It’s always struck me as borderline hilarious that baseball journalists are so dedicated to the idea of clubhouse harmony, leadership abilities and other intangibles when the industry that they belong to has an unmistakable reputation for cynicism, individualism and backstabbing. The same writer who would claim that a player’s attitude can have a negative effect on a clubhouse wouldn’t even think to comment on the atmosphere, good or bad, in the newsroom of a successful publication.
This brings me to Gene Wojciechowski’s latest opinion piece for ESPN, which suggests that the San Francisco Giants’ recent success owes a large measure of debt to the fact that Barry Bonds doesn’t play on the team any more.
Barry Bonds helped the San Francisco Giants win the World Series last season. And he could help them win it again this season.
“What? How is that possible?” I ask in mock enthusiasm.
How? Because he’s not a Giant anymore.
Heyo! The great reveal!
When Bonds and his toxic presence was finally removed by the hazmat people after the 2007 season, the Giants began to win more games.
If by more, Wojciechoski actually means one more, well than he’s absolutely right.
The 2008 San Francisco Giants won a grand total of one more game than the 2007 edition. It was also done with a lineup that only had two regulars that were on the 2007 team, and a pitcher who in his sophomore season won the National League Cy Young Award while the rest of a very young rotation from 2007 took a major step forward.
To extend Wojciechoski’s logic, imagining that Bonds’ departure improved the team by a single win is just as misguided as suggesting that Omar Vizquel’s leaving the team after the 2008 season was the root of the dramatic fourteen win improvement in 2009. Vizquel must’ve been even more of a cancer in the clubhouse than Bonds, right?
“When I came up, there was a different dynamic to the team,” said two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, whose first year in the big leagues was Bonds’ last.
So, Wojciechowski is aware that Lincecum has won two Cy Young Awards since Bonds retired, but can’t see the connection between the honour and the team’s newfound success. Instead, he’d rather short sightedly blame Bonds while offering no proof other than assumptive causation.
“Obviously, it was headed by Barry Bonds and all, and a lot of older veterans, for that matter. But I think, in the last two years, it’s kind of transitioned out of that. It’s given all the younger guys a chance to be themselves, thinking that they’re just not in their lockers staring at the wall or sitting at the table not talking. They feel like they can engage in the conversations with all the older guys and feel like they can hang with them … and not feel like they’re in a cage or in an eggshell.”
Lincecum isn’t saying that Bonds’ exit is partly why the Giants are world champions today; I am.
Thanks for the much needed clarification. ”I love apples.” The guy I’m quoting isn’t saying that he hates oranges; I am.
But he is saying team chemistry matters in ways that can’t be quantified from reading a box score.
No, I think that’s still Wojciechowski saying this.
After all, it’s hard to win games when you’re dragging around a cinder block or two of Bonds-related drama.
If Bonds is accumulating 48.8 wins above replacement over a four year stretch, he’s obviously not affected by the cinder block of drama. So, then, exactly what players are collecting outs because of their mood or because there’s drama surrounding the greatest player in baseball? After all, games are won by scoring runs, right? So, who is it that wasn’t contributing because of Bonds’ drama? What baseball players had worse numbers while playing with Bonds than without him?
Bonds hit lots of home runs (thank you, flaxseed oil!), but nobody ever voted him teammate of the year.
My apologies. I had no idea that Major League Baseball games were decided by players filling out feedback forms on their teammates, with the greatest accumulated scores getting the victory.
Bonds recently appeared in a San Francisco federal court and pleaded not guilty to four counts of lying to a grand jury and one count of obstruction of justice. More than three years have passed since his last game as a Giant, and the dark cloud still exists.
Bonds also recently appeared at AT&T Park to throw out the ceremonial first pitch during a Giants playoff game, and the people of San Francisco honoured him with a standing ovation that equaled or surpassed the decibel level of any celebration for a home playoff victory en route to the World Series. The only dark cloud that I can see is the one floating above Wojciechowski’s head as he scrambles to find some semblance of an excuse to blame something else on Bonds, years after he’s retired.