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WORLD SERIES | Randy Harvey

Minimizing Bonds Was Angels' Secret

October 28, 2002|Randy Harvey

Baseball historians are going to look back at Barry Bonds' numbers in the 2002 World Series and wonder how the San Francisco Giants lost.

Those who witnessed it would tell them that the Giants lost because the Angels contained Bonds.

Perhaps contained isn't the perfect word for what the Angels did to Bonds. It's like saying the Christians contained the lions. All Bonds did in seven games was hit .471 (eight for 17), reach base 21 times in 30 plate appearance and set a record for slugging percentage (1.294) in a World Series of more than four games. He hit four home runs -- second in history to Reggie Jackson's five and tied with the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Duke Snider -- and established himself as Barry Legend.

"He's not human," Angel hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said before Sunday night's Game 7 at Edison Field. "I can't imagine anybody better in the game of baseball, and I don't care if you say Ted Williams.

"I didn't have an opportunity to really watch [Williams]. But this guy is scary. I mean, I'm just amazed.... Every time he walks up to the plate, he scares everybody. He scares us on the bench."

Angel Manager Mike Scioscia wouldn't have been wrong if he had ordered Bonds intentionally walked every time he came to the plate.

If you believe Hatcher, Scioscia was tempted.

Holding up four fingers, Hatcher said, "Mike's fingers are wanting to do this. He's trying to hold his hand down all the time -- put this guy on."

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Yet, Bonds did not beat the Angels, and he especially did not beat them when it was most important for him to do so, in Game 7.

They didn't necessarily begin the World Series intending to surrender to him, but after he crushed a Jarrod Washburn pitch for a home run in his first at-bat in Game 1, they learned what virtually everyone in the National League has known for some time. He said last week that only the Colorado Rockies challenge him, which proves that high altitude contributes to lightheadedness.

The only other time that Bonds really damaged the Angels was in the first inning of Game 5 at San Francisco, when he hit a double to drive in two runs and put the visitors in a hole that they never escaped.

Although two runners were on base, Scioscia should have held up four fingers. That would have loaded the bases with one out, defying baseball's conventional wisdom, but there is nothing about Bonds at the plate that is conventional.

He is especially dangerous with men on base, a powerful presence physically and psychologically. The Angels have the rally monkey, but the Giants have the rally bear in Bonds. So what if his teammates don't like him in the clubhouse? They love him with a bat in his hands.

Fortunately for the Angels, Bonds didn't bat Sunday night with men on base. So they pitched to him, knowing that he wasn't going to overcome their three-run lead with another solo home run.

He led off the second inning by lining out to shortstop David Eckstein, who was playing on the second base side of the infield as dictated by the Angels' infield shift. He reached base on an infield single that was knocked down by third baseman Troy Glaus with one out in the fourth, but was stranded at second. He popped up with one out in the sixth. He walked on five pitches with two out in the eighth. All of his at-bats came against rookie pitchers. He went rather meekly into the off-season.

Ultimately, Bonds' statistics were more imposing than his impact on the Series.

His four home runs were all solo shots, and his six RBIs weren't even the most on his team. Jeff Kent had seven.

And when it was all over, Glaus was the MVP with a .385 batting average (10 for 26), three home runs, eight RBIs and some sharp fielding plays that shouldn't be overlooked.

None of this is intended as a criticism of Bonds. All anyone has to do if they want to criticize him is write about his fielding. As even one Giant fan last week yelled from the left-field bleachers, no doubt an eyewitness to many a Bonds blunder in the outfield, yelled, "Barry, try the American League."

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Bonds, to his credit, met the press after the game at his locker, which he doesn't always do, even after wins. He was wearing blue jeans, a multi-colored sweater and a scowl. But at least he was there. He answered a few questions, congratulated the Angels and threatened to snap only once.

That, in his book, is cordial.

Someone asked him if he felt as if his last, best chance to win a World Series might have just slipped away and Bonds refused to answer, calling it a stupid question.

Someone else asked if he was disappointed because he didn't do more in Game 7.

Bonds pointed out that he went one for three with a walk.

"That doesn't sound like such a bad day," he said. "What do you want from me--three for three with three home runs?''

All in all, he seemed satisfied with his World Series.

"But it didn't matter," he said. "It just shows you it takes a team to win. You can't be mad when you're doing your best. I'm disappointed a little bit. But somebody has to win."

In this case, it was the Angels. They would never be so bold as to claim they beat Bonds, but they won the World Series because they didn't allow him to beat them.

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Randy Harvey can be reached at randy.harvey@latimes.com

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