I'm so sick of the coverage of Barry Bonds blanketing the baseball pages at all the major sports web sites (at least msnbc.com has the decency to divide the news into two distinct sections titled "Baseball" and "Barry Bonds"). Every article's the same. Gregg Doyel decided to write some sort of piece on the guy that fills in for him.
SAN FRANCISCO -- They came for Barry Bonds.
They dragged a kayak into the Bay, dumped it into the water and paddled a mile to McCovey Cove. They got in their car in Carson City, Nev., and drove 300 miles to AT&T Park. They fought rush-hour traffic in downtown San Francisco, paid $30 to park in a dirt lot, walked a quarter-mile and paid $25 or more for a ticket.
They came for Barry Bonds. They came for history.
They got Fred Lewis.
My problem with anyone with complaints about this situation is that anyone who follows Bonds closely enough to care that much about seeing him play already KNOWS that he's not an everyday player, and that they run the risk of not seeing him play when they go to a Giants game.
"I never thought of it that way," Fred Lewis tells me, "until you mentioned it."
See, this is an idea that never needed to be developed, Doyel.
That's me. I am buzzkill. Or rather, Fred Lewis is buzzkill.
Right the first time.
Nobody came to AT&T Park on Wednesday night to see Fred Lewis play left field for the Giants, but there he was in left against the Atlanta Braves.
Fine, screw you Fred Lewis, it's all your fault, you uninteresting bag of nothingness.
Of course it's not Fred Lewis' fault. He plays when and where he is told to play. Bruce Bochy is the manager, and he's the one who draws up the lineup card. He drew it up Wednesday with Lewis in left and Bonds on the bench.
Hey yeah, nevermind, screw you Bochy, it's all your fault....don't you understand what the fans want to see?
Of course it's not Bruce Bochy's fault, either. Bonds is the 43-year-old behemoth whose torso is too big for his legs. When Bonds was put together -- by God, by Victor Conte, by someone -- he wasn't built with 240 pounds of skull and muscle in mind. His legs cannot take the grind of playing every day, and certainly not playing every day at such an unnatural weight.
So he needs more days off than the average ballplayer. Last week he took three consecutive days off. This week with the Giants at home for seven games, he might play five of them. After playing all 13 innings of San Francisco's 7-5 loss Tuesday night, he rested Wednesday.
Hey yeah, nevermind, screw you Barry, for being so big, which is the whole reason you became this interesting in the first place.
I'm REALLY missing the point, if there is one, of all this.
This came as a downer to me, since I flew across the country Wednesday to start what could be a four-week vigil. Until Bonds hits home run No. 756 to pass Hank Aaron and become baseball's all-time leader, I will follow him. I will follow him from San Francisco to Los Angeles to San Diego, then back to San Francisco, then to Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Florida if it takes that long.
Wednesday was my first day in town, first day on the Bonds watch, and he's off. Terrific.
So this is just one giant (no pun intended) Gregg Doyel complaint. This is not a blog. This is a sports column.
Could be worse, though. Imagine being Fred Lewis, the guy nobody wants to see.
Could be worse. Imagine being a professional baseball player being paid six figures to play a baseball game, in front of a lot of people, with the painful drawback being: you aren't famous.
Imagine being the guy in the orange kayak in McCovey Cove. He's wearing a bright orange rain jacket with the words BONDS NAVY in big, bold letters. He paddled across the Pacific two hours before the first pitch to get the best spot in the cove, just in case Bonds hits No. 754, 755 and even 756. Those balls could be worth six or seven figures. A man could retire on that kind of money.
Again, he's there by choice.....
I walked out to right field, leaned over the railing and yelled to the guy, "Barry's not playing!" The guy looked like he wanted to flip me off. Maybe he did flip me off. I didn't wait to see because I'm not here for a conversation. I'm a journalist, a deliverer of news, and I'm heading to center field and down the steps to the ballpark's marina entrance. At least 200 people are standing in line, maybe 50 of them wearing Bonds' No. 25. I walk through the crowd whispering the news.
Barry's not playing. Barry's not playing.
Much like a 13-year old girl whispering to all her friends who she has a crush on.
I love the triumphant-sounding proclamation: "I'm a journalist, a deliverer of news". I'm about to whisper something to a bunch of people who will find that thing out anyway in less than an hour. But I'm special, because I'm the first one to tell them! I'm a gossip queen! I mean uh...journalist...
And if you're a deliverer of news, what the hell is this column? So far the only "news" you've reported is "Fred Lewis took Barry Bonds's place in left field Wednesday, and myself and other baseball fans weren't happy." What insight, what genius!
I hear some groans. One person literally gets out of line and walks away. I almost feel bad, like I've ruined the ending of the final Harry Potter book. But this isn't my fault. I'm like everyone else here. I didn't come for Fred Lewis. No offense, Fred.
I love the "this isn't my fault" defense. First he "saves" Lewis and Bochy with it, now he acts as if someone is blaming him for Barry not playing.
"I understand what you're saying," he tells me, "but I don't care about that. I'm a rookie, and I understand nobody is here to see me (in left field), but one day that will be my position."
I love how in an "imagine how bad it would be to be Fred Lewis" column, Fred Lewis is quoted twice saying he doesn't even care.
Last week Kevin Frandsen was the guy nobody wanted to see. The Giants were at Wrigley Field in Chicago and Bonds was off. Frandsen played left. The bums in left serenaded him for three hours: "Bar-ry's back-up ... Barr-ry's back-up."
"I thought it was funny," Frandsen says. "I'm thinking, 'Yeah, I guess I am today. But there are worse jobs.'"
Thank you, Kevin Frandsen, for telling Doyel that there are worse jobs than one involving playing left field in a major league baseball game. I think he's the only one that needed to know (and he still doesn't seem convinced).
Worse than Fred Lewis' job Wednesday night? I'm not sure. It's a cold, windy night. The Giants are 16 games under .500. The Braves aren't the draw they used to be, certainly not when someone named Chuck James is pitching. But still there are roughly 30,000 people here.
The Braves didn't even sell out for some of their playoff games back in the 90's. They have a notoriously indifferent fan base.
They came to see Barry Bonds in left, but five minutes before the first pitch the Giants lineup was posted on the big scoreboard, and after a few seconds, when it became clear to everyone that Bonds' name wasn't up there in lights, AT&T Park deflated.
A murmur went through the crowd.
It didn't sound like, "Let's go, Fred Lewis!"
You essentially said this 6 different ways already.
Tough being Fred Lewis. On the left field wall is a mural shaped like a U.S. highway sign, with the words "Road to History" and a picture of Bonds inside the sign. In right-center field is the official Bonds home run count, with "Bonds 753" next to "Aaron 755." Down the right field line is the counter for "splash hits" into McCovey Cove, the count up to 44. Bonds has accounted for 34 of them.
Bonds is everywhere tonight. Everywhere but left field.
Make that 7.
Jason and Diana Albright drove from Carson City for this game. Husband and wife are wearing Bonds jerseys, and they're not thrilled when I tell them two hours before first pitch that Bonds isn't in the lineup. They don't leave, however. They came 300 miles for this. Maybe they'll see Bonds pinch hit.
"Don't forget," I tell them. "You'll get to see Fred Lewis."
"Who?" Diana Albright says back.
She makes a great point.
Fred Lewis isn't famous. This is Doyel's opinion of what a great point should be.
Again, to recap,
I'm not here for a conversation. I'm a journalist, a deliverer of news.
Then deliver some next time.
Thursday, July 26, 2007