Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Grudging Credit Where Credit is Due

Like many fans, I have a strong distaste for Barry Bonds. Admittedly, my perception of him is driven largely (almost exclusively) by the media's portrayal of him as surly, petulant, bitter, and joyless. The current steroid-seeded cloud of suspicion that hangs over him like dust over the Peanuts' Pigpen doesn't help. We like our ballplayers happy-go-lucky and appreciative, and we honor guys like Kevin Millar and Sean Casey because they give good quote, whether or not they're producing on the field. And while I like Millar and Casey and guys like them because of their public personas, have you seen Bonds' numbers this year?

Through 19 games, the Giants' leftfielder's line looks like this:

44 AB, 22 H, 17 R, 9 HR, 20 RBI, 30(!) BB, 5 K, .500 BA, .703 OBP, 1.227 SLG, 1.930(!) OPS

He leads the majors in HR, BB, BA, OBP, SLG, and OPS - most by large margins.

Before yesterday's games, he had swung and missed 9 times while hitting 9 homeruns. Think about that. He's walked in 41% of his plate appearances. To quote Dave Chappelle's Little John, "Whhhhaaaatttttt!?!". The media is beginning to ponder his chances to hit .400 for the season. Maybe we should be wondering if he can hit .500. And whether he'll get enough at-bats to qualify for a batting title.

These numbers follow three of the most amazing offensive seasons in MLB history, and can't all be attributed to steroid use. Other guys are juicing, and none of them are as dominant as Bonds. I'm not condoning cheating, but I stand in rapt amazement watching the numbers he's producing, and at how he - more than any hitter I've ever seen - completely changes how pitchers and managers approach the game. Simply remarkable, and a shame that he's such a prick. I suppose that'll make it easier to accept when it turns out he is a roid-monster.

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