Imagine if San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds signed with Philadelphia and played next season for Manager Larry Bowa. The two, in the former XFL tradition, could replace the names on the backs of their jerseys with "He Hate Me More."
Bowa has the Phillies in contention, despite having alienated most of his players, and Bonds is threatening Mark McGwire's home run record and keeping the Giants in contention, despite having isolated himself from his teammates.
The Bonds issue was explored in the latest Sports Illustrated, in which columnist Rick Reilly, armed with critical comments from Giant second baseman Jeff Kent, portrays Bonds as a prima donna who cares only about himself.
Bonds, the article noted, has not appeared in the team photo the last two years. He doesn't stretch with the team before games. When Bonds hit his 500th homer in April, one person greeted him at home plate, the Giants' bat girl.
"Someday," Reilly wrote, "they'll be able to hold Bonds' funeral in a fitting room."
It's clear that Bonds is not on Kent's buddy list.
"On the field, we're fine. But off the field, I don't care about Barry, and Barry doesn't care about me--or anyone else," Kent said.
Bonds will be a free agent after this season. When asked if the Giants would be devastated if Bonds signs elsewhere, Kent grimaced. "See Seattle Mariners," he said.
Harsh? Yes. Groundbreaking? No. Kent has previously made similar comments about Bonds, and it's common knowledge Bonds is not well liked in his clubhouse. But the timing of the SI piece--with the team in a title race and Bonds chasing McGwire's mark--can't be good.
Kent did not back down and say he was misquoted or taken out of context, although he didn't like being the only one quoted.
"This guy had an ax to drop," Kent said, "and he wanted to drop it on Barry."
Bonds had not read the column as of Thursday, but when told the gist of it, scolded the press for making a big deal about his relations with teammates.
"What do they think, that we're supposed to be break-dancing in here?" Bonds said. "Do you have friends everywhere you go where you work? I'm supposed to have friends all over the world all the time? What's the point? Doesn't it seem kind of strange? I've got friends in the game of baseball, but I don't have 700 of them."
While Bonds threatens his record of 70 home runs in a season, McGwire is suffering in St. Louis. He has 92 strikeouts in 232 at-bats. He has been called out on strikes 34 times and has been ejected three times, once on the last homestand when he didn't pick up his bat, as umpire Tim Timmons requested. McGwire was ejected three times in 14 previous seasons.
"Fifteen years in my career, and I've never, ever heard anybody tell somebody to pick up a bat," McGwire said. "You're telling a 15-year veteran to pick up his bat, or he's going to throw you out. I'm walking away [saying], 'That's why we have batboys.' And he throws me out of the game. That's like if I didn't take out the trash when my mom and dad said to take out the trash."
Arizona catcher Mike DiFelice, arrested last week on charges that he assaulted two women in a Pittsburgh nightclub, was optioned to triple-A Tucson on Thursday. Don't be surprised if he's released soon, and we don't mean on his own recognizance.
Last season, Colangelo traded Sun star Jason Kidd after Kidd slapped his wife, and Cliff Robinson after Robinson was charged with possession of marijuana. Former Arizona reliever Bobby Chouinard was released after he was charged with beating his wife and holding a gun to her head.
Ken Griffey Jr. chugged around the bases with the third inside-the-park home run of his career in the bottom of the 11th inning Monday--call it a walk-off/run-off homer--to lift the Reds to a 5-4 victory over the Cardinals. Afterward, he was told he needed seven more to catch Babe Ruth.
"I have a better chance of getting five bunt hits in one game than hitting seven more inside-the-park homers," Griffey said. "I didn't quit wheezing until 12:30 a.m. That's like running the full length of a football field, from the back of the end zone to the back of the other end zone."