- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO Barry Bonds took the San Francisco Giants to the playoffs. His supporting cast carried him to the World Series.
Without Bonds' awesome offensive season the 46 home runs, league-leading .370 batting average and record 198 walks and .582 on-base percentage the Giants might never have caught and surpassed the Los Angeles Dodgers to claim the National League wild card.
But without the clutch performances of Kenny Lofton, Benito Santiago, Rich Aurilia, David Bell and company, Bonds might never have reached the World Series for the first time in his 17-year career.
It was commonplace entering the postseason to think of the Giants as a one-trick pony. San Francisco's playoff fortunes were going to rest, one way or another, on Bonds' broad shoulders.
What the last two weeks have taught us, however, is what Bay Area fans have known all along: This is a very good team, with the emphasis on team.
"When you play this game long enough, you realize personal things don't mean as much. It's all about winning," first baseman J.T. Snow said after the Giants' pennant-clinching victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night. "People are going to remember championships. They're not going to know 10 or 15 years down the road what your batting average was or how many home runs you had. We played like champions against the Braves, and we played like champions against the Cardinals."
Bonds did his part to help lead the Giants to their first World Series appearance since 1989, batting .286 with four homers, 10 RBI and 14 walks through 10 postseason games. In the process, he has erased the one stigma still attached to his record: playoff failure.
"This is great. This is nice, but I want that final party," Bonds said. "Once I got past the ghosts of my past, I just played baseball."
Bonds had the luxury of just playing baseball (at least, on the rare occasions that opposing managers decided to pitch to him) because he knew his team's fortunes weren't resting solely on his performances.
The Giants may not have many other big names in their lineup, save second baseman and former National League MVP Jeff Kent, but almost everyone who stepped to the plate for manager Dusty Baker through the first two rounds of the postseason came through.
"There's a lot of good players that have a lot of heart here," Santiago said. "Myself, Jeff Kent, Barry Bonds all of those guys, they pick us up."
Santiago did plenty of picking up himself. The 37-year-old catcher has been given the daunting challenge of batting fifth in San Francisco's lineup, behind Bonds, and he responded in the NL Championship Series by batting .300 with two homers and six RBI, earning MVP honors.
Said Bonds: "Benny carried us through a lot of it."
Lofton might not have finished the NLCS with the best offensive numbers he hit .238 and went through an 0-for-13 stretch at one point. But ask any of the Cardinals who was the biggest thorn to them all week. Be assured they'll all name the 35-year-old center fielder, who ignited a Game1 bench-clearing confrontation and came up with the pennant-clinching hit in the bottom of the ninth of Game5 (after getting plunked by St. Louis' Matt Morris earlier in the evening).
"What he did [Monday night] was phenomenal," Bonds said. "They hit him on purpose. Everyone knew what happened. We told Kenny to keep his focus, don't allow them to take him out of his game. It was a class act on Kenny's part. He beat them, and he deserved to beat them."
There were other, less obvious heroes for the Giants, from shortstop Aurilia (who homered twice in a Game2 victory at Busch Stadium) to third baseman Bell (who hit a quiet .412 in the NLCS and scored the winning run) to set-up men Tim Worrell and Felix Rodriguez, who combined to allow two runs and five hits in nine crucial innings of relief.
All helped to make Monday night's ear-shattering celebration at Pac Bell Park possible. And all will be needed to perform once again if the Giants are to topple their fellow surprise champions, the Anaheim Angels, and win the franchise's first World Series since Willie Mays led the New York Giants over the Cleveland Indians in 1954.
"We've got a bunch of veteran guys who've given their heart and soul to this game and this team," Baker said. "They're getting their reward."


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