Bonds keeps mind on game

Posted: June 02, 2007

GIANTS centerfielder Randy Winn was on second with one out when first baseman Mark Sweeney field out deep, almost to the warning track in center in the top of the first. Winn didn't tag up, and was unable to move up to third on the play.

And with that, the boos rained down from the blue seats at Citizens Bank Park.

Oh, all right. Maybe it was because Barry Bonds was walking slowly to the plate from the on-deck circle.

The baseball schedule has a certain another-day-another-city aspect to it. For the Giants, that familiar game of musical chairs landed them in Philadelphia for their only appearance of the season last night. For the guys in the gray uniforms, it was another stop on the tour.

For the team in the other dugout and its fans, though, it's always a little different when Bonds is in the opposing lineup. And the fact that he has 746 career homers, just 10 away from passing Hank Aaron to become numero uno on baseball's all-time list, adds yet another dimension to the story.

Bonds has 12 bombs for the year, but only one since May 9. He didn't move any closer to Aaron last night, going 1-for-2 with a pair of walks (including his 20th intentional pass of the season) as the Giants thumped the suddenly floundering Phils, 13-0.

He is baseball's most polarizing figure. In San Francisco, where a statue of his godfather, Willie Mays, stands majestically outside AT&T Park, he is mostly cheered.

On the road, where the populace is generally convinced that his chase has been aided by steroids, he is mostly jeered.

The furor seems to have died somewhat, though. The public's attention span has its limits, after all, and Bonds is already on the second chapter of a pursuit that many expected to be consummated last year before recurring knee problems sabotaged his season.

Yes, he was booed. Yes, there was a guy in the rightfield seats dressed like a syringe with "You Should Have Injected Yourself With Class" written on it. But that was pretty much it.

"You hear everything," Bonds shrugged. "I hear the people cheering for me, too. So you hear both sides. We're in Philadelphia now. [Heckling] is what you're supposed to hear. I don't play for Philadelphia. I play for the Giants."

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel defended the controversial slugger. "I think until you can actually prove somebody did something . . . I never seen anyone take any steroids and I have been around the game for a long time," he said. "To say someone did [steroids] without having proof should be against the law, too.

"It's two different eras of baseball. Nowadays, the ball is light the bats are harder, mounds are lower and the ballparks are smaller. All those things make it a completely different game. But why would that take away from someone's records in the game that's being played?"

Bonds, appearing more relaxed last night than he did earlier in the week in New York, appeared for his standard first-game-of-the-series media availability in the Giants' dugout before the game.

He insisted once again that the negative reaction he gets on the road doesn't bother him.

"I don't pay any attention to that, I really don't," he said. "I focus on the game and what we have to do as a team."

What matters to him, then?

"My friends, teammates, players," he said. "People I don't know, if you're basing an opinion about me and don't even know me, I feel sorry for you, not me.

"If I know you and there's somewhere that we went wrong, we have a chance to apologize to each other and make it up. If you don't like me - and I don't even know 90 percent of the people here - if you have an opinion about me and don't actually spend time with me, I feel sorry for you, not me."

At times, he almost seemed to enjoy teasing his inquisitors. Asked whether he could explain his recent lack of home runs, he smiled. "I like to string things out," he said coyly. "I'm drama, dog. Drama."

He was asked whether he had any advice for Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who won the NL MVP last year - Bonds has seven of the trophies - but got off to a slow start this year.

"Keep your head up. That's it, man," he said. "If you can't deal with bad times in this game of baseball, you'll never ever appreciate the good times. You're not always going to go through good times if you play baseball. It's just not going to happen. It's not like a movie where they say 'cut' and do another take and everything comes out looking perfect."

Bonds left the game for a pinch-runner in the top of the fifth with the Giants well on their way to building a commanding lead. He's expected to start tonight, sit tomorrow and start again in the series finale on Monday.

The only Phillies pitcher who got him out last night was 24-year-old lefthander Mike Zagurski who, a month ago, was pitching at Class A Clearwater.

"I tried to treat him like any other hitter," said Zagurski, who got Bonds to fly out to left with runners on first and second and nobody out. "I had no choice, really, since the first two guys got on. So I went right after him.

"I tried to keep it the same game. He's trying to get a hit, I'm trying to get him out. I think you notice [that it's Bonds] but it goes away once the game starts. You have to get him out or you won't be here long." *

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