Who Will Replace Bonds?
Bonds has been of great value to the Giants for two reasons: His hitting has been the centerpiece of the lineup and he has drawn fans. The fact that he started his great power run in 2000, when the Giants opened their new park, was extremely fortuitous for the club.
Last season, when he missed all but the last few games, was a downer, but the Giants still had hopes for this season. Though the hopes have been largely unrealized to this point, most of the tickets have been sold for the season. Next year, when they host the All-Star game, that will be the ticket-selling stimulus they need, because virtually the only chance Giants fans will have to see the game will be if they have season tickets. Major league baseball will take the remaining tickets.
But after 2007, the Giants will need somebody both to power the team and draw fans.
Right up front, I’ll say that we’re dreaming because that kind of player seldom comes on the market. But I’d start with Albert Pujols. He’s the real thing. At the start of his career, Tony La Russa, who had managed both Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, said Pujols was the best hitter he’d managed. He’s only gotten better. Though he missed 18 games in the first half because of injury, he’s likely to exceed 50 home runs this year. Barring further injury, he’ll certainly lead the league, and possibly the majors, in both homers and RBIs.
Giants fans are still upset, with reason, that the team didn’t pursue Vladimir Guerrero when he was a free agent three years ago. Guerrero is both a good hitter for average and power; his total of seven seasons with a .300 average and at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs trails only Bonds (9) and Manny Ramirez (8). He is also a good fielder with a strong arm. But now that he’s 30, he probably would be a risk to sign for a high salary because, with his tender back, he always seems one swing away from the DL.
Pujols and Guerreo are really the only possibilities as a Bonds replacement. David Ortiz is a tremendous power hitter and a great clutch hitter, but the Giants would have to play him at first base and learn first-hand why the Red Sox DH him. Ramirez plays left field, which is not a demanding position at Fenway, but he’s not a good fielder and seems to be perpetually unhappy with the team he’s playing for. Alex Rodriguez is the highest-paid at $25 million a year and he’s certainly on the path to the Hall of Fame, but he’s slipped a little, both at bat and in the field. His reputation also took a beating because of the way he shopped himself to get to the Yankees. He’s a big name in New York, where he was born, but I doubt that he would be here.
And, even dreaming, I’d never pay that kind of money to a pitcher because they break down so frequently.
49ERS STADIUM: That was quite a story about the plans for a new 49ers stadium, but writers and commentators on TV alike glossed over the most significant part: Construction won’t start for four years.
That tells me that (1) The “plans” are still largely dreams because the 49ers don’t know yet how they can pay for it; and (2) When and if the stadium is built, it probably won’t be on Candlestick Point. This time window gives the 49ers a chance to look for a better site in Santa Clara County, close to the biggest part of their fan base.
In my Examiner column last month, I suggested a better spot: The land San Francisco owns on the other side of 101 from the airport. There’s room for retail there, 180 acres, plus the stadium. Access would be great from three freeways, 101, 280 and 380. A BART line runs there, as does Cal Train. Compare that to the current stadium with its terrible access from 101 and only limited bus service. Of course, John York has done wonders to ease the access problems, much as Joe Thomas did in the ‘70s.
The airport site would be closer than Candlestick for South Bay fans and no further by time for those north of the park because of the much easier access. A Santa Clara site would be a problem for the considerable Niner fan base in the East Bay, stretching up to Sacramento.
Of course, none of this matters. York’s wife holds the purse strings and she’s never going to loosen them to pay for a new stadium.
THE CHEATER: The anti-Bonds faction always likes to say that “a cheater” shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. Guess that means we’ll have to take out Gaylord Perry’s plaque. Perry was about to pitch himself out of the major leagues when he learned the spitter, a pitch that had been banned in baseball since 1920, from Bob Shaw. Perry even bragged about his use of the pitch in a book.
Perry’s illegal pitch gave him a clear advantage over hitters, who had nothing to counter it. By contrast, Bonds has hit against at least some pitchers who have had chemical help. And, BTW, steroids were not banned in baseball when Bonds started his run.
Bonds has never been popular with his peers, but they respect what he’s done. Some of them are starting to speak out. Pujols made a point of it when the Cardinals played in San Francisco, and A’s manager Ken Macha did, too, during the inter-league series between the A’s and Giants.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: When the Giants brought up first baseman Chad Santos from Fresno, GM Brian Sabean said, “This was a case of a player playing himself into the major leagues.” Santos was hitting .263 at Fresno. Yep, that’s a Giants propect, for sure.
POOR T.O. Did you catch Terrell Owens’ explanation for his behavior in a television interview? He was “picked on” as a kid. Well, who wasn’t? The rest of us got over it.
TV TIME: I’ll be a guest on “The Last Honest Sports Show” on Channel 44 on Saturday. Check your local listings for times.
CRUISE WITH ME: I am organizing a sports-oriented cruise of the Panama Canal, Feb. 16 to March 3, starting in San Diego and ending in Fort Lauderdale, aboard Holland America’s Volendam. While we’re at sea, we will have sports seminars and discussions about your favorite teams. For further information and prices, please contact my travel agent, Janice Hough, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS!: Tickets will be available on this link for these hot concerts:
--Barbra Streisand, Oct. 4-November 20.
--Mariah Carey, August 5-November 10
--Aerosmith & Motley Crue, September 9-Octover 25.
--Red Hot Chili Peppers, August 18-December 17.
--Pearl Jam, July 29-November 5.
You can also get tickets to NFL and NCAA football games, as well as any sports or cultural event, in the Bay Area or nationally.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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