The Cycle: Bonds Never Feared No-Hitters and the MLB Draft

Posted: June 10, 2012 in ALL II
Tags: , , ,

More interleague play means an opportunity for easy runs scored so the Cycle is back after a brief stint on the 15-DL.  Despite not being of the same class (both athletically and financially), this writer can still give you perspectives on four interesting stories around Major League Baseball, a league in a tightly contested race with global soccer for best way to avoid the modern era by maintaining limited uses of instant replay.  But what do I know.

Single: Barry Lamar Bonds on the Comeback Trail

“I gave my life and soul to that game. That’s what’s heartbreaking. That’s the hard part of it. My (reputation) was kind of iffy anyway. I created that guy out there for entertainment only. Whether you hated me or liked me, you were there. And I only wanted you there. I just wanted you to see the show. That was it. All I ever wanted was for people to have a good time and enjoy it. It was fun to come out and people would boo or yay or whatever. They all showed up to see whatever would happen next and it motivated me to play hard.” – Convicted Felon of Obstruction of Justice.

A very powerful statement from the second greatest living baseball player in today (Willie Mays is number one at the youthful age of 81).  Bonds represented everything in baseball and in sports during his days as a Pirate and, quite literally, a Giant.  His statistics speak volumes: Top ten in runs, runs batted in, walks, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.  Most home runs of all time (insert asterisk here), walks, MVPs (seven), intentional walks, and the single season home run record (also insert asterisk here).  Membership to the 500 home runs club is starting to increase but membership to the 500/500 club: Barry Bonds.  That’s it.  He also became the face of steroids and baseball excitement that dwarfed the Sosa-Mcguire bro-fest that revitalized baseball in the late 90s.  Bonds defined appointment television.

All of this does not mean that he just acted to give the fans what we wanted to see.  A hero and a villain and a hero.  Bonds genuinely seemed to be a jerk or at least not as affable with the increasing media light that people like to see from their stars.  Wanting to see that he wants to return to baseball is a blessing for both the Giants and baseball at large.  His greatness should not disappear due to steroids involvement.  His skills can and will help a struggling offensive team but also energize a game out of touch with many audiences pushing other sports to the top (re: minority, particularly black athletes).  The transition from superhuman star to retired player left bad tastes in many mouths.  From Jordan’s several retirements and his venomous Hall of Fame speech, to Favre’s insistence on playing until the bounty became too great, to Bonds’ seemingly revisionist history, athletes out the spotlight appear to lose their way.  Bonds is back and if the Giants were smart, they would quickly swipe him up and bring him back

Aside: The ol’ Editor-in-Chief wanted me to figure out if Bonds is the greatest player ever.  The answer, for me, is no.  The competition between the Bonds and the old era is interesting.  Weight training and programming does favor the modern game, as does better baseballs.  People may complain that balls are switched all the time but they stay clean which helps them.  Smaller strike zones and better pitchers make the records of today that much more impressive even if the Polo Grounds don’t match up with old Tiger stadium.  I still like Mays for hitting but clearly Bonds is a top ten player ever with or without steroids.

Double: No-No and Baseball’s Problem with Pitching

Johan Santana tossed the first Mets no-hitter in franchise history followed by two near no hitters only to have the Mariners throw a team no-hitter with six different pitchers.  (Aside: The team no hitter, a feat that I poo-pooed recently as my Mariners only scored one tired run during the game, is a very impressive feat.  Impressive here is not meant in the traditional sense of “wow-factor” but retrospectively when considering no one could get a hit.  It is a reminder of how quickly something impressive can sneak up on you over the course of three hours.)  The fear of pitchers losing their collective edge as a consequence of injuries appears to be an overblown concern with the continued propensity for pitching brilliance.  Pseudo-purists like me appreciate a good pitchers duel but the casual fans continue to bemoan the increased use of the sacrifice bunt and other small ball tendencies.  Honestly, you cannot blame them but in an era where we dismantle major superstars for not doing enough and downplay their greatness (re: Lebron R. James), are we underappreciating the spectacular performances by pitches?  I certainly think so.  I attended two White Sox games over the last week with condescension levels highest during pitching duels.  I attribute this somewhat narrow mindedness to why people don’t play baseball in general: pitching limits engagement.  People who try to play pick up baseball become immediately alienated when hits do not happen and pitchers ultimately play catch with the catchers.  Visually unappealing + limited player engagement = fans crapping all over it.  Still, I salute and welcome the masterful displayers by players and teams even if others do not.

Triple: MLB Draft Winners

Certainly the most inaccessible player draft of the four major sports, the MLB draft came and left with many great selections and bold picks that will more than likely set the course of a franchise over the next decade.  Well, that cannot be said for all picsk but certainly of the team holding the number one pick.  When the Astros last held this “honor” they selected Derek Jeter who went on to own baseball…for a team not the Houston Astros.  This year they surprised many by selecting Carlos Correa, shortstop out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.  Signs pointed to the Astros picking Mark Appel but bucking conventional wisdom to acquire power pitching, Correa represents a safe pick that can provide day-to-day contributions to a team struggling up the middle.  His recent consistency and power over the last two seasons should excite everyone involved with the franchise.  Other winners:

  • Liked what the Dodgers did with Corey Seager, brother of Mariners’ Kyle Seager.  A strong defensive presence that, with time, can fill the void left by Adrian Beltre in the mid-2000s
  • Minnesota gets nice marks for building up pitching but they also acquired my favorite player in the draft, Byron Buxton at the #2 slot.  The 6-3, 200lbs outfielder defines five-tool player with an amazing ability to cover wide stretches of ground in a short amount of time.  SI’s Dave Perkins and ESPN’s Keith Law liken him to Justin Upton, high praise for any up and coming player.
  • More legitimate contenders as of late, the Blue Jays selected Marcus Stroman in the first round.  With a solid fastball and sweeping curve (and developing changeup), the reliever will serve as a pleasant compliment to a young starting pitching staff with the talent to be competitive in the American League.

Home Run: MLB Draft Losers

Much harder to project losers than winners because more pride is on the line.  It is really hard to even define what losing means in this situation but I needed to do something to close this piece out.  I will wait until next week to spend energy figuring out Barry Zito outpitching Tim Lincecum.  The easiest loser to pick is…

  • Mark Appel! The Stanford righty was as close to a consensus number one pick as possible until the Astros went another direction dropping Appel to the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates.  Appel’s agent is the always affable Scott Boras who appears to be engaging in a hold out for more money.  As the number one pick, Appel expected to make above $7 million in a signing bonus; going eighth means closer to $3 million, certainly no peanut money but not exactly meeting expectations.  Skipping out on the Pirates conference call and engaging in early contract disputes isn’t exactly building the best image but it is clear that Appel will be going to the wire with Pirates management with both parties more than likely ending with egg on their faces.
  • Jesus Montero went from catching prospect extraordinaire for the Yankees to a soon to be DH as the Mariners picked Mike Zunino with their third overall pick.  After the debacle on the Yankees end with Michael Pineda, it looks like this big deal may be ending poorly for both clubs.
  • National League East leading Washington Nationals took a risk by selecting Harvard-Westlake star Lucas Giolito.  Obviously the Nats know a thing about talent with the emergence of Strasburg and Harper but three words make me nervous: ulnar collateral ligament. Giolito sprained UCL in his pitching elbow cost him stop pick status and that injury in high school (he missed his senior year) raises red flags.  Of course I am much more conservative in my drafting than others so I may be eating these words in the coming years but only time will tell.
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