Friday, July 13, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Bonds knows he’s going to enjoy his home run chase much more if the San Francisco Giants start winning regularly.

For now, the slugger refuses to think about how he will feel as he closes in on Hank Aaron’s mark of 755. He’s four away from tying Aaron heading into a three-game home series against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers starting tonight.

Bonds acknowledges it still could take several weeks or even more than a month. That means it might take until after he turns 43 on July 24.

“I’m really not there yet. I think when you get to 54, I’ll really feel it,” Bonds said during the All-Star festivities. “Then it just depends how many games are left. But I’m not quitting, so I might make you wait ‘til next year. You know I’m drama, so why not make it more drama?”

Oh, the drama certainly will increase soon — as in lots of additional national media members who plan to join the traveling tour following Bonds. He last connected July 3 at Cincinnati, his 17th of the season.

After three games against the Dodgers, the Giants head to Chicago for a four-game series at Wrigley Field starting Monday followed by a three-game weekend series with the Brewers in Milwaukee.

Most of Bonds’ recent milestone home runs have come in the warm confines of San Francisco’s waterfront ballpark, where fans cheered him at every chance during Tuesday’s All-Star Game. He is beloved in the Bay Area despite the steroid suspicions.

Everybody expects he will break Aaron’s record at pitcher friendly AT&T Park, too.

“You think I have that kind of time to do that?” Bonds said. “This ballpark isn’t that easy. They ain’t going to throw the ball back.”

Bonds, in his 22nd major league season and 15th with San Francisco, played in 78 of the Giants’ first 86 games. He has been healthy except for a short bout of shin splints that sidelined him for two games at Arizona last month and some normal soreness in his legs.

This is a far cry from the past two seasons. He appeared in 130 games in 2006 and only 14 the previous year following three operations on his troublesome right knee.

“I’m surprised at myself right now, too,” Bonds said. “To only miss eight or nine games right now throughout the season is pretty good, and I don’t feel drained and tired.”

First-year Giants manager Bruce Bochy — who watched Bonds hit many homers off his Padres in 12 seasons as San Diego skipper — called Bonds’ play the biggest bright spot of a disappointing first half.

“It would have been a surprise [to say he’d play 76 games],” Bochy said. “He’s played a lot. His knees have felt good for the most part and his legs. That’s why he’s been out there. I’ve been able to play Barry a lot. We can’t just count on Barry.”

San Francisco is in last place in the National League West at 38-48, 10½ games behind the first-place Padres. The Giants haven’t made the playoffs since 2003, one year after falling in seven games to the Angels in the World Series.

“The bad thing is we’re 10 games out,” Bonds said. “The good is we’re going to turn it around in the second half.”

San Francisco will need a lot more from players other than Bonds to do so. The seven-time NL MVP is batting .295 — tied for tops on the team with Ryan Klesko — with a team-best 17 homers and 42 RBI. He also has drawn 91 walks, 30 of those intentional.

The walks probably will keep coming, too. No pitcher wants to be the guy who gives up the historic homer and be attached to Bonds forever.

“I’ll pitch to him,” said Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny, who is scheduled to start tomorrow’s game in San Francisco. “But I hope not to be in that situation. I don’t want it to be me. He’s taken me deep.”

The treatment of Bonds was mixed in St. Louis last weekend. Fans at Busch Stadium booed each time No. 25 touched the ball in left field and whenever he stepped into the batter’s box. But they also hollered at their own pitchers when Bonds was walked.

“They’re going to come to see the show no matter what,” Bonds said. “I went to go see ‘Batman and Robin.’ I like the Joker, too, and wanted him to get killed. I still went to see the movie.”

Bonds has repeatedly said he will play beyond 2007 whether he catches Hammerin’ Hank this year.

“If I come up short, I come up short, and if I get past it, I get past it,” Bonds said. “But I’m going to give my honest effort to my ability that God’s given me.”

He also has 3,000 career hits on his mind. And when Bonds puts his mind to something, he usually does it.

“If you cut your sights short, you might as well quit because now that desire in you is gone,” Bonds said. “I’m not chasing Hank. My sight’s past that.

“I’ve got some time, brother. My skills ain’t that bad. I’m going to play. You know what, if I walk away from the game knowing I can still play the game, I wouldn’t have a happy ending. I have to walk away when I know I can’t do it anymore, so I can be free with it.”

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide