Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Back to Baseball

Two weeks. Ick. Some discipline.

They are playing baseball in Florida and Arizona. The New York sky is bluer, the sun is warmer and stays up longer. Life is good.

I am a baseball bigot. I pay little attention to other sports; the Super Bowl is the only football game I watch in its entirety, and college basketball is no longer the emotional rollercoaster that I used to ride when I followed Syracuse every winter. The final four competes with baseball’s opening day, and by then I’m analyzing my rotisserie draft strategy for the fifth time.

I am a San Francisco Giants fan. It’s genetic: my Father followed the New York Giants, and didn’t let go when they moved to SanFran. Willie Mays was still his guy, just as Mel Ott had led him on during the 1930s as a kid. I – and both my brothers – latched on to Mays, McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda during those perpetual 2d-place 60’s; then the sad 1970’s, when Bobby Bonds couldn’t meet the unattainable expectations.

So now it’s an addiction. I do not trace the Giants exclusively; any game can capture my attention, especially in person. I can sit happily on a side hill in our local town park and watch a summer league game with 18 and 19-year olds.

Barry Bonds is one of the best players to play the game. No, I do not cotton to him as a human being, but I really don’t know him. My impressions are garnered through other’s words and pictures. But no player has ever combined eye-hand coordination with the power stroke as he has. He rarely misses, and when he does hit the ball, the largest portion of the bathead hits the middle of the ball.

I do believe he took steroids knowlingly. He has admitted that he took them, but claims he believed them to be diet and organic supplements. No one is that naïve, particularly in professional sports. He saw a way to add to his edge and become an even more powerful player, and he took advantage. At some point, he may pay a legal price for his actions. He will surely pay a physical price later in life.

I will still follow the Giants. They will wipe the tarnish clean in time, even after it becomes really ugly with the volatile Bonds. They will need to clean house at the management level, as part of the cleansing. I do not like Brian Sabean’s methods as a general manager, but it is certainly hard to argue with his success. He may not be able to start a team over after the tornado blows through.

Meanwhile, there’s always the new Nationals.

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