11/12/2002 8:51 pm ET
MLB.com's Q&A with Barry Bonds
Slugger discusses media, Mays and that elusive ring
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
SAPPORO, Japan -- Barry Bonds, his fifth National League Most Valuable Player trophy behind him, now has two competing goals: winning the World Series and coping with the emotions of passing his godfather, Willie Mays, on the all-time home run list.
At nearly 39, to win the World Series is his last burning desire, he said during a long one-on-one interview in the dugout Monday night in Japan's Fukuoka Dome. But to do so, he will likely have to surpass the Mays mark of 660 homers and move to third on the all-time list behind Babe Ruth (714) and Hank Aaron (755). Bonds, with 613 homers, is only 47 away. Passing Mays gives Bonds a sinking feeling in his stomach, he said. That's how much respect Bonds has for the Hall of Famer, who played with his father, Bobby, on the Giants of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In Japan, "Bondosan," a fan favorite, has continued to enhance his prowess with four homers in the first four games. He has now hit eight during Major League Baseball's last two tours of Japan. And he was in Fukuoka on Tuesday morning when he learned that he had extended his record string of NL MVP awards.
"I'm here for the last time. This is my last trip in Japan for a series and all," Bonds said. "I love this country. It's a great place to play baseball. If it's a last tour for me, this is a place I want to come to. So I'm happy that I had the honor of winning an MVP and enjoying it in a country I love to come to."
Bonds, though, said he still has one overriding passion.
"I've got to figure out how to get back to that World Series. It was a lot of fun. It was the best experience of my life," Bonds said.
MLB.com: Do you think the Giants will have the team to make it back to the World Series, particularly if Jeff Kent leaves as a free agent and they don't sign anyone else?
Bonds: They have to sign somebody else. If they don't, they know how mad I'll be. They already know that. You can't tell anybody to sign someone -- like Kent -- but they have to go out and get somebody comparable or better.
MLB.com: What if Peter Magowan, the managing general partner, doesn't want to spend the money?
Bonds: He will. The Giants won't do that. The Giants want to remain competitive. Peter Magowan likes to win. He's not that type of owner. He's not going to try to save a dollar in San Francisco, because the Giants are a very important team. He's just not that kind of person. He's a good dude. He wants to win just like I do.
MLB.com: But Magowan says he's not going to put the franchise into a situation where it's going to lose money. Even with the team in the World Series this year, he said it barely broke even.
Bonds: He wants to put the Giants franchise in the same situation as the Atlanta Braves. Chipper Jones is their main guy, and then everybody else is pretty much in the same price range. Their players make good money, but the idea is to keep the team together and competitive. Instead of giving two or three guys big-time dollars, you disperse the money to everybody. That's the way it should be. That's why the Braves have been so successful for so long. The Yankees don't care about the luxury tax. That's the difference. If Peter didn't care about the luxury tax then he could do the same thing, too.
MLB.com: But the Giants were 10th in Major League Baseball with a player compensation payroll of about $78 million. If they add payroll, he says they will lose money.
Bonds: My thing is, you aren't in business if you're losing money. You're out of business. It's a tax deduction anyway. He writes 40 percent of our salary off. I went to school. I know how that game is played. There are a lot of tax deductions in baseball. It's not like you're losing money independently. It's the company's money. It's not your personal dollars. If you lose a lot of personal dollars, you're out. ... It's all going to balance itself out. Plus, if you're a tough businessman, you know how to offset your losses.
MLB.com: So how disappointed was it to come that close to winning the World Series and have it all fall apart in the end?
Bonds: That was the fastest 24 hours of my life -- from the eighth inning of that sixth game to that seventh game. I don't even know what happened. People make so many screwed up assumptions. We were up 5-0 and everybody on the bench is going, "Pretend like you're losing, don't let up." We knew what they were capable of doing. We gave up the three-run homer to Scott Spiezio. We finally got out of that situation and we were up by two. We're going, "They can come back, keep pushing, keep pushing." Then when Tim Worrell gave up that homer to open the eighth inning, that's when everything got silent. You could just feel the vibe. Oh, no, here they come again.
MLB.com: You say the World Series was the best experience of your life, yet you have been far more comfortable dealing with everybody, including the media, in Japan.
Bonds: Why am I nicer over here? It's because you deal with a lot nicer people. You hardly see in their newspapers any negative pieces. There's enough bad stuff going on in the world and they're trying to rebuild their economy, make it strong. Why pull baseball down? It's a happy thing. It's an event. And they treat it as event. This trip is our relaxation time from all our hard work. They appreciate that and they appreciate the entertainment. In our country, everybody is just spoiled. Over there, it's all about who's going to get the biggest story. Mostly, it's about me. That's why it's so hard to be upset when everybody around you over here is so nice all the time. They treat their athletes a little bit different than the Americans treat us. They have more respect.
MLB.com: To play at the level you do, don't you have to stay focused and lock all of the negative stuff out?
Bonds: You have to. But you get so accustomed to it that it really doesn't affect you. The only bad part about it is this: A guy writes something negative about you and then the next minute, the dude comes up to you and says, "Hi, how are you doing?" What do you mean, how am I doing? One minute you're going to insult me and the next minute you come over and say, "Hi, how're you doing?" How can you downgrade me when you don't even know me? You can't come close to what I do. So first you're going to insult me and the next minute you come over asking me for an interview. But it doesn't work that way. It's the same thing you tell your kids. If that bully is always bothering you, ignore it. Do what you have to do and just walk away. If you have to fight, you fight. The important thing is to start building some relationships. But if you write a bad article about me, how can that be possible? You can't even have a friendly conversation like this without it turning into something negative.
MLB.com: How proud are you of what you accomplished the last couple of years?
Bonds: From my point of view or from Willie Mays or my dad's point of view? I have unfinished business and the World Series is only part of it. Willie and my dad are the biggest motivating factors of my career. I know that they're proud of me. But it seems as though there's never enough. A lot of this I do for myself, but a lot of it is for their approval of me as a ballplayer. That's why I do what I do on the field and play as hard and as long as I've played. You tell me, how many people 38 years old are still playing every day? I'm proud of that. I'm proud of this All-Star team and being able to still play with all of these young guys. When you think about it, I've got no business being in the game today doing what I'm doing now at my age. None. I should be retired out there doing other stuff.
MLB.com: But you won't retire? Not soon anyway.
Bonds: There are still a lot of things I need to do. That World Series ring is still out there. To my dad and Willie, winning the World Series is the most important thing left for me to do.
MLB.com: Isn't that a lot of personal pressure?
Bonds: True, but I'm up for that challenge. And I like it. I'm up for trying to do something I've never done. I know I can't win a World Series all by myself. I know we've got to do it as a team. But I've never won a championship. I won one in Babe Ruth League. That's it. I'd like to win one World Series. That's a huge motivating factor to me to keep playing. I don't know how long I'm going to play at this level. But even if I drop 30 percent, I'm still going to be one of the best players in baseball.
MLB.com: What changed from 2001 to 2002? One year, you hit with power and the next, your homer numbers dropped -- from 73 to 46 -- but you hit for such a high average.
Bonds: Like I said, my dad and Willie have so many things that they've done in this game. Willie has a batting title. He'll let me hear about it. They bust my chops about all the things I've never done. That's an everyday thing. It's a competitive thing in my world all day. I have the perfect attitude for it. I'm not the sensitive type. So they can do that with me. I'm going to do everything I can to shut them up. I don't care how hard I've got to work. I don't care how many laps I have to run or how many weights I've got to lift. It doesn't work. I want to quiet that dog. I have my batting title now and I quiet Willie on another subject. I don't have 660 home runs, but I'm going to quiet him on that one, too.
MLB.com: That could happen next season.
Bonds: The hardest feat for me is to break Willie's home run record. I mean emotionally. Willie gives me so much encouragement to do it. So does Hank Aaron. They're all just rooting for me. And yet, at the same time they've been my icons my whole life. I never bring baseball home. But my wife is scared that I might walk away before it happens. I've told her, "If it gets too close, I think it's over. I don't want it."
MLB.com: Is this a matter of respect? You say Mays is goading you on, but emotionally you have a hard time putting into perspective that you will pass him.
Bonds: I think so. I love him so much. It's a hard subject to talk about. I was hitting them out this year and then when I got to 600 and 610 I started changing my approach at the plate. Like let's do something different. I was trying to hit balls into the ground. Willie is the greatest player to me. Aaron is the greatest home run hitter to me. Willie is all the things I wanted to become. That I have become. He'll be the first one out on the field when I do it, probably. But our history is too long. When you're a little kid, and I'm very fortunate to have a dad who played baseball, those guys took care of me. Then you just marvel over the dude as your hero. It's not that easy. I don't know what I'm going to do. We'll see what happens when the time comes.
Barry M. Bloom is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.