Shift focus from Bonds

Barry Bonds hit No. 715 on Sunday, but the question still has to be asked:

Are the Giants better with him in the lineup or better with him out?

For the 2000-2004 period, the Giants built their team around Bonds. That left them vulnerable when he wasn’t there for almost all of last season, as they collapsed to a 75-87 season, and it’s a questionable strategy this season.

Bonds is looking exactly like what he is: An almost 42-year-old man coming off three knee surgeries. He can barely move. He clogs up the basepaths — don’t even dream of him scoring from second on a single — and he’s a defensive liability.

It was painful to watch him in a game last week when he was unable to reach for a ball he should have caught and went under his glove for a double. In another game, he failed to back up the play on the overthrow of third base by reliever Steve Kline, requiring shortstop Omar Vizquel to run the ball down.

When Moises Alou comes off the disabled list shortly, the Giants can field an excellent defensive lineup, with Alou in right, Steve Finley in center and Randy Winn in left, which is his best position.

When Bonds is in the lineup, though, Winn has to move to center, where he’s acceptable but not great. And, whether it’s Winn or Finley, the center fielder has to cover much more area with Bonds in left. When Willie McCovey played left for a brief time in the early ’60s, Willie Mays told him, “You cover the foul line and I’ll take the rest.” That’s what it’s like for Giants center fielders now with Bonds in left — but there’s no Willie Mays on the roster.

The Giants would cheerfully accept this if Bonds were the hitter he was in 2000-2004, but he’s not. He can occasionally unleash that awesome power — the Sunday blast was no cheapie — but his bad knee obviously handicaps him.

He can’t reach for the low, outside pitch that he used to drive. Pitchers didn’t dare pitch him inside before because that was almost a guarantee of a home run, but they do it now. He’s struggled to hit off-speed pitches, too.

In his frustration, Bonds has been going after pitches off the plate, which he didn’t do in his hitting prime. Manager Felipe Alou told him to go back to being a good hitter, not just a home run hitter, and Bonds’ batting average has risen. But right now, Bonds is a line-drive hitter who should hit around.300 with perhaps 25 to 30 homers this season, good for most hitters, but hardly what the Giants expect from their star.

This season, opposing managers helped the Giants by continuing to walk Bonds at illogical moments, which created run-scoring opportunities for the Giants. That pattern is changing. The A’s pitched to him, yielding the 714th home run but not otherwise getting hurt, and National League managers will follow the same strategy.

The Giants aren’t going to bench Bonds, for sure, but by treating him as if he were still the centerpiece, they might wind up costing themselves a chance at the playoffs.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.Glenn DickeyLocal

Just Posted

Pregnant women are in the high-risk category currently prioritized for booster shots in San Francisco. (Unai Huizi/Shutterstock)
What pregnant women need to know about COVID and booster shots

Inoculations for immunosuppressed individuals are recommended in the second trimester

Examiner reporter Ben Schneider drives an Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle along Beach Street in Fisherman’s Wharf on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Could San Francisco’s tiny tourist cruisers become the cars of the future?

‘Fun Utility Vehicles’ have arrived in The City

The Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus is pictured on Jan. 14. The Democrats’ Build Back Better bill would enable free community college nationwide, but CCSF is already tuition-free for all San Francisco residents. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What Biden’s Build Back Better bill would mean for San Franciscans

Not much compared to other places — because The City already provides several key features

A directional sign at Google in Mountain View, Calif., on Oct. 20, 2020. Workers at Google and Amazon are demanding their companies pull out of Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion contract to provide cloud services for the Israeli military and government. (Laura Morton/The New York Times)
Google and Amazon employees criticize $1.2 billion cloud services contract with Israel

‘We can create a world in which tech companies can thrive without doing harm’

Most Read