Look who’s back on top. For the first time in the young 2011 baseball season, the rest of the NL West is looking up at the Giants.
And all is well and dandy in sunny San Francisco.
This was a home stand to remember. The Giants’ season took a complete 180. If you blinked you might have missed it.
Hard to believe that just a week ago, the Giants were four games behind the Colorado Rockies. Not only did they catch them, but they now have a one-game lead over them. What wonders a homestand can do for a team’s fortunes….Home Sweet Home.
A little exposure to AT&T Park and all of sudden the Giants’ are healthy, no longer slumping, and are finally providing us with some seriously missed “torture”. This appears to have been just what the doctor ordered.
6 Games. 6 Wins. 2 Sweeps….including 5 one-run victories, 3 via the walk off.
These are uncharted waters for this Giants club. The last 6-game winning streak for the organization came in the transition year of 2007. This would be the last season Barry Bonds wore the orange and black, marking the end of a highly successful yet tainted* era in Giants history. The team has since moved on without him and, as will be discussed, to much brighter pastures. By 2007, Bonds’ ego had gotten the best of him, as his march toward the record books garnered national media attention. The nation used to tune into Giants games to watch him chase history. Barry came first and foremost. The Giants were secondary.
The Barry Bonds era officially began in 1993 when he signed with San Fran at the ripe age of 28, coming over from the Pirates after winning 2 MVP awards in the previous 3 seasons. 586 long balls later and Barry was Baseball’s Home Run King, holding the single-season record (73*) and the career record (762*). Say what you want about Barry in retrospect, but there was a point when he captivated the entire nation with his every swing. He was the undisputed best player in all of baseball. Their version of Michael Jordan.
Within the Barry Bonds Era you’ve got two distinct sub-eras, Pre-73* and the Post-73*. Or perhaps more appropriately described as the Pre-King and Post-King eras. Bonds began his reign as the King of the clubhouse during the 2002 off-season, when he was able to basically force the Giants’ #2 Superstar, Jeff Kent, out of town.
Bonds didn’t say it publicly but he had to have been livid when he finished second to Kent in the 2000 NL MVP Award Voting. First, because he lost the race with arguably better numbers (posted below) and second, because of how large of a discrepancy there was in the actual tallying of the votes. Kent garnered 22 first place votes next to Bonds’ 6, and in total Kent had 392 vote points against Bonds’ 279.
2000 MLB Season:
BONDS: 129 Runs, 49 HRs, 106 RBI, .306/.440/.688
KENT: 114 Runs, 33 HRs, 125 RBI, .334/.424/.596
It must be said that Kent’s RBI totals are skewed by the fact that he hit cleanup behind Bonds in the order. Nevertheless, although the numbers aren’t conclusive either way, the nation perceived Jeff Kent to be the best player in the NL and accordingly the best on the Giants. Prior to this, Barry had always been considered the team’s best player, but at this point it seemed as if the power in the clubhouse was shifting, and he couldn’t stand it. Put yourself in his shoes. What would you do in this situation? …. WHATEVER you could to not let Kent show you up again.
…. the very next year Bonds hit 73*, and earned what would be his first of four consecutive NL MVP Awards. Kent would play just one more year in SF before he was unceremoniously shown the door. Bonds was the man in SF once again. And would hold this title for the remainder of his tenure with the Giants.
Behind all of the pomp and circumstance surrounding Barry’s individual success, the Giants struggled for several years. Yet, no one seemed to care. This was most evident in Bonds’ last three years from 2005 through 2007. The Giants failed to make playoffs once and went a combined 222-264 (.456). Otherwise meaningless Giant baseball games were given a national television audience. We all remember ESPN providing live game look-ins to show Barry’s at bats. Of course, chasing baseball’s holiest of records, all of this attention was completely warranted.
Metaphorically, Barry’s individual success served as poison for the team’s success as a whole. They didn’t have the money to bring in superstar talent with his monster contract on the books and tried to compensate for this with patchwork by continuously bringing in veterans to plug holes. This wasn’t working. But, at the same time, it didn’t make any sense to get rid of him. He was, after all, still the team’s best player. It also didn’t make sense from a financial standpoint. His chase for the record books brought the team substantial revenue, and although attendance declined, it still was among the best in the National League, finishing 3rd, 4th, and 5th respectively from 2005-2007.
The Giants as a team were just plainly not worthy of national media attention during this period. Reporters weren’t huddled around guys like Randy Winn, Pedro Feliz, or Ray Durham. A single player, Bonds, was the sole media focus. The reporters would make a v-line directly towards him and salivate on his every word. It was obvious for all to see, Barry was the king of the clubhouse.
I see a problem. Think practically, how would you feel if you were one of the other guys in the locker room? There’s no way they could enjoy this. Wily veterans and young prospects alike, neither could honestly say that they didn’t resent him in some capacity. Everyone else was seemingly a mere peon in King Barry’s Castle. In this light, was it even realistic to think that this team could succeed in such a toxic atmosphere?
The Giants win the championship. The team had undergone a complete overhaul since the final years of the Bonds era. In fact, not a single position player from the 2007 team remained.
Undoubtedly, the 2010 squad had its fair share of strong personalities, but no one person would be mistaken for a King. In the absence of an overbearing presence, the essence of the team became more apparent.
I can’t imagine Bonds in this clubhouse. The image doesn’t sit right in my head. 2010 was a fun-loving, thong-wearing bunch. They were a team in every sense of the word. The stories in the papers were about the “misfits” (plural) and the feeling of “torture” the team as a whole gave Giant fans. The Barry Bonds era was just that. His era, his team.
In contrast, this team has no supreme leader. No one player calls the shots. Rather, the success of the franchise is weighted across the shoulders of all Giants equally.
Without Barry, Giants Baseball is once again just that, Giants Baseball.
Case in point, the story today is the Giants’ rise to first place in the NL West after back-to-back sweeps of divisional foes. Yes, there have been some great individual performances, but none have consumed what it is most important …. that the Giants are back to their winning ways, and are back on top.
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Written by D L