Out of Left
A Schmooze Conversation about Barry
Bonds raps one deep
We were wondering
if he's baseball's best
It was one of those rare schmooze sessions in a managers
office. Usually, there are too many people with microphones and
TV cameras and a host of reporters around a managers office
before game these days for a relaxed conversation between a manager
and reporters not working on deadline.
But on a day last week when the Mets were about to play the Atlanta
Braves the mood was relaxed in Mets manager Bobby Valentines
office at Shea Stadium. There was good baseball talk between
him and Roger Angell of The New Yorker, Larry Rocca of the Newark
Star Ledger and me.
Much of the conversation was about the San Francisco Giants
Barry Bonds, the home run king of baseball. How did he get so
good? Was he the best player in baseball? Why did so many people
not consider him so?
Valentine, one of the best managers in baseball and a keen analyst
of all aspects of the game, said, Hes gotten stronger
through the years. I once put my arms around his biceps. I can
get my hands around my neck, but I couldnt get them around
Barrys arms. Lifting weights has made him so much stronger.
Rocca said, I dont believe all that underground talk
about steroids doing so much for guys like him.
Valentine said, Hes got amazing eyesight. Steroids
dont help eyesight. He doesnt swing at bad pitches.
Hes been around long enough to see thousands of pitches
so he can recognize whatever pitch is coming up. He has a compact
swing and he chokes up on the bat so he is hard to throw strikes
Rocca said, I have been talking to John Smoltz [of the
Braves] about him and he says Barry rarely swings at pitches
in the dirt.
Despite his record-setting 73 homers last year and his torrid
start the first week of this season, Bonds is not necessarily
rated the best player in the game currently. Alex Rodriguez,
the Texas Ranger slugger, is regarded as the best by many people.
For example, Fantasy Baseball Leagues are not the most significant
yardsticks by which to measure players, but they say something.
Bonds has not been the most expensive purchase in the Fantasy
Baseball League to which I belong. People who select these teams
pay for players in imaginary dollars and the best players command
the most money. Alex Rodriguez has cost the most money the past
two years, Ken Griffey was the top purchase two years earlier.
Valentine said, I agree about Rodriguez, but that doesnt
take away from what Barry has been doing. I dont know why
he has not been rated as the best player the past few years.
Why have so many people talked about Ken Griffey as the best
even though Griffey hasnt put up the numbers Barry has?
I advanced the thought that Bonds is faulted by many because
he doesnt always hustle running out ground balls and that
he sometimes has loafed on balls hit to left field.
Roger Angell said, He has not had outstanding post-seasons.
Bonds has batted only .200 in 20 post-season games with only
one home run and three runs batted in in 68 times at bat.
His attitude has not helped him. He has not always been popular
with his teammates and he has alienated the media by his stand-offishness.
He has angered fans with some of his less-than-politic remarks.
He has smartened up of late, though he is still not easily approached.
That is partly because the Giants must of necessity limit his
availability; he would be overwhelmed if limitations were not
placed on access to him as the games dominant personality
It was suggested as well that Bonds was not helped in the general
esteem by a certain reluctance of Giants manager Dusty Baker
to laud him. Baker rarely praises Bonds to the skies and two
years ago, when Bonds and Jeff Kent were the premier hitters
on the Giants, Baker, a popular man in baseball, stated that
he thought Kent should be named the leagues Most Valuable
Player. Kent was named the MVP and some think Bakers remarks
may have affected Bonds performance. He batted only .176
in the Giants loss to the Mets.
Valentine said, I thought Barry and Kent should have been
In the midst of this palaver, Valentine signed some baseballs,
dressed into his gametime uniform, okayed a few public relations
proposals, recommended a restaurant in Manhattan, checked some
Braves statistics and expressed praise for a few of his
There were no scoops, just good baseball talk.
© 2002 by Stan Isaacs. The Stan Isaacs caricature is ©
2001 by Jim Hummel.
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