The San Francisco re-treat

It appears the Giants are in shambles at the feet of Barry Bonds, whose once invincible swing has been reduced to an invisible wave.

And once again we’re surprised at how quiet the exit will be for the man who once so dominated baseball that he changed the way managers used the intentional walk. His affect on a game has been reduced to a whisper.

Bonds is nothing more than the latest reminder of what Father Time does to the greatest of athletes at the end of their careers. We saw it most recently with Jerry Rice, and now with we’re seeing it with Bonds.

Whether its the durability, the ability to rebound from a game, or simply the skills diminishing, it’s always difficult for the fan to absorb.

I also think the disappearance of the Rice and Bonds we remember from their heydays gives us a few more clues into how the champion thinks. Neither Rice nor Bonds ever admitted he couldn't do whatever it was he did to opponents at the apex of his career. And I don’t think either one will ever admit that there was a point they couldn’t do what they always did.

We mortals live with our shortcomings on an everyday basis. We know we can’t sing or dance, and we’re quick to point that out whenever it might come up. The champion? He or she never thinks there’s something he or she can’t do, and they think that way to the bitter end, regardless of any evidence to the contrary.

These Giants? I’ll remember that they put together a roster had 98 games in it. Management hoped it would be 162 games … unfortunately, no such luck.

After 98 games, the Giants were in first place, right where every fingers-crossed Giants fan hoped they’d be. The pieces were there, and if something had fallen into place at the right time … aw, come on, how many have we said that?

I really can’t figure out what happened either. Two weeks ago, the Giants were in first place, and it felt like things had finally come together. How does that same team then lose eight of nine over three consecutive series against last-place teams?

While its too easy to blame the entire mess on Armando Benitez and his fading abilities, I do think there is something about a team that fights its way to the top, only lose its faith in its ability to close out games.

Those three blown saves were very heavy on this team’s psyche.

In the end, they simply really didn’t play the game well enough often enough to win enough.

So, while the Giants fade from my interest, I have the 49ers, whose only advantage over their baseball counterpart is a lack of evidence that this season is heading in the wrong direction.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how the 49ers will draw up their game plans in order to give Alex Smith the best chance of succeeding. Last year, they went to the running game, and by the end of the season, they were wearing people down.

The first few games will offer us clues into what Mike Nolan and his staff have discovered about Smith, what he can do and what he can’t. Nolan has said many times that Smith is the key to this team becoming a winner, and that just about every move the team has made has been to give Smith more weapons to work with.

Fingers are now crossed throughout the land of the 49ers.

Tim Liotta hosts the weekend edition of “Sportsphone 680” on KNBR (680 AM).Other Sportssports

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