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It's Unanimous, Bonds Deserves a High-Five

He receives every first-place vote and wins an unprecedented fifth National League MVP award. Green is fifth.

November 12, 2002|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

Even though his season is over, even though he is half a world away, Barry Bonds continues to make baseball history.

In Japan for a barnstorming tour, the San Francisco Giant left fielder was voted the National League's most valuable player Monday for a record fifth time, extending his own mark.

In winning for the second consecutive year, Bonds was a unanimous choice for the first time, listed on top of all 32 ballots submitted by the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America for a total of 448 points. It was also the third consecutive year a Giant had been named MVP, second baseman Jeff Kent getting the award in 2000.

Shawn Green of the Dodgers was fifth with 146 points, preceded by the St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols (276), the Houston Astros' Lance Berkman (181) and the Montreal Expos' Vladimir Guerrero (168).

"I'd rather win the World Series," said Bonds by phone from Japan, "but I'm very happy about it, very excited. It's very gratifying."

After hitting a record 73 home runs in 2001, the 38-year-old Bonds came back to win the batting title in 2002 with a .370 mark, becoming the oldest player to win a batting crown for the first time. He also broke Ted Williams' 61-year-old record for on-base percentage with a .582 average. Contributing to that were Bonds' 198 walks, which extended his single-season record. Bonds had the majors' highest slugging percentage at .799, hit 46 home runs and drove in 110.

"I'm trying to figure out why a 38-year-old player is still playing like this," Bonds said. "Forget the historical part. I'm overjoyed coming off a 73-home run year and staying consistent. It's pretty much the same numbers as the year before."

Pujols' numbers -- .314 average, 34 home runs, 127 RBIs and a key role in leading the Cardinals to the NL Central Division title -- were enough to make him the only other player named on every ballot.

It always seems to be sweet and sour with Bonds, and Monday was no exception.

Even in his moment of elation, he couldn't avoid flashing some bitterness over what he perceives as a lack of acceptance of a career which began in 1986 and included seven years with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the last decade with the Giants.

Asked how it felt to be in an elite circle with Wayne Gretzky, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and others who have won MVP trophies a record number of times, Bonds said, "I wish I was liked as much as them. That would be nice. People admire their accomplishments. I wish mine were embraced and respected as much, but they never have been."

Asked about his relationship with the media, which appears to have led to that perception, Bonds balked.

"It's really unfair," he said, "at a joyful moment like this, to ask me about my relations with the press."

But Bonds had no problem answering questions about his relationship with his departing manager. Dusty Baker has left because of differences with Giant management, specifically with managing general partner Peter Magowan. Bonds, who has never been a master of diplomacy, nonetheless showed surprising tact when asked about Baker's controversial move.

"I have a lot of respect for Dusty going back to my childhood," Bonds said, "both of us coming from Riverside. I want to thank Dusty for the years we spent together. They were very special. I wish him good luck. We are all going to miss him. Wherever he goes, his players will play very hard for him.

"But I'm a San Francisco Giant and I have to stand behind my organization because that's where I work. Regardless of how we feel, it is up to us to do our job. I don't own the San Francisco Giants, nor am I the general manager. I am sure Peter Magowan and [General Manager] Brian Sabean will pick the right manager to fit with the players we have. They will do the best they can to keep us competitive. Peter had a taste of the World Series. Knowing me and knowing Peter, we are going to want to get there again real soon."

Although his Giants lost to the Angels in a seven-game World Series, Bonds said the postseason, the first in which he was on a team that won a playoff series, was a positive experience.

"That was a fun time," he said. "I really enjoyed being in the World Series. I didn't know what to expect, didn't know how I'd feel. But once we got past the tomahawk chop [beating the Atlanta Braves in a division series], it was the biggest weight off my chest that I have ever felt. It allowed me to relax and play.

"I wanted to have done more. I was disappointed we didn't win. One team has to win and I just applaud [the Angels].

"But if it happens again that we get back to the World Series, we will win. We just have a little more work to do."


Twice as Nice, Twice

Barry Bonds is the first player to win consecutive MVP awards twice. Players who have won consecutive awards:

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