Liotta: Giants fans, it’s time to pay the piper

Giants fans, welcome to Pay-Up Season No. 1. Time to balance the books, call in the debt. Call it the balloon payment for the Giants’ commitment the last five years to the Greatest Show in Baseball.

The bill collector is here and he’s brought with him 162 games of baseball against teams that are simply better than the Giants. Every single one of them. Oh, the Giants will win at least 60 — every team in baseball almost always does — but they will never be favored. Not on a single night between now and the end of September.

I realize there isn’t a sign anywhere that Barry Bonds ever participated in Giants baseball — the Giants have washed their hands of him — but he will haunt this team for some time to come. Not just this season. This painful experience is going to linger, like some kind of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

The Giants’ game plan that attempted to surround Bonds with enough talent to win it all may have made sense at the time, but it never worked. The 2002 season was a would-have, could-have episode on so many fronts, but facts are facts. There’s no World Series championship rings, no trophies to display. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an amazing experience.

And now everybody is acting as if Barry Bonds was that neighbor who kicked your dog or shooed away kids from playing in the street in front of his house. It seems fashionable these days for talk to drift to grand juries, perjury, prison and performance-enhancing drugs when he’s mentioned. But don’t make light of the experience of watching him play.

OK, the last couple of years were painful. And, yes, Bonds did overstay his welcome. But it was the Giants who found themselves with little else to offer besides Barry’s pursuit of the homerun record.

We owe it to the kids who were too young to enjoy it, or the fans who got here too late, to vividly recount the experience that was Bonds playing baseball. You never have to say he was a great guy or that he was a role model, but what he did on that ball field may never be duplicated.

Alex Rodriguez can break his record, but A-Rod will never be New York’s guy like Barry was San Francisco’s guy. Right to the bitter end.

Which, it appears, we haven’t actually reached yet.

Random thoughts:

» For all their faults, the Giants’ signing of Barry Zito will go down as the biggest blunder in the history of the franchise.

» Who’s to blame for the 49ers getting docked a draft choice for tampering? The penalty is lighter, but the offense is in the same category as the New England Patriots videotaping opponents’ signals. The Niners were found guilty of cheating. No other way to describe it.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner.

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