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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Live Blogging: Barry Bonds' Home Run Chase

I'm channel surfing tonight, watching the Phillies-Brewers game when I happen upon ESPN, which cuts into its regular broadcast to show the Fox Sports Net feed of the Giants-Astros game in Houston, where the Giants lead 11-3. The reason: Barry Bonds was up, batting against veteran journeyman reliever Russ Springer.

The following happened: Springer throws his first pitch, a slider that slides too much, behind Bonds. To me, Springer looked more like a wild almost has been than a Bruce Kison-like headhunter. To home plate umpire Joe West, who frequently has forgotten during his career that the fans come to see the players and not the umpires, Springer had opened the Astros' missile silos and threatened the diamond equivalent of a global thermonuclear war. What does West do? He warns Springer and his manager, Phil Garner.

Which means either that Joe West knows something that we don't (because the box score doesn't indicate that players had been hit by pitches), he's part of the Barry Bonds' protection detail, or he outlawed inside pitching. So what happens?

Springer continues to pitch inside. He throws a heater so close to Bonds that the it looked like it hit Barry's huge elbow pad when, in fact, it hit the nob of the bat for a strike. A few pitches later, Springer nails Bonds on the square of the back. Bonds gets first base.

Springer and his manager get the gate, courtesy of Joe West.

Now I don't follow Fox close enough, but in the advent of hundreds of current TV channels it's been said that with so much availability, there's so little to watch. The broadcasters took the Giants' side in the matter, saying that the ejection was obvious. Those comments caused a dilemma for me -- what was more idiotic, their broadcasting or the action by Joe West?

Russ Springer is a popular man in Houston now and might garner (no pun intended) serious votes were he to run in the gubernatorial primary as Kinky Friedman's proposed lieutentant governor. He got a standing ovation as he walked off the mound.

I don't think that either he or his manager caused the circus that surrounded this at bat, but they sure brought it to a stunning conclusion.

Why MLB brought Joe West back after having let him go in the great umpire purge of several years ago remains a mystery to me. Russ Springer is hanging onto his career, and the slider he threw behind Bonds' back looked like it slipped out of his hands. He did hit Bonds in the back, but in all likelihood that HBP was a consequence of having a wild pitcher throw inside. The last time I checked, it was okay to pitch legends inside.

Even if you hit them with the ball.


Anonymous The Sports Curmudgeon said...


I'm not positive about this, but I believe Joe West was rehired by MLB because a court or an arbitrator said they had to. I think he was in that group of umpires who quit but got their jobs back anyway via a legal proceeding. I agree; he's one of the worst...

12:05 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

The year is 2007 and we have a new home run king in Major League Baseball, or do we? That seems to be the question revolving around Barry Bond’s new home run record of 756 homers. Needless to say there is much speculation about how legitimate this new record is. There are polls online asking should there be an asterick beside his name in the record books. One online poll showed a whopping 76% of americans said yes. While this online poll is obviously not a consensus it does say something for the power of the media and how people are forming opinions bases solely on hearsay.

Does this mean in today’s society there is no more “innocent until proven guilty?” Do we simply want to think the worst because we are now a society of so-called “Haters?” Or is it because Barry is black and we (a society of still predominantly white) want the asterick because he is black; possibly calling into question the legitimacy of his record? Regardless of our reasoning the truth in the matter is that nothing was ever PROVEN against Barry Bonds. Allow the man to enjoy his record, allow the record books to show he is the true home run king, and allow not the media to influence our perceptions.

Therefore, unless something is irrefutably proven against him, let us say Congatulations Barry, job well done.

11:40 AM  
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