10/08/2002 03:30 am ET
New sensation for Bonds
Star knows first playoff series win was all about team
ATLANTA -- Barry Bonds chomped on sunflower seeds in left field while another tension-filled postseason ninth inning in Atlanta flashed before his eyes. He didn't necessarily look like a man with two tons of playoff woes on his shoulders.
Soon enough, though, the biggest slugger in baseball was floating on air.
Maybe it was the big weight of his postseason past lifted off those broad shoulders. Maybe it was just a superstar athlete being dazed and confused, having entered new territory in his 17th year in the Majors.
Whatever it was, when the Giants recorded the final out in Monday's Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Braves, it looked like Bonds was just floating toward the infield celebration, coasting along in a soft jog as though he were walking on clouds, not heading for a mosh pit.
This was a new sensation for Bonds, winning a postseason series, and perhaps the uncertainty of the strange double play that ended the series-clinching victory muddled the highlight of his postseason career for a moment.
"I didn't know what was going on," Bonds would say later. "I've never been here before."
Obviously, the relief, confusion or whatever it was that was going through his body wasn't reserved only for Bonds.
That sense coarsed through every single living, breathing member of the Giants -- take it from the man who built this club.
"We stormed the castle a couple of times before but we never slayed the dragon," said Giants GM Brian Sabean, whose clubs were stopped in the Division Series in '97 and 2000. "We finally slayed the dragon."
Naturally, getting a big day from their biggest dragonslayer didn't hurt. Bonds went 2-for-3 with a huge homer and two runs scored Monday to pace the Giants' offense, but he certainly didn't do it alone.
And that's the lesson learned here: He can't. He never could. He never would.
This was a victory for the Giants, not just their giant. This was a victory for San Francisco, not just its biggest living sports landmark.
Granted, it could be said this one was a longer time coming for Bonds than anybody else in that clubhouse. Bonds entered the series with a .196 average and one homer in 97 postseason at-bats. He batted .294 with three homers this time around.
In reality, he's no closer to the World Series than he has been before. He was one out away in 1992, remember. Now he's hundreds of outs away, as the Giants still have the St. Louis Cardinals in front of them in a best-of-seven series that starts Wednesday.
And Bonds, like the rest of that crew of Giants dancing in the visiting clubhouse at Turner Field into the wee hours of Tuesday morning, remains focused on the prize. That's what that look on his face was after the game.
"I'm not calm," he said. "I'm just determined to get a World Series ring."
You don't get one of those by yourself. Everybody on the best team of a given year gets a ring, and it takes everybody to get one.
The Giants still have that opportunity.
The main reason: This Giants team has way more than Barry Bonds. That's why it's going to the NLCS.
This was a series that showed once and for all that it's not all about Barry. It's about a team with Barry on it. He's without question the Hall of Fame centerpiece but he's not the whole deal.
Monday's decisive Game 5 was as good an example of the dynamic this Giants team has formed, especially over the final six weeks of the regular season and now the Division Series.
Yes, Bonds scored the first run -- but he got there when No. 7 hitter Reggie Sanders singled up the middle. Yes, Bonds scored the second run with his tremendous blast off Kevin Millwood -- but it was the sterling pitching of starter Russ Ortiz that made those two runs stand up into the sixth.
The Giants had first baseman J.T. Snow going all out, flying all over the place like he was his dad, former NFL All-Pro Jack Snow, diving for a pass in the end zone. They had a relief corps, with Felix Rodriguez and Tim Worrell setting up closer Robb Nen's save with gutty late-innings relief.
This victory was about a team, not one player. The Giants have been trying to tell us that all along.
"He came up big and at the right time," Ortiz said about his team's left fielder. "But I think everybody around us, the whole team, did it."
Bonds has said it all along, too.
"Unfortunately, so much emphasis has been put on me as an individual instead of us as a team," Bonds said.
Yeah, they've been saying it. Finally, they said it with feeling.
Finally, they said it by winning a postseason series.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.