. And it’s not even baseball-related, except for the fact that the vendor was attempting to sell it to people attending the Pirates game.
Speaking of which, sad news from Pittsburgh…not baseball-related, but related to a different kind of ball. I know Kevin Martin, subject of the article, from 1998, when I was a member of the Steel City Pinball Association, although I’m not sure if he’d remember me at all. You may note, if you scroll down to the individual standings, that he had a 49-17 record and I was 27-39. He also has enough money to buy warehouses, and a Ferrari.
Levi: The Ray Lewis t-shirt just astounded me with its vitriol and crassness. I mean, it wasn’t even a t-shirt about the team playing that day, or a Pittsburgh team at all–it was a t-shirt about one of the Steelers’ rivals! Talk about unpleasant obsessions.
Toby: You have to understand that the Ravens are actually the original Cleveland Browns. Though the rivalry isn’t as balley-hooed (sp.?) as the Yankees-Sox, there is probably as much animosity between Pittsburghers and Clevelanders.
When I visited Pittsburgh (along with Levi’s sister) a couple of years ago, we left the same day as the first-round playoff game in which the Steelers came back from a huge deficit to beat the “new” Browns.
It was quite evident all across town how Pittsburgh felt about the Browns.
thatbob: “Ballyhooed,” according to Google and m-w.com.
Um, thanks Levi, I had never before seen the sausage race as a metaphor for becoming distracted from our Christian faith by the smaller details of Christian community. That’s because I’m not a batshit crazy Christian looking for a homily metaphor in every moment of modern life! Did you look at John2117.org? It’s jaw-droppingly amazing!
Back in March, a man named Michael Mahan, who has more money than me, bought the entire right-field pavilion (bleachers) at Dodger Stadium for two of the three games against the Giants the last weekend of the season. With that big a group buy, the tickets cost only $3.50 each (face value $6.00). He sold some to a broker, donated some to Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and has been selling the rest through his web site for $15.00 each.
Everyone who buys a ticket, though — and the big brothers and big sisters themselves — has to sign an 8-page contract that if they catch a Barry Bonds home run ball, they have to give it to him, and then he’ll sell the ball and later split the money with him.
The Dodgers found out about all this, and they’re a little annoyed, but there’s not much they can do; in California, selling tickets above face value is only illegal on stadium property. They also threatened to let people into the pavilion for free during the games if there is a significant number of empty seats, but Mahan says he’s distributed almost all of the tickets, so that shouldn’t be an issue.
This was all on the front page of today’s L.A. Times, but reading that article requires registration, whereas baseballrelated.com doesn’t. I think the reason this made the front page today is because Bonds has gotten near 700 home runs a little faster than Mahan predicted back in March.
I’m going to the Dodgers game tonight, but sitting in the “reserved” (third) level, behind home plate, so no Barry Bonds home run balls for me. Well, since they’re playing the Padres, a Bonds home run ball would be highly unlikely no matter where I’m sitting.
Jim: It wasn’t in the L.A. Times article, so I forgot to bring up Charlie Sheen buying the entire left-field bleachers for a game at Anaheim in 1996. (“Anybody can catch a foul ball,” he supposedly said. “I want to catch a fair ball.”) The Angels apparently didn’t even make him fill up the section, because by all accounts, it was just Sheen and a couple of friends sitting out there. No one was in danger of hitting any milestone home runs in that game, though, and Sheen went home empty-handed.
Levi: You know, I was just retelling that story to Luke on Monday, but I had Sheen at Comiskey Park. My mistake, I assume, since Jim is known to be mistake-free.
Dan: Jim knows(tm).
Warning: Those of you tired of reading about the Cardinals might want to skip this post. It’s long. I can’t imagine anyone could be tired of reading about the team with baseball’s best record, but then again, I can’t imagine anyone not finding Dick Cheney repulsive, and he’s married. And Vice President.
Last night’s Cards-Giants game was everything a nationally televised game should be: Two good pitchers with differing styles (Jason Schmidt and Woody Williams), two of the game’s best sluggers (Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols), and two of the game’s best teams in one of baseball’s prettiest ballparks. And it lived up to it, with the Cardinals winning 6-1, their margin of victory fattened in the late innings on a Giants bullpen that’s been as reliable lately as the Bridge of San Luis Rey. Most of the game was spent with the score 2-1 Cardinals, making every pitch–especially those to a certain lefty–fraught with peril.
The great moments in the game were primarily one-on-one moments, batter versus pitcher. There were no particularly great defensive plays or baserunning heroics; the fun was in watching the power of Jason Schmidt and the guile of Woody Williams matched up against the batting eyes and hitting smarts of the likes of Bonds and Pujols.
Some highlights from that:
1) In the first inning, with Edgar Renteria on base, Pujols faced Schmidt. What followed was as pure a power vs. power battle as you’ll ever see. Schmidt brought the 95-mph heat just above the belt, Pujols swung as hard as humanly possible, and he swung right through it. Stacey and I actually gasped. The next pitch was a little higher, around the shoulders, and Pujols couldn’t lay off. But you can’t hit that pitch, even if you’re Albert Pujols*. Then, in a textbook demonstration of how to pitch, Schmidt struck Pujols out on an off-speed pitch that started thigh-high, then dropped to the dirt. It was Pujols’s 29th strikeout of the year, to keep pace with his 29 home runs.
The next pitch Schmidt threw, to Rolen, was deposited far beyond the wall in dead center. That’s the second time in a couple of weeks that Rolen has followed a Pujols strikeout with a long first-pitch homer. Maybe catchers need to make going to the mound a regular step following a Pujols strikeout., if only to remind the pitcher not to throw a first-pitch fastball.
2) For a couple of years, statheads online have been arguing whether teams might be walking Barry Bonds too often, in a way that’s counterproductive. After all, the argument goes, if you walk him every time, he makes no outs. If you pitch to him, he makes four or five outs out of ten atbats. Maybe it’s worth the home runs that he hits to get those outs. The Cardinals seem to be the only people testing this theory. This post at Redbird Nation covers the last two years of the strategy. His take: Cards come out ahead, but just barely.
I don’t mind the intentional walk, but last night’s four Bonds at-bats did remind me of what automatically walking Barry takes away from the game. Four times Bonds batted, and four times, the Cardinals came right at him:
a) In the first, Bonds–knowing the Cardinals were going to challenge him, just barely got under the first pitch, an outside fastball, and drove it to the warning track, and John Mabry’s glove.
b) In his second at-bat, Bonds swung at the first pitch again, a fastball that made his eyes light up–then cut in a bit at the last second to jam him, a beatiful pitch that became an infield popup.
c) In his third trip, Bonds fouled off two, took two, then fouled off four straight, a variety of pitches, from a couple of inside fastballs to an outside slider to a hanging curveball that he just missed crushing. Finally, on the eleventh pitch of the at-bat, he flied out to the weird angle 420 feet away in right where home runs go to die.
d) In his last at-bat, the only time in the night when Bonds didn’t represent the tying or go-ahead run, round, effective lefty (and Chicago native) Ray King faced him. Bonds took a strike on a tough slider, fouled one off, took a ball low, then drove a pitch into McCovey Cove that, like a slalom skier missing a gate, went for naught because it was on the wrong side of the foul pole. Then King jammed him inside and got a grounder to Pujols.
They were four of the most fun at-bats I’ve seen all year. Bonds didn’t swing and miss even once, and he took very few pitches, for him. It really was baseball at its best, and the Cardinals came out on top–this time.
3) And speaking of good at-bats: I love good-hitting pitchers. Woody Williams, hitting better than .260 on the year, last night had a single in the second inning, but that wasn’t his best at-bat of the night. In the 7th, he worked Schmidt for ten pitches, including four fouls with two strikes, before finally being blown away by a fastball. Those ten pitches, pushing Schmidt to 118 for the night, were instrumental in getting Schmidt out of the game before the 8th inning and bringing on the Giants bullpen.
All in all, a great game. And we’re less than three weeks away from our trip now!
*I’m often surprised that hitters swing at the high fastball. It must just look too good to resist, even though you know it’s not good for you, like a deep-fried Twinkie. In little league, I was so short that my coach, Eugene Lindsey, instructed me to take pitches until I got a strike. I dutifully did so, and occasionally I would draw a walk. Most of the time, though, the first strike would be called and I, freed from all shackles, would blindly hack at whatever came my way. So I don’t have a lot of experience trying to lay off shoulder-high fastballs. Maybe some of the more accomplished ballplayers in the audience can weigh in on the seductiveness of the high heat.
Timmy: You’re blog is great…it’s good to see dedicated baseball fans, willing to travel the country…I recently flew out to Chicago to visit Wrigley (Pujols had 3 HRs) and Boston to visit Fenway (3rd visit to Wrigley, 1st to Fenway), and it’s an experience I’ll never forget…good luck on your trip (too bad you can’t see a Ranger’s game…the Ballpark is one of the nicer ones) http://getslaughtered.blogspot.com
Jim: Thanks, Timmy! If we do another trip in 2005 (or beyond), I definitely want to try to get to the parks in Texas. The Ballpark does look nice in the pictures I’ve seen of it, and since I’m a railfan, I know I’ll enjoy the orange-powered steam locomotive in Houston.
Jason: I’ve learned you can deep-fry a Twinkie, but you can’t deep-fry a Hostess cupcake.
Levi: Thanks for the kind words, Timmy.
One thing I forgot to mention: last night was only the fourth time this season that Bonds hasn’t reached base in a game he played.
stacey: levi pointed out the row of rubber chickens that fans have strung up at the giants’ ballpark to represent the number of times barry has been walked (intentionally, i think) this season. wow, that is a lot of chickens.
Jason: You can deep-fry a chicken. But I dunno about deep-frying a rubber chicken.
The last two Cardinals games have provided an example of one of the reasons I like baseball. Day to day, you never know what kind of game you’ll get. One day, you hit five home runs and win 11-8. The next, you get three hits–two by your pitcher–and win 1-0.
You never know what you’re going to get, that is, unless you’re Barry Bonds, in which case you at least know you’ll get walked about 1300 times per game.
Well, the demand from some quarters has been so high that I have to make sure you know about how Moises Alou, who doesn’t use batting gloves, toughens his hands.
According to an item a ways down in this column, he pees on them.
So don’t hi-five him. And when he comes to the plate, shout, “Hey, Ol’ Pee-Hands!” Sounds very 19th-century.
Oh, and on the topic of waste, here’s Barry Bonds’s take on the Spider-Man controversy:
“What the [bleep] are you asking me for? I don’t care. Our job is to play ball, not to worry about what ad is on the billboard. I don’t care. They can have [bleepin’] dog-poo as bases so I have to step in [bleep] as far as I’m concerned. What the hell.”
As Redbird Nation, where I found the quote, says: It’s easy to hate Bonds, but it’s hard to hate his incorrigible Bondsness.
Actually, we probably shouldn’t spread the idea of dog-poo bases. I wouldn’t put it past Selig, if someone in the dog-poo industry offered him money. King Kaufman at Salon is at his best today on this topic.