This week's secret catchphrase: "End of an era." Whenever you hear "end of an era", the lights should flicker and people should scream. If that doesn't happen, you're doing it wrong.
The end of the Bonds era means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Most folks are sad that they don't get to see him hit anymore, and rightfully so. Keep your Pujolseseses and A-Rods; there will never be another hitter who was so feared, so intelligent, and so dominating. There was never a "book" on Bonds. There wasn't a Benardian hole above Bonds's strike zone, or the 1"x1" slider-shaped hole that Jeff Kent had. Throw it in the strike zone, and it would get crushed. Throw it out of the strike zone, and he'd spit on it. Pujols and Rodriguez are two of the greatest hitters to ever live, but Bonds will always be the best we've ever seen.
Dur. That paragraph is 125 words of blather you've already heard or read a million times this week, though at least I snuck in the adjective "Benardian." But here's what the end of the Bonds era really means to me:
The Giants ain't good no more.
Oh, I'm aware they haven't been good for a couple of years now, but with Bonds there was always that stray beam of optimism that comes with having a cartoon player in the lineup. "Yeah, the lineup doesn't look so hot, but if everyone hits around their career average, and Barry hits .370/.500/.750, we should have a shot." It seems ridiculous to read such a thing now, but there was a time when it was valid. The 2003 team won 100 games, but they had no business winning 100 games. At least, it wouldn't make sense if you just looked at the first 24 roster spots. But the team had Bonds.
It was the same story in 2004, though the bullpen was wretched enough to keep the team out of the playoffs. When Bonds was hurt in 2005, it almost made the losing okay. As in, yeah, this team isn't good, but that's because we don't have our magic player. The following year, there wasn't a better offseason addition for any team than a (relatively) healthy Bonds. Before this season started, any optimism about this team revolved around Bonds's health.
From 1997 to 2007, we expected the Giants to win. There were some pessimists before every season - and there sure weren't too many fans thinking this 2007 team was anything special - but having Bonds on the Giants meant the Giants had a chance.
Now? No chance. You can't point to the worst-to-first shenanigans of the 1997 team because that team had Bonds. This team is going to be filled with the Steve Scarsones, Dax Joneses, and Desi Wilsons of our time, except there isn't going to be a Bonds there when we find the diamonds in the rough - the Rich Aurilias and Bill Muellers. I'd love to be wrong, but the 2008 team is going to be some kind of awful.
Bonds hit one to the warning track and then limped away. Think of the warning track as 2002, and there's your metaphor for the Bonds Era. The worst part: the metaphor doesn't end with Bonds leaving the game, it ends with an 11-3 loss against a team actually fighting for something.
It's better to have contended and lost than to never have contended at all. Thanks, Barry.