With XM Radio, you can listen to every home team broadcast of every game this year including a bunch from spring training. Wednesday night, with the Mets and Cards on the FAN from Jupiter, I checked XM and they were carrying the St. Louis broadcast about a minute delayed.
So first I heard Gary Cohen enthusiastically call a sweet play that David Wright made at third. While that was completed, Mike Shannon of KMOX was droning on about what a great crowd we’re gonna get here at Roger Dean Stadium tonight. Then when the Wright play happened, he gave it its props, adding, “few are paying attention to David Wright but he’s gonna be good”.
What planet is Mike Shannon living on? Oh right, St. Louis.
I bought USA Today Sports Weekly last week because at least in the New York edition they put Wright (future Greatest Met 1 through 4) on the cover. In a spread featuring the “award winners of tomorrow,” he was picked as the 2006 Silver Slugger. Great! Next to him was “Scott Kazmir: 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner”. D’oh!
Not sure how apocryphal it was, but do you remember how in the wake of that awesome 11-9, 12-inning win over the Giants last August (decided on a fly ball lost in the sun) it was reported that Barry Bonds acknowledged Diamond Dave? He landed on third after a triple (having gotten on base six times, not homering and not being intentionally walked; it was seriously Howe’s finest hour of managing) and after young David told him “you’re as good as advertised,” Bonds replied, “keep swinging it”.
If David Wright can make Barry Bonds seem human, he can do anything. Except maybe cook for himself, according to Thursday’s News.
Regarding that opposing player, as long as I’ve brought him up in a Mets context, Barry Bonds is so easy to root against. I sat deep in left field for the final game of the Mets-Giants division series in 2000, the Bobby Jones one-hitter. There was one guy (a rabid beer drinker on a very cold day) who could not stop taunting him. We were too far from the field for Barry to possibly hear us, but the guy wouldn’t shut up. I cringed out of fear of awaking the sleeping Giant but after a while it was infectious. We were all chanting horrible things about Bonds (the guy who started it was off buying beer during his last at-bat and caught loads of grief for it).
Yet to be honest, except for when he’s playing against us, I find it hard to root against Barry Bonds. On the field, he’s the best player I’ve ever seen. There’s nobody close. I love watching him hit. I love watching him take. When he could still move, I loved watching him play left field. In a human-being contest, I’d prefer Henry Aaron maintain the home-run record forever, but I was looking forward to Bonds chasing and passing him because I like watching history get made and I like great players getting the attention they deserve.
Count me among the enablers who turned a blind eye to substance-enhanced performance when it was blossoming in the late ’90s. I just figured players worked out a lot more than they used to. I wouldn’t consider myself a home-run whore, especially coming from a pitching-and-defense tradition (and intensely abhorring the front-runners who showed up at Shea in Cardinal or Cub jerseys). I never felt any particular affection for McGwire or Sosa. But I admired their accomplishments. My friend Chuck would tell you that I never notice anything physical about anybody but watching McGwire give a press conference in 1998, I heard myself say “will ya look at the guns on that guy?” He must really lift, I guessed. Bonds and Sheffield talked about their off-season workout regimen. Gosh, I figured, it must be working.
It’s difficult to pretend that whatever we’ve seen over the past decade didn’t occur. I know I watched guys hit 73 and 70 and 66 home runs in a season. I sat at a Mets game late in the ’98 campaign when the DiamondVision announced McGwire had just hit his 64th of the season. My god, I thought, 64 home runs and we’re alive to see it. He must take lots of swings in the cage below the stands or something.
If and when Bonds comes back, the baseball tastemakers in the media will tut-tut him until he hits his first home run. Seeing as how the Giants always manage to have him in San Francisco when he reaches a milestone, he’ll hit No. 715 at Phone Company Park and he’ll be cheered and it will be treated as an achievement. By the time he gets to 756, depending on whatever other revelations come to the fore, the line will be “sure, he did this or that and he’s like this or that but boy, you’ve got to admire the accomplishment”. And since it will also probably take place in San Francisco, the visuals will be Bonds-friendly, he’ll be tearful and say wonderful things about his family and for a few minutes most people will forget about the steroids, et al.
Once he retires, he’ll be remembered less than fondly and less all the time. Baseball is really good about its oral history. The 1919 Reds are still listed as world champions but everybody save for the smallest child knows the story. If Bonds hits 756+ home runs, he hit them. He swung, he connected, he trotted around the bases. Those who choose to pretend he didn’t, that’s their business. I know what I saw.