Don’t expect Pirates to honor Bonds
PITTSBURGH — The San Francisco Giants retired Barry Bonds’ number 25 Saturday night.
Should the Pirates do the same with the No. 24 Bonds wore during his seven seasons in Pittsburgh?
Oh, if only all the questions were this easy. The answer is an emphatic no.
Bonds was excellent in four of his seven seasons with the Pirates. He won two MVP awards and should have won a third. He was a major factor in the Pirates’ winning three consecutive National League East titles.
He was drafted by the Pirates and played 115 games in their minor league system before he started a 23-year major league career in 1986.
Then he left for San Francisco as a free agent. The Pirates didn’t make him a serious offer to stay.
It is also worth noting that the Pirates tried hard to trade Bonds after a disappointing 1989 season. To that point, he had a .256 career average and .804 OPS with 84 home runs in 2,366 plate appearances.
General manager Larry Doughty acquired Billy Hatcher in August of 1989 with the idea he would replace Bonds as the Pirates’ left fielder and leadoff hitter in 1990.
The Pirates offered Bonds to the Dodgers for pitcher John Wetteland and third baseman Dave Hansen. The Dodgers said no.
They couldn’t even talk with the Cincinnati Reds. Jimmy Stewart, who was one of the Reds’ top advisors then, told his bosses not to bother, that Bonds was more trouble than he was worth.
The Pirates kept Bonds by default and moved him lower in the batting order. That’s when he became the Barry Bonds everyone would come to know.
In his last three seasons with the Pirates, he batted .301 with a .980 OPS. He hit 92 home runs in 1,867 plate appearances.
Then he was gone. The Pirates invested their limited funds in Andy Van Slyke instead of Bonds.
Bonds continued to be a force with the Giants. He shook his reputation as a postseason failure. He piled up statistics that should have made him a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Of course, there are the messy details of how much assistance Bonds had from chemicals. The fact remains, though, that he was an outstanding player when he was sprinter skinny in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates could retire Bonds’ number, but why would they? Less than a third of his major league career was spent in Pittsburgh. He belonged to the Giants.
His number should hang in their stadium, not PNC Park.
Did the Pirates outsmart themselves?
They rearranged the starting rotation to give the pitchers an extra day of rest. That meant Clay Holmes came up from the minor leagues to start Friday night in San Francisco.
To be charitable, that didn’t go well. Holmes gave up seven runs on eight hits with four walks, and he couldn’t finish the third inning.
So while the regular starters got an extra day, the Pirates sacrificed a game.
Two things to remember: The Pirates are on the fringe of the wild card race, not the thick of it. It’s not like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were pushed back, either. The starting rotation has been mostly a crap shoot this season.
No doubt the Pirates had some science behind the decision. It’s the time of year when players are dragging, and Clint Hurdle mentioned the just-completed series in the high altitude of Colorado, a dead giveaway that the rest suggestion came from above the manager’s office. Hurdle is taking the heat for an idea that probably wasn’t his.
The reasoning behind the decision may have been sound, but the execution made it a very bad bet.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org