Giants' success underscores Bonds missing out
I wonder what Barry Bonds is thinking.
With his former Giants team threatening to capture its second World Series championship in three years for the San Francisco Bay Area -- where Bonds was born and raised before starring with the Giants for 15 years -- I just wonder what he is thinking.
No question, somebody will stick a camera, a microphone, a notepad or a combination of all of the above in Bonds' vicinity over the next few days, and they'll ask something like: "So, Barry. You still live in the San Francisco Bay Area. You follow this team. With the Giants meeting the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, give us your thoughts."
To which Bonds will flash one of his easy smiles, and he'll respond with something like: "I'm happy for these players, for the franchise and for Giants fans everywhere. I'm pulling for them."
Yeah, but what is Bonds REALLY thinking? After all, this Giants bunch hasn't anybody close to rivaling Bonds' accomplishments over his 22 years in the Major Leagues that began with seven with the Pittsburgh Pirates and ended with the Giants after the 2007 season.
Let's ignore Bonds' issues with performance-enhancing drugs for a moment to reflect on this: Seven NL MVP awards. Fourteen trips to the All-Star Game. Eight Gold Gloves. Twelve Silver Slugger awards. There also are his 762 home runs, 73 homers in a season and 2,558 career walks -- all baseball records.
World Series rings? Zero. And, for the sake of comparison, Buster Posey is four victories away from his second World Series ring with the Giants after just three seasons in the Major Leagues.
So what is Bonds thinking? I mean, he did reach the World Series, but it only was once, and he played out of his mind. That was in 2002, when he batted .471 (8-for-17) against the Angels while also collecting four home runs, six RBIs and 13 walks -- seven intentional.
The Giants still lost. In fact, they blew it. In the seventh inning of Game 6, they were eight outs away from their first World Series championship since moving from New York to San Francisco in 1958. They had a five-run lead, but the Angels charged back to force a Game 7, and the Giants went meekly into the southern California night with a 4-1 loss.
During that 2002 regular season, Bonds won another NL MVP award, set a record at the time for the highest on-base percentage for a season and led baseball in batting average, walks, intentional walks, slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage.
It didn't matter, not for those Bonds-led Giants in the World Series. But at least they won the pennant.
That's opposed to 1993, when Bonds spent his first year with his hometown team using his Major League-high 46 homers and another NL MVP season to help the Giants slug their way to 103 victories in the old NL West. The Atlanta Braves pitched their way to 104, which kept the Giants out of the playoffs during those pre-Wild Card days.
Bonds did contribute much to the Giants reaching the NLDS in 1997 and 2000, but he vanished at the plate on both occasions. His team was eliminated by the Marlins and the Mets, respectively.
There also was the only trip to the postseason by the Bonds-led Giants after the 2002 World Series. It came during the NLDS in 2003, when Bonds hit .222 (2-for-9, no homers, two RBIs, eight walks) against the Marlins along the way to another quick exit for the Giants.
Four years later, Bonds played his last season for a new manager named Bruce Bochy. Those 2007 Giants finished 71-91 and landed in fifth place. Then, during their first year without Bonds since 1992, they improved slightly to 72-90 for fourth place.
Then they finished 88-74 in third place.
Then they won the 2010 World Series.
During this steady rise by the Giants toward becoming consistently relevant for the first time since their glory days of Mays, Marichal and McCovey in the 1960s, Bonds was gone. So was that special lounge chair at his locker, along with his big-screen television.
Mostly, what left the Giants' clubhouse with Bonds was the tension everywhere that resulted from his bouts with moodiness and his various PED controversies.
Bonds' departure also forced the Giants to become a team instead of a bunch of guys depending on one guy.
Andres Torres. Aubrey Huff. Cody Ross. Freddy Sanchez. Juan Uribe. Aaron Rowand. Edgar Renteria. They won't reach Cooperstown anytime soon, but they formed a large core of non-pitchers to lead the Giants to their World Series championship two years ago.
The Giants also have such a core for their current journey through deep October. But, except for NL MVP candidate Posey and third baseman Pablo Sandoval, that core is mostly different from 2010.
Hunter Pence. Marco Scutaro. Angel Pagan. Brandon Crawford. Gregor Blanco. Brandon Belt. When you have a team concept, the individuals are interchangeable -- just as long as they can play a little and mesh as a group. And it helps when you have a starting rotation with the solid likes of Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong.
Plus, Barry Zito is potent again after struggling during his first five seasons with the Giants, and former Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum is slowly rebounding from his rocky regular season.
You also have the "team" aspect of the Giants' bullpen. Since losing super closer Brian Wilson earlier this year, that bullpen has consisted of a bunch of non-assuming yet effective relievers, ranging from Jeremy Affeldt to Sergio Romo. They've spent the playoffs stifling hitters with a 2.63 ERA in 41 innings for a 2-0 record.
If that isn't enough to show the Giants are the epitome of "team" these days, they've survived the PED-related suspension of hot-hitting Melky Cabrera, and they've won six elimination games in a row, and they've watched their fans hug them tighter than ever before.
And I wonder what Barry Bonds is thinking.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.