Bonds Is Selected NL’s MVP : Baseball: Pirates almost make a clean sweep of league’s top awards.
Barry Bonds can tell his kids what his father could never tell him: that he was the National League’s most valuable player.
Like teammate Doug Drabek, who won the Cy Young Award last week, Bonds was one vote shy of unanimous selection Monday, outpolling Pittsburgh Pirate teammate Bobby Bonilla.
Bonds completed a near sweep of top NL awards by the Pirates, receiving 23 of 24 first-place votes and 331 of a possible 336 points in voting by the Baseball Writers’ of America Assn. Two writers in each NL city voted.
Bonilla, who teamed with Bonds to lead the Pirates to their first NL East title in 11 years, had the other first-place vote and 212 points. Darryl Strawberry, the New York Met slugger who recently signed with the Dodgers, was third with 167 points.
“I wish I could split it and give half to Bobby,” Bonds said. “I wish I could share it. To me, he’s just as much the MVP as I am.”
In addition to Bonds and Drabek winning awards for the Pirates, Jim Leyland was voted manager of the year. The only NL award the team didn’t win was rookie of the year, which went to Dave Justice of Atlanta.
Bonds has been compared to his father, Bobby Bonds, since he pulled on his first uniform, but this wasn’t a case of like father, like son. Bobby Bonds, the former San Francisco Giant sidekick of Barry’s godfather, Willie Mays, never won the MVP award despite enjoying a record five seasons with 30 homers and 30 stolen bases.
“I decided this year was time for me to get the respect I deserved for myself,” Bonds said. “I had to achieve it myself. My father and Warren Sipe (the Pirates’ conditioning specialist) had me believing I could do anything, that I was invincible.”
Barry Bonds became the first player to bat .300, hit 30 homers, drive in 100 runs and steal 50 bases. His final numbers were .301, 33 homers, 114 RBIs and 53 stolen bases.
Bonds reported to spring training agitated over losing his salary arbitration case last winter. He settled for $850,000, or $400,000 less than Bonilla. He took out his anger on opposing pitchers.
“I think I had an MVP season. This was just an unreal year,” Bonds said. “I don’t know if I can ever do this again, but I can tell my kids and grandkids that, for six months, I was up there with the best of them.”
The statistics were as reminiscent of another No. 24, Mays, as they were Bonds’ father. His previous career highs were .283, 25 homers, 59 RBIs and 36 steals.
The 26-year-old Bonds was the missing piece of a puzzling team that challenged for a division title in 1988, then faded to fifth place in 1989. Leyland’s best move during a season in which he made nearly all the right moves was dropping Bonds from leadoff to fifth in the batting order.
“I really can’t explain the satisfaction I had,” Bonds said. “I’m just ecstatically happy. I can’t really say how happy I am. Sometimes I just wanted to go home and scream as loud as I can from happiness and say, ‘I can’t believe it.”’
Bonds said he felt the Pirates had a special chemistry. “It’s a family-oriented team. No one has any jealousy. I just hope we can stay together.”
Finances may determine that. Bonilla can become a free agent after the 1991 season, and Drabek and Bonds could leave after 1992. Can the Pirates afford to keep all three?
“I don’t know,” Bonds said. “That’s up to the Pirates.”
Before 1990, Bonds’ .103 career average with runners in scoring position in late-inning situations was the lowest ever charted by the Elias Sports Bureau. This year, he hit .377 with runners in scoring position and had 44 multiple-RBI games.
“I can’t imagine anybody playing better than Barry played,” Leyland said. “It was like he was out to prove how good he was. People have always talked about his potential when he didn’t play the way they thought he should. Maybe people were guilty of rushing him.”
Unlike past seasons, when he’d tear up the league for a week, then disappear for a month, Bonds never put his game on cruise control.
His college coach, Arizona State’s Jim Brock, once described him as rude, inconsiderate and self-centered, but, for one summer, Bonds was focused, enthusiastic and motivated.
And, now, he’s the MVP.
“I didn’t know if I could do it,” he said. “Anything’s possible and I knew I was capable, but there are so many outstanding players, whoever put it together could win it.”