Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Damn Shame

Word out of San Francisco today is that AT&T Park, the "house that Barry built" as I like to call it, will no longer feature the likeness or record numbers that the greatest player in franchise history achieved while he was a member of the organization.

While I can understand the removal of Bonds' image on the left field wall that signified his pursuit of the all-time home run record, I am quite upset that the team will not be displaying the number 762 inside the ballpark.

762 of course being the number of home runs that Bonds has hit to this point in his career; a career that appears to be over as no team has expressed real interest in the 43-year-old slugger.

Think what you want about Barry, but the fact remains that he is the all-time home run leader and for the one place in the country where he is beloved to basically disavow any connection to him is unfortunate.

In fact, not only do I think they should feature his record number prominently inside the park, but should he sign with another team at some point they should be updating it as he adds to the record total.

It's the least they could do after their shotty handling of his departure from the team, which included a preemptive announcement from owner Peter Magowan that Bonds would not be asked back in 2008.

"We're very respectful, at least I am, appreciative of all the contributions he made to the Giants over all that long period of time, but the time came when we needed to go in a new direction," Magowan told reporters.

A new direction I understand, because on the field the team has more than its fair share of holes to fill. But it's a disgrace in my opinion to not pay tribute to the man that single-handedly changed the fortunes of a franchise that was not all that far away from relocating to Florida prior to his arrival.

How quickly people forget that it was Bonds who energized a half-dead fan base and led the Giants to 103 wins in 1993.

It was Bonds who carried the team to the World Series in 2002.

And it was Bonds whose performance from the time he signed spurred the Giants to the third-most wins in all of baseball from 1993 through 2004.

How quickly they forget.

There is a way however that Magowan and the Giants can rectify this situation and make it clear that they're not simply bowing to Major League Baseball or letting legal concerns take away from just how much Bonds meant to the team and the city of San Francisco.

And that way is to erect a statue of Bonds alongside the one of his godfather Willie Mays, so that every time a person walks into that glorious ballpark they know exactly who it was that put it there.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Just when you think you've seen it all from Tiger Woods, he does something that defies whatever explanation of his exploits that you may have had before.

Such was the case Sunday afternoon when the world's number one player captured his fifth straight PGA Tour win, and seventh in a row overall, by sinking a 25-foot, downhill left-to-right slider on the 18th hole of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

As the tournament host watched from greenside, Woods erupted into a never-before-seen from him celebration, complete with a slam of his hat, a la Fred Funk (shouldn't he owe the Funk-ster a royalty check for that?), and bicep-flexing crowd-pump (I just made that up).

Meanwhile his closest competitor, 45-year-old Bart Bryant, could only chuckle in awe as he watched his hopes of qualifying for the Masters swallowed up by the all-encompassing force that is Tiger Woods.

You have to feel for Bryant who became the first player not named Phil Mickelson in quite some time stand up to Woods shot-for-shot on a Sunday.

Throughout Sunday's final round as players like Vijay Singh and Sean O'Hair made crucial mistakes, it was Bryant who played nearly mistake-free golf in very Tiger-like manner, forcing Woods to make birdie on a hole that had surrendered only four up to that point in the round.

Early on in the tournament Tiger by his own admission was struggling to find his swing and it seemed he would finally be a bit of a non-factor in a tournament. Don't forget that it was at this same tournament last year that he limped down the stretch with a backside 43 on Sunday while Singh took home the trophy.

But instead of putting him in a hole on Saturday, the rest of the field allowed Woods to ride an up-and-down round of 66 into a tie for the lead heading into Sunday. That mistake would of course prove fatal to the field's chances.

Honestly though, should we be surprised? Should it come as some sort of shock that Woods once again proved why he is the most dominant athlete of our time (sorry MJ)?

Well no, of course not. But that doesn't mean that we can't gasp in awe of his overwhelming virtuosity and revel in the knowledge that as amazing as this latest moment was he will undoubtedly give us many more in the future.

I for one can't wait to see what's next.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Plea From A True Fan

As you have probably noticed, I am a die hard San Francisco Giants fan. They are the one franchise in all of sports (sorry Niners) that I feel truly connected to on an emotional level.

Anyone who knows me knows that the one and only time I cried over a sporting event was game six of the 2002 World Series. Five run lead with eight outs to go. Russ Ortiz on cruise control. Thanks Dusty.

Honestly just thinking about it makes me well up from time to time.

Anyway, I'm getting off track.

Fast forward to 2008 and my how far my Giants have fallen. Gone are the days when opposing teams would have to account for the force of nature that was Barry Bonds. He always made them a legit threat, no matter how bad they seemed to be.

Unfortunately the comfort zone that having Barry around created, led to a philosophy of building with older players to win now, instead of keeping an eye on the future and acquiring young talent to step in when the time came.

Sure they've developed an impressive array of pitching prospects lately, but as Matt Cain's 7-16 record with a 3.65 ERA in 2007 showed, you have to be able to score runs.

To hammer home just how bad they are this year, in a recent fantasy baseball article they posed the question, "Does the 'offense' make every Giant unownable?"

While I still think Cain and uber-sensation Tim Lincecum have value, the question is a legitimate one.

Luckily for the Giants they have the perfect opportunity in front of them to get their young guys regular playing time. "Prospects" like Kevin Frandsen, Dan Ortmeier, Fred Lewis and Nate Shierholtz have been held back long enough by the win-now attitude.

Except for the most dilusional of fans, no one expects them to be any good, what better time could their be to find out what they have in terms of young position players?

But instead of that they insist on hanging onto aging vets like Ray Durham, Rich Aurilia and Dave Roberts, all three of whom I like and respect as ball players, but this is not their time and should not be their team.

Consider that as prospects go, none of the guys the Giants have are all that young. Frandsen, who projects as a part-time third and second baseman by manager Bruce Bochy, is 25 years old.

Lewis, who has flashed his impressive set of tools on a number of occasions only to get sent back to the minors, is 27 and out of options. He'll be backing up Roberts in left and Randy Winn in right.

Shierholtz is 24 and because he still has options figures to be the odd man out and be sent back to Triple-A despite being arguably the most talented of the bunch.

Add in speedsters Eugenio Velez (25) and Rajai Davis (27) and you have a group of guys with skills but no place to play with the team set up as it is right now.

Non-roster invitee Brian Bocock (23) looks like he might get some early season playing time, but will be replaced by 40-something Omar Vizquel as soon as the veteran shortstop gets healthy.

Only Ortmeier (26) is assured of regular playing time as the team's starting first baseman heading into the season.

Look around the big leagues right now and you see an overflow of young talent getting the opportunity to play, and that's no fluke.

More and more organizations are realizing that the young guys can contribute to a winner and if nothing else can be served better in many cases by getting their feet wet at the highest level.

What could it possibly hurt for the Giants to go young all over the field and find out once and for all if this group of guys can play in the big leagues and be solid regulars?

If I were running things my opening day lineup would look like this:

C - Bengie Molina
1B - Dan Ortmeier
2B - Kevin Frandsen
SS - Omar Vizquel (if healthy)
3B - Eugenio Velez
LF - Fred Lewis
CF - Aaron Rowand
RF - Randy Winn

Sure, that lineup squeezes out guys like Durham, Aurilia and Roberts, but in order to move forward and build for a future without Barry, I feel it's necessary to start now.

That lineup would at least showcase some speed and playmaking ability with Velez and Lewis both above-average runners and base stealers. Something Bochy and the Giants front office have been promising since it was decided Barry would not be back.

Everyone in baseball knows the Giants are going to be one of the least exciting teams in baseball in 2008. The least they could do is give their fans a reason to be hopeful and play the young guys.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Return To Glory?

My childhood, like many who grew up around the country, was tied to a ballpark whose identity had as much to do with its name as it did with the team(s) who played there.

Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium, Fenway, The Metrodome and the list goes on and on. But for me that park was know simply as Candlestick.

It's where the 49ers of the 1980's and early 90's dominated on their way to five Super Bowl wins in five tries and where my love for the San Francisco Giants was born. And while the Giants have since moved out and the Niners continue to try and do the same, the place has seen more than it's share of wonderful moments.

From Joe Montana and Dwight Clark starring in 'The Catch' to the first of Barry Bonds' five MVP seasons as a Giant in 1993, Candlestick was home to some of the greatest athletes and teams of all-time.

While it will never be the most visually stunning park, it's semi-impossible to get to bay-side location and subsequent havoc-inducing swirling winds adds to its charm and uniqueness. Hell, the thing survived the last big earthquake to hit the Bay Area in 1989. That has to count for something right?

Over the last several years naming rights for "The Stick" have been sold to various companies, most notably which has held the rights for the last four years.

With's contact running out the powers that be have finally decided to do what has always been best for the venerable old yard and will go back to calling it Candlestick once again. Not only that, but they've stated publicly that they will not pursue naming rights in the foreseeable future.

This news obviously came as music to my ears and I must admit tugged on the old heart strings more than a little bit.

Any sports fan over the age of 25 will tell you that all of the corporate-named stadiums, while ubiquitous, simply don't have the same kind of character and sentimental value as those listed above.

How much cooler does it sound to say, "lets go catch a ball game at Fenway," as opposed to, "lets go see a game at The Comcast Center"?

I'd say Fenway wins in Mike Tyson-esque, first-round knockout fashion.

So thank you to whoever made the decision to return to the rightful name of the ballpark of my youth. Now lets hope the 49ers themselves can turn back the clock and become a winner once again.