Bonds, Tedford and Raiders
The deal shouldn’t have come as a surprise. As I noted in my Examiner column last Tuesday, it made sense for both sides. In a note in my website column a week ago, I wrote that the Giants wanted to make it happen.
But the incessant ranting from others in the media never seemed to let up. There were the stories that the Giants were trying to back out of the contact, which was never true. And, of course, there were several local columnists who kept writing that the Giants should let Bonds go. Why? Because they don’t like him.
I have never seen the level of hatred for an athlete that exists with Bonds in the local media. What bothers me is that writers, especially, let this hatred color their work. A writer should be able to separate his personal feelings with his professional work, but the Bonds-haters seem totally unable to do that. They’re simply unable to realize how much he’s meant to the Giants, both by his on-field production and his box office appeal.
I’m not close to Bonds in any way. The last time I had a one-on-one interview with him was when the Giants were still at Candlestick. Bonds was more accessible in those days, but it was always on his terms. But superstars are often that way. By any measure, Joe Montana is a nicer person than Bonds, but anybody who covered the 49ers in Montana’s heyday can tell you he was never very cooperative with the media.
But I don’t base my writing on how an athlete or coach/manager deals with me personally or the media in general. I let performance be the criterion. Because I’ve tried to approach the steroid issue rationally and not get caught up in the hysteria that has surrounded Bonds, in particular, I’ve been able to enjoy his performance in the two distinct stages of his Giants career: In the ‘90s when he was a great all-round athlete, voted the ‘90s best by The Sporting News, and the huge power years which have followed in this decade.
I feel sorry for those in the media (and for fans who have stayed away) that they couldn’t appreciate a player who has been surpassed only by his godfather, Willie Mays, in San Francisco Giants history.
Bonds’ hitting will probably be one of the few high spots for the Giants this season. I don’t expect much from this team. The Giants will be doing well to finish third in what has been baseball’s weakest division in recent years.
But without Bonds, there would have been absolutely no reason to watch, except for what I imagine will be some great efforts by Matt Cain. Barry Zito will certainly be exciting, but in a much different way. Giants fans will learn what A’s fans have: With Zito, you never know whether you’re going to get a strong performance or one of those he explains away with, “I tried to be too fine out there today.”
For a time, it seemed the Giants would try to get along without Bonds, as they pursued power hitters like Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee. But, the market got away from them. They didn’t realize how crazy it would be, and they were beat out consistently. If they’d correctly gauged the market early, they could have had Soriano for what Zito cost them – and Soriano would have made much more difference to them.
When they turned to the idea of a trade, they had no trading chips because they wouldn’t give up one of their top pitching prospects (which they shouldn’t have) and they had no position player prospects in their farm system. I imagine the Red Sox must have had trouble controlling their laughter when they found out what the Giants could offer in trying to get Manny Ramirez.
So, the Giants had to go to Bonds. Otherwise, there was the awful specter of having to put somebody like Ryan Klesko or RichAurilia in the cleanup spot.
As for me, I’m glad he’s back. And if he surpasses Henry Aaron’s career home run mark, I hope to be at the game to see it.
TEDFORD LEAVING? When an injunction was issued Monday to stop the start of construction on a new athletics training center at Memorial Stadium, some Cal supporters panicked, thinking that would mean that Jeff Tedford would leave.
Tedford issued a strongly-worded statement, re-affirming his commitment to the Cal program, a significant statement because Tedford is an honest man and doesn’t dissemble, as many coaches do.
Meanwhile, a reader, Phil Litchenstein, has proposed a possible solution: Build the training center next to the track stadium, perhaps even alterating the stadium so it could be used as a practice facility.
Sounds good to me, but the university has concluded that the Memorial Stadium site is the best available, because the center is projected to be used for 13 of the 27 Cal varsity sports, not just football.
RAIDERS MANIA: Given the Raiders sorry record of the last four seasons and the hopeless outlook for the near future, a reader asked me if I thought the media attention given the Raiders was deserved.
My answer was yes, based on my recent experience. On the Examiner website, they measure hits on articles and update it hourly. For 30 hours, Friday noon to Saturday at 6 p.m., my column on the new Raiders coach was No. 1.
How can this be explained? By realizing that there are two types of fans: (1) Those who go to games and also follow the team through newspaper, internet, radio and TV; and (2) Those who follow the team in those various ways but don’t go to games., which is by far the larger group. When the team goes bad, fewer of those in the first group go to the games, but whether they’re in group one or two, they continue to follow their team.
I was first made aware of this about 30 years ago, when I was talking to Matt Levine after he had done a marketing approach for the Giants. In the ‘70s, the Giants attendance was generally dismal because their teams were, but Levine talked to a huge number of people who considered themselves Giants fans even though they didn’t go to games. When the team led their division for the first half of the 1978 season, before dropping back to third, attendance jumped a million, from 700,000 to 1.7 million.
So, all the Raiders have to do to get more fans to their games is to start winning again. With Al Davis in charge? Good luck with that.
FOOTBALL TALK: One of the keys to the Raiders’ season in the fall will be how new coach and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and Greg Knapp work together.
Kiffin has said that he will call the plays and basically draw up the game plan, which shows how little he knows about the pro game. Mike Shanahan and Mike Holmgren are probably the only NFL coaches who still act as their own offensive coordinators, and they have years of experience – and success. Kiffin has had minimal exposure to the pro game, and the sooner he learns to step back and let Knapp handle the offense, the better it will be for him and his team.
Meanwhile, as Mike Singletary interviews for a head coaching job in Dallas that he won’t get, the wonder is that he has been promoted to defensive coordinator by the 49ers. Apparently, head coach Mike Nolan is determined to bring in a veteran coordinator who has worked with the 3-4 defense.
LETTERS: I’ll update this section within the next 24 hours and probably again on the weekend.
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