Walks make Bonds weary

ON BASEBALL

Baseball

A Look Inside

May 02, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

San Francisco Giants superstar Barry Bonds is getting tired of all the intentional walks, which should come as no surprise to anyone, since baseball fans are tired of them, too.

No matter what you think of Bonds - and whether you suspect that his terrific home run numbers are more the result of chemistry than physics - it's hard to watch one of the most exciting home run hitters in history watch four 60-mph pitches and jog to first base.

He received his record 500th career intentional walk from Atlanta Braves reliever Antonio Alfonseca on Wednesday night, which means he has been intentionally walked for about one full season.

Bonds, to his credit, has never whined about the way opposing teams pitch around him, but he apparently told manager Felipe Alou that it has become wearisome. It doesn't help that the Giants no longer have enough offensive punch to make anyone pay for the decision to give the team a free base runner.

"He's getting a little tired of the walks," Alou said. "I've got to get a couple of guys going. As a manager you've got to take it. It's not the worst thing to have a guy on base every time."

There have been calls by some stats gurus to change the intentional walk rule and limit the number of times a team can pitch around a player, but that borders on the ridiculous.

If teams can't throw the ball 4 feet outside four times in a row, managers will just make their catchers stay in a crouch and set up 2 feet outside. The intentional walk is part of the game, and it is the responsibility of Bonds' teammates to discourage it by driving him home more often.

That isn't happening, so it makes sense for pitchers to keep the ball out of his zone. The Los Angeles Dodgers have become so convinced that Bonds is unpitchable that they walked him almost every time he came to the plate last weekend.

"Every time he came up, he represented a swing and the go-ahead run," said Dodgers manager Jim Tracy. "We've made pitches about as good as you can make, and he's been putting them in play; pitches most guys wouldn't even swing at. It's safe to say that he's at a point where there's nothing safe you can do with this guy."

Sexson's blast

Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Richie Sexson hit a home run Monday night that bounced off his image on the Bank One Ballpark video board - 82 feet above the ground and 410 feet from home plate. Club officials estimated Sexson's ninth homer at 503 feet, based on the method of calculation used at all major league ballparks.

Maybe it was 500 feet and maybe it wasn't, but Sexson said it was the hardest ball he's ever hit, and teammates felt that the estimated distance was low.

"Steve Finley said it best - he never saw anything get so small so quick," said manager Bob Brenly. "We are all major leaguers, and some of us have done big things in this game, and when you can make those guys gasp ... wow."

The D'backs would groan later in the week when Sexson suffered a strained shoulder on a checked swing and had to be placed on the 15-day disabled list, ending a string of 183 straight games in which he had played every inning.

Sweet success

When the Florida Marlins banged out 13 hits in a game against the Braves last weekend, they triggered a promotion with Krispy Kreme that allows fans to turn in their ticket stubs for a dozen doughnuts.

However, the popular doughnut giant probably didn't figure on the Marlins doing it in front of a rare sellout. If every fan took advantage of the deal, Krispy Kreme was on the hook for 494,712 free doughnuts.

"The dough boy will be calling for relief," joked manager Jack McKeon.

Good sign

New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi endorsed the decision by the Oakland Athletics to sign third baseman Eric Chavez to a long-term contract, and belied a lingering affection for an A's franchise that had to let go of Mark McGwire, Giambi and Miguel Tejada for financial reasons.

"It was exciting to see," Giambi said. "I know he wanted to stay there, just like the rest of us wanted to stay there. It was understandable that we moved on. It's good to see it started with Chavy and hopefully they can keep the younger kids, like [Tim] Hudson and [Mark] Mulder and [Barry] Zito."

Unusual endorsement

Chavez didn't hesitate to give the Anaheim Angels their due after they swept the A's last weekend.

"That team, if you ask me, is the best team in the American League," Chavez said. "That's not making excuses for why we lost. But that team is going to win a lot of games."

World Cup ...

Angels manager Mike Scioscia knows the risks of allowing players to play in the World Cup international tournament that Major League Baseball is planning next spring, but he is willing to let big stars Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon leave the team to compete.

"Any time guys play outside the organization, you're concerned about the risk of injury, but a World Cup - especially if you get enough participation where you'd have Dream Teams for each country - would be real special for baseball," Scioscia said.

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