Who’s On Base?: Is Bonds Being Sabotaged ??

By John A. Poole
Updated: February 21, 2008

Mark McGuire Barry BondsGLEN BURNIE, MARYLAND – In his quest to be the greatest, single-season, home run king, Barry Bonds has finally hit a dry spell. Bonds has been held homerless in his last 19 games, but he is still two home runs ahead of Mark McGuire’s pace when McGuire hit 70 home runs in 1998. Stuck on 39 home runs, Bonds still has a chance to reach 40+ by the All Star break, which will be next Wednesday. Bonds, the leading vote getter for the NL, will be participating in his 12th All Star game and starting in left field.

Last week, McGuire and Bonds went head-to-head again as the Giants swept the Cards in a 3-game series. The head-to-head battle was billed as a battle of the superstars and one many had hoped would turn into a home run battle. However, instead of seeing a home run battle between the two, the fans were treated to a walk fest. In a two-game stretch, Bonds was walked six times and, in 2001, Bonds has been walked a total of 12 times by the Cards and 81 times overall. This is more walking than in any other team in the majors this year. While neither player has had much success against the other’s team, it seems obvious that the Cards do not want to see Barry break the new home run record that was set just 3 short years ago.

“Barry will get his 40th home run,” said Bonds’ manager, Dusty Baker, after he failed to homer in his 18th straight game. Because Bonds has never been one to talk with the media, it’s tough to tell the true stress that this season is putting on him. It seems that he is taking it all in stride and enjoying everything that the newfound “love” from the fans has brought to him. When asked why Bonds had done so well this year, Bonds summed it up best, saying, “I don’t know why I had so much success this year. If I knew, I would’ve done it a long time ago.”

As the All Star game approaches, players will be gearing up for a little R&R (rest and relation). Although about 50 players will have a game to play during the 3-day vacation, most of the players in the league will be able to spend quality time with family and friends. The All Star break can be needed by some and hated by others, depending on how well a player is playing just before it. Since we outlined the AL All Stars last week, let’s take a look at who will be starting in the NL on Wednesday.

Starting at 1st base and in his second straight All Star game is Todd Helton. Helton is currently batting .324 with 25 home runs and 82 RBI’s. Last year, Helton ended up batting .372 with 42 home runs and 147 RBI’s but ended up second in the All Star voting to Giants 2nd baseman Jeff Kent. As in 2000, Kent will be following up his MVP year with another starting job at this year’s All Star game. Also coming from the Giants will be shortstop Rich Aurilia. Aurilia and Kent will be the first middle infield combination from the same team since 1985, when Ozzie Smith and Tommy Herr both played in the All Star game. Aurilia is batting .350 with 107 hits through three months of baseball and is leading his position in both categories.

At 3rd base, Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves is leading in votes over Robin Ventura of the NY Mets. Jones is not repeating his past MVP-style season, but he is still a fan favorite and, since the All Star game is a popularity contest as to who starts in the big game, having the nickname “Chipper” can always help.

Because the All Star game is a “name” game, it is no surprise that Sammy Sosa is starting in right field over Larry Walker. Ever since his home run race with McGuire, Sosa has become a national fan favorite and has, barring any major injuries, probably won himself a starting position in the next 4 or 5 straight All Star games. Rounding out the last 2 outfield positions are Luis Gonzalez and Barry Bonds. The two players are both on pace to hit over 60 home runs and either one may break 70 if he gets a chance and gets into a zone.

The last positions are the most important on the field. Mike Piazza of the Mets will be behind the plate, but the starting pitchers have not been announced yet. The starter may not have been announced yet, but the pitcher is sure to come from the Diamondbacks. Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling are both on the same team and are easily the #1 and #2 pitchers in the league.

That completes the starters for the NL All Star game. The advantage is leaning towards the NL, but in an All Star game it is never a sure thing as to who will win the game.

Please be sure to stop back next week as we take a look at the end of the first half of play.