In the San Francisco Giants' clubhouse, everybody knows the
There are 24 teammates, and there's Barry Bonds.
There are 24 teammates who show up to pose for the team picture,
and there's Bonds, who has blown it off for the last two years.
There are 24 teammates who go out on the field before the game to
stretch together, and there's Bonds, who usually stretches
indoors with his own flex guy.
There are 24 teammates who get on the players' bus at the hotel
to go to the park, and there's Bonds, who gets on the bus with
the broadcasters, the trainers and the manager who coddles him.
There are 24 teammates who eat the clubhouse spread, and there's
Bonds, whose nutritionist brings in special meals for him.
There are 24 teammates who deal with the Giants' publicity man,
and there's Bonds, who has his own clubhouse-roving p.r. guy, a
freelance artist named Steve Hoskins, who turned down George
Will's request for an interview with Bonds because Hoskins had
never heard of him.
There are 24 teammates who hang out with one another, play cards
and bond, and there's Bonds, sequestered in the far corner of the
clubhouse with his p.r. man, masseur, flex guy, weight trainer,
three lockers, a reclining massage chair and a big-screen
television that only he can see.
Last week, after Bonds hit his 51st home run in a 13-7 win over
the Florida Marlins, most of the players stayed to celebrate the
victory, and at least one was gone before the press arrived in
the clubhouse: Bonds.
"That's Barry," says San Francisco second baseman Jeff Kent. "He
doesn't answer questions. He palms everybody off on us, so we
have to do his talking for him. But you get used to it. Barry
does a lot of questionable things. But you get used to it.
Sometimes it rubs the younger guys the wrong way, and sometimes
it rubs the veterans the wrong way. You just hope he shows up for
the game and performs. I've learned not to worry about it or
think about it or analyze it. I was raised to be a team guy, and
I am, but Barry's Barry. It took me two years to learn to live
with it, but I learned."
If you get the feeling that Kent, who's in his fifth season with
San Francisco, wouldn't spit on Bonds if Bonds were on fire, you
might be right. Maybe it has something to do with last year, when
Kent and Bonds were running neck and neck for the National League
MVP award. The week before the award was to be announced, Bonds
had a member of his entourage call the commissioner's office to
try to find out who had won. We've got to know, said the stooge,
because if he's not going to win, he can get out of town.
Perfect! No staying around to congratulate Kent. Or going to the
press conference to shake his hand. Just, "If it ain't me, I'm
outta here." The commissioner's office didn't know the results of
the voting. Kent won.
Someday they'll be able to hold Bonds's funeral in a fitting
room. When Bonds hit his 500th home run, in April, only one
person came out of the dugout to greet him at the plate: the
Giants' batgirl. Sitting in the stands, you could've caught a
cold from the freeze he got. Teammates 24, Bonds 1.
Bonds isn't beloved by his teammates. He's not even beliked. He
often doesn't run out grounders, doesn't run out flies. If a
Giants pitcher gives up a monster home run over Bonds in
leftfield, Bonds keeps his hands on his knees and merely swivels
his head to watch the ball sail over the fence. He's an MTV diva,
only with bigger earrings.
"On the field, we're fine," says Kent, "but off the field, I
don't care about Barry and Barry doesn't care about me. [Pause.]
Or anybody else."
Bonds will be a free agent after this season, and if he decides
to sign elsewhere, will the Giants be devastated? Kent grimaces.
"See: Seattle Mariners," he says, walking away.
Bonds is brilliant. He was the best player of the 1990s, and at
37 he's having his most magnificent season, on pace at week's end
to break the single-season home run record of 70 and nearly
lapping the league in slugging percentage, on-base percentage and
walks. He should be the MVP.
But that doesn't mean you have to root for him.