Bonds, Zito come up flat in Giants' opener

Barry Bonds didn't homer and Barry Zito was ineffective in his new duds as the Giants came up flat in their season opener.

Originally Published: April 3, 2007
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants opened their 50th season in San Francisco on Tuesday and they introduced their All-Stars from that half-century during a long pregame ceremony. As Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Willie Mays -- all Hall of Famers -- and others took the field, you couldn't help but wonder why this team hasn't won a World Series since moving here in 1958.

Perry's introduction also brought up another thought: Why are all the talk show blowhards and self-righteous columnists so quick to condemn Barry Bonds for "ruining'' the game when an admitted cheater is in the Hall of Fame and no one questions it? If it was all right for Perry to grease his way to 300 wins and Cooperstown, why do we hold Barry to a different standard? Why is one considered mere gamesmanship and the other a threat to civilized society? That's something for you to consider as the Great Home Run Chase resumes.

In the meantime, we may also need to begin tracking the Great Stolen Base Chase. That's because Bonds stole a base Tuesday, giving him 510 for his career and leaving him just 896 behind Rickey Henderson's record total. That still leaves a fair gap to close but if Bonds plays until he's 100 as threatened, he has time.

Barry Bonds
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezBarry Bonds leads the majors with a .504 on-base percentage.
Bonds, however, is no closer to Hank Aaron after going 1-for-3 in a 7-0 loss to Jake Peavy and the Padres. He did, however, have an interesting trip around the bases in the first inning. Bonds bounced a single into left field against the infield shift, then stole second and was thrown out at home when he tried to score on San Diego shortstop Khalil Greene's wild throw past first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez recovered the ball quickly and Bonds was such an easy out at the plate that he didn't even bother sliding.

Bonds left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters (surprise!) but teammate Rich Aurilia said, "I think Barry thought the ball got farther away than it did. He said he messed up. You can't really fault people for being aggressive on the bases. That's what we have to do.''

Giants third base coach Tim Flannery said Bonds made the decision to go home because he could see the ball in front of him and gauge his chances himself.

"Joey Amalfitano taught me a great lesson,'' Flannery said. "When the ball is in front of a player like that, just pat him on the back and say, 'You're making $10 million a year and I'm making $60,000. You make the decision.'"

Bonds received several thunderous ovations from the San Francisco fans -- once when he was introduced with the Giants' starting lineup, again when he took the field hand-in-hand with his godfather, Willie Mays, during the All-Star ceremony and when he stepped to the plate for the first time. Of course, Giants fans have always rooted for Bonds; it's fans elsewhere who must decide whether his pursuit of Aaron is something to cheer or something to fear.

Bonds had a big spring (seven home runs) but other than the stolen base, he almost looked like a normal 42-year-old, swinging and missing several times and hitting a couple harmless foul pops. In addition to his single, he walked once, grounded out to first base and hit a fly out to the warning track in left field.

San Francisco's other Barry, Barry Zito, had a worse day. In his first start since signing his $126 million deal with the Giants, Zito allowed three runs in five innings to take the loss. His pitches were mostly up in the strike zone, and he also walked in a run after some shaky defense.

"It was not an auspicious start,'' new Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of losing to his old team. "You hate to have the opener go like that.''

The loss was the Giants' most lopsided Opening Day defeat since moving to San Francisco. It got so ugly that most fans began streaming from their seats after Bonds' final at-bat because there was nothing else worth hanging around to see.

"You would rather have Zito throw a complete game and Barry hit a couple home runs,'' Aurilia said. "But until they start crowning a champion on Opening Day, it doesn't really matter -- it's just one game. Nice weather, though.''

The bright side is that all the winter hype and speculation is over. "We're now under way," Zito said.

Indeed we are. The season has begun and over the next six months we'll find whether there is a new home run king -- and perhaps we'll also figure out how we feel about that.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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