There were no eruptions, not even a hiccup, from Mount St. Barry. Not on this night, anyway.
A day after blowing his top in the San Francisco clubhouse, then flying halfway across the country as the Giants opened a four-game series in Chicago, the slumping slugger took Monday off. Not just from the pre- and postgame free-for-alls spawned by Bonds' low-speed chase of Henry Aaron's career home-run record, but from the game itself.
Get used to it. The guess here is there won't be too many Bonds' sightings &
let alone fireworks &
until the Giants return to the Bay Area next Monday, the day before Bonds turns 43. Both Bonds and the club have made no secret of where they'd like to see the record broken and one thing Bonds still knows how to do is pick his spots.
"He'll play tomorrow," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I'll leave it at that."
Mercifully, the legion of Bonds-haters took the night off as well. Noticeably absent from Wrigley Field were the signs reading "CHEATER," or "Barroids," or even the simple asterisks that have sprouted across the grandstands to greet Bonds in just about every enemy ballpark.
Just before the first pitch, a fan stood in Wrigley's right-field bleachers holding up a banner that read, "It's Gonna Happen." But the slogan had nothing to do with the inevitability of Bonds' barrier-breaking 756th blast; rather, it's become the mantra for a Cubs team determined to win a World Series and break a nearly century-old slump itself.
So while Chicago manager Lou Piniella was only too happy with the competitive advantage Bonds' absence gave his club, as a former ballplayer, he didn't quibble with Bochy's decision to rest his aging star.
"It's hard for him. I played until I was 41," Piniella said, "and I was happy that I didn't have to put the uniform on to perform. It's not easy, all the wear and tear."
Bochy, another former ballplayer, didn't feel the need to be much more specific. He said Bonds was sitting because of "general soreness in the legs," then deflected questions about whether the long flight, shin splints or a hangover from playing host at last week's All-Star festivities might have compounded the problem.
"Barry is human," Bochy summed up. "He's almost 43."
He's also in a foul mood.
"I didn't play guys," Bonds said, waving away a handful of reporters crowded around his locker after the Cubs' 3-2 win.
When ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez asked a question, Bonds wheeled around.
"Take a hike, Pedro," he said, then repeated it before Gomez could get out a followup question.
In fairness, Bonds has rarely looked his age so far this season, starting 75 games and appearing in 81 of the team's 90 games. His numbers &
.279, 17 HR, 42 RBI, a league-leading 94 walks &
might not justify the All-Star berth that a last-minute hometown voting barrage delivered, but he hasn't lost any respect among his peers.
"Obviously, the other clubs still think he's a force," Bochy said, "because they've been walking him."
Those walks, though, have only added to Bonds' frustration. He's been stuck on 751 for two weeks and arrived in Chicago mired in an 0-for-20 streak, his longest this season and the worst drought he's endured in a half-dozen years. That's likely why Bonds blurted out, "It's an embarrassment for me to be wearing this (expletive deleted) uniform" shortly after the Giants lost to the Dodgers at home Sunday, then drove his point home by flipping over a laundry cart. He'll get no argument on that.
Bonds' pursuit of Aaron has been joyless, a long, tough slog that's been much harder on his teammates and Giants management than the rest of us, and by all appearances, it's about to get longer and tougher. They're playing for his benefit, instead of the other way around, often stuck waiting until batting practice to find out whether fatigue or the aches and pains of advancing age has him firmly in its grip that day.
Bonds had 11 home runs by May 8 and six since, but none since July 3. At his current pace, depending on how stubborn Bonds becomes about stepping into the record books in San Francisco, the drama could drag well into August. Starting July 31, the Giants play a stretch of 31 games in 30 days and Bochy has plenty of other aging veterans who are going to need some rest.
But Bochy also knows there's only one guy on the ballclub who sets his own rest schedule and he's prepared to have his integrity questioned &
if it comes to that &
to see that he gets it.
"We'll see where we're at with it. If we're at the end of a road trip and Barry is within one, we might rest him," he said last week. "It's not that easy to make it work the way you want."
Unless, of course, you are Barry Bonds.
is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
All quiet on the Bonds front; for how much longer?