Saturday, September 22, 2007

Closing Out the Bonds Era

There’s no question that it’s the right move, and from a baseball standpoint it probably comes two years too late. Setting aside – if that is even possible at this point in time – all of the issues surrounding steroids and cheating, it’s clear that the Bonds era coincided with one of the most successful periods in Giants history. But even then, Giants fans will have to ask themselves – was it all worth it?

And how much of the Giants’ success during this period was due to Barry is another question worth pondering. If anything else, their overall record since 1993 points to the fact that one player alone can’t take a team to the mountaintop:

1993 – A great year, with Bonds winning an MVP award and Dusty Baker (my fellow alumnus of Del Campo High School, Fair Oaks, CA) winning Manager of the Year. Winners of 103 games, but nothing to show for it. Probably the best team ever not to make the postseason.

1994-96 – Good years for Barry Bonds, terrible years for the Giants.

1997 – A surprise division championship, but sent out of the playoffs quickly by the Florida Marlins.

1998 – Not a bad season – 89 wins, and a one-game playoff loss to Chicago – but not a great one either. By this time, Bonds was no doubt watching what McGwire and Sosa were doing, and deciding that he’d like a bit of that action.

1999 – Again, not a bad year, but not a great one – 86 wins.

2000 – A wonderful year, as the Giants christened Pac Bell Park and made the playoffs, where again they were dismissed quickly, this time by the New York Mets. Jeff Kent wins the MVP, probably fueling Bonds’ desire for the limelight.

2001 – The monster season for Bonds; Giants win 90 games and just miss the playoffs.

2002 – The year of greatness and tragedy for Giants fans: Another monster year from Bonds; a National League pennant, and one of the all-time choke jobs in Game 6 of the Series against the Angels - one that rivals the Red Sox meltdown to New York in 1986.

2003 – Another great year for Bonds and the Giants (100 wins), but another early playoff dismissal by the Florida Marlins.

Since then, the Giants have just played out the string with Bonds at the helm, essentially building the entire team around him and watching themselves sink slowly into the nether regions of the NL West standings. In return, we got to see Barry break the record. Was it worth it? Probably not – you can’t just throw three seasons away to allow someone – anyone – to break a record like that.

But overall, I can’t complain – I’m not going to lose any sleep for rooting for what has always been my favorite team during its most fruitful period (1997-2003) just because that team’s best player turned out to be one of the classic villains in the history of the sport. But at the same time, he was also one of the greatest players ever in that sport – and no matter what happens to his image as the years go by, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

But in the end, this era needs to be over. It’s time for the San Francisco Giants to move on.

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