Life Without Bonds
by Glenn Dickey
Mar 18, 2005

SOONER THAN they expected, the Giants are going to learn about life without Barry Bonds, whose latest knee surgery will sideline him for an undetermined period at the start of the season.

More than any other player in baseball, Bonds has been the centerpiece for his team. The Giants have put together a team to complement him, and he’s also the primary reason they have been able to consistently sell out PacBell Park.

The plan had been to make their big push for the World Series this year and next, while Bonds is pursuing Henry Aaron’s career home run record. Now, though, that plan seems shaky because Bonds’ continuing knee problems at 40 cast a shadow of doubt over his career.

Even if Bonds can only play about 125-130 games, the Giants can still win their division, because the NL West is probably the weakest division in baseball. But going deep into the postseason this year or next season with a subpar Bonds is very problematical.

Of course, we know the Giants have a number of hot outfield prospects waiting in the wings. Suuuure.


--At the beginning of the Congressional hearings on steroids, Congressman (and former pitcher) Jim Bunning said that in his day, stars like Aaron and Willie Mays didn’t get better as they got older. That was certainly true of Mays, who tailed off badly in his last few years – but it wasn’t true of Aaron.

In his first 12 seasons, Aaron averaged about 33 homers. In his next eight, starting when he was 32, he averaged almost 40 home runs a season and had four seasons in which he hit at least that many. At 37, he set a career high with 47 homers; at 39, he hit another 40. Steroids? Of course not. The Braves had moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta, to a park known as “The Launching Pad” because it was easy to hit home runs.

That only points up the fact that there are other elements besides steroids in the power surge of recent years, including hitter-friendly new parks and a livelier ball.

--I’m not a fan of Mark McGwire – I’ve written earlier that he’s gotten a pass from the media on the steroids issue – but the criticism of him for not answering questions is misguided.

The U. S. Constitution includes an amendment (the 5th) giving a person the right not to give testimony that would incriminate him. The chairman of the House committee, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., interceded during questioning by Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., to point out that House Rule 11 also protects witnesses from “disclosure of defamatory, degrading or incriminating testimony in open session.” That didn’t stop McHenry from pressing on with his questioning. It was just too good an opportunity to grandstand.

--My sentiments exactly: My friend Rich (Big Vinny) Lieberman writes, “Watching the entire hearings reminded me of the line “Politics is show business for ugly people.”

--Raiders coach Norv Turner was among those watching the Aaron Rodgers workout Thursday, though the Raiders will not be in position to draft Rodgers. "When you’re this close, you want to watch the player work out,” said Turner. “You see these guys on video, but it’s different watching them up close.”

Coaches and scouts also know that even high draft picks, and especially quarterbacks, don’t always make it with the team that has drafted them. If a player is released later, it’s good to have personal information about the player.

--New 49ers coach Mike Nolan scoffs at coaches who brag about their long hours. “I’ve noticed that coaches who tell a reporter they don’t have much time to talk are still talking 30 minutes later,” he said.

Nolan works hard, but he has no plans to spend his nights sleeping in his office. He’s listened to his dad, Dick, a former 49er head coach. “My dad told me that if I have to work so many more hours to do the same job he did, that’s my problem,” he said.

My personal opinion: NFL coaches spend so much time preparing for the games that they’re often brain-dead by game time. In almost every game, there are times when you ask, “Why did the coach make that decision?” The answer usually is because he wasn’t thinking clearly. Anybody who stayed up all night studying for a test in college will understand that.

--Brrrr! After he retired from the Chicago Bears, Mike Singletary decided to see what it was like to be a fan. “One game was enough,” said Singletary, now the assistant head coach for the 49ers. “I was never so cold in my life. When you’re playing, the adrenaline keeps you going, but when you’re just sitting there and that wind is coming off the lake…I don’t know how fans do it.”

--My vote for the most dedicated fans in the Bay Area would go to the Warriors fans, who keep coming out to games – and at high ticket prices – through more than a decade of frustration. Now, the Warriors are finally showing some signs of a brighter future. I plan to write about that in the near future. In the meantime, I recommend clicking on for recaps of Warriors games.

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