I don't think there was any one of us who thought Barry Bonds was going to come back, put thirty-two balls in the water, and the Giants would win every game from here on out. No one knew how he was going to respond and so far the prodigious batting practice sessions haven't translated into real life home runs. But, man, what a difference he makes in that offense.
For a stretch of four years, there'd be a hitter on the Giants that would get on base every other time he came up. It would often be by walk, which would push the runner or runners up a base. Sometimes it would be a roped single, allowing anyone on first base to scoot over to third. Every now and again he would drive one 450 feet, and everybody skipped home. He always forced pitchers to throw at least five pitches if they weren't walking him intentionally.
That's what we were missing, and it's embarrassing that I forgot. The power of Bonds was what was lamented, as I grew weary of waiting for Mike Matheny to knock in a runner from second every inning, but the on-base majesty of Bonds was almost the best part of watching the Giants. When he comes up, even after not hitting for a year, you still expect him to either hit a bomb or work a walk. When he gets out, it's like double-zero coming up on a roulette table. Everyone just looks at each other for a second, and then realizes the unlikely has mooned them. And the unlikely could definitely use some sun.
Even when Bonds doesn't play, as is the case today, he's a force. Felipe Alou essentially has a magic pinch-hitter, who he can use at any time as an automatic baserunner. It's almost unfair. It's the Giants brand of Calvinball. He'll come up, face the post-WWII equivalent of Jesse Orosco, and probably walk. Then the next guy will face a pitcher out of the stretch. Most times, statistically speaking, it isn't going to work out. The times it would with him as a starter or secret bench weapon, however, could have turned the Giants into a .500 or better team.
Comment starter: Hey, what would the Giants record be with Bonds healthy all year? I'll go with 83-79.