Bonds makes significant leap, but not part of 2017 Hall of Fame Class

Bonds makes significant leap, but not part of 2017 Hall of Fame Class

SAN FRANCISCO — No hitter controlled a game like Barry Bonds, but the longtime Giant has had to sit by in recent years and watch Hall of Fame voting mostly leave him behind. On Wednesday, Bonds finally gained some traction.

Bonds was not elected as part of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017, but he made a significant leap, opening the door for selection in one of his five remaining years on the ballot. Bonds ended up on 53.8 percent of ballots, well short of the needed 75 percent, but well ahead of his previous pace. He had been listed on just 44.3 percent of ballots a year ago, a modest leap from 36.8 in 2015.

Bonds has benefited from several changes to the voting process and the makeup of the Hall in recent years. Most notably, he appears to have received a significant boost from Bud Selig’s election in December by a 16-person committee. Selig was the commissioner during the steroid era, and when he was elected, many in the Baseball Writers Association of America made it clear that Selig’s inclusion would have an impact. Susan Slusser, who covers the A’s for the San Francisco Chronicle, summed it up neatly in a tweet: “Senseless to keep steroid guys out when the enablers are in Hall of Fame. I now will hold my nose and vote for players I believe cheated.”

Per Ryan Thibodaux’s invaluable ballot tracker, Bonds received 23 votes from BBWAA members who did not put a check next to his name a year ago (among public ballots). Roger Clemens, who has been similarly held back by a PED cloud, gained 24 votes. 

Both Bonds and Clemens have also benefited from a change in the electorate. A writer must hold a BBWAA card for 10 years to receive a vote, but last year the rules were changed to eliminate writers who have not actively covered baseball in the past 10 years. The purging of older voters has benefited players from the steroid era, as has the addition of new voters who grew up watching a game dominated by Bonds, Clemens, Mark McGwire and others who were later connected to PEDs. According to Thibodaux’s tracker, Bonds and Clemens were both selected by 13 of 14 first-time voters.

Bonds and Clemens still have a long way to go, but they can take solace in the fact that two of this year’s selections made similar leaps to cross the three-quarters threshold. Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez make up this year’s class. Raines, in his final go-around on the ballot, jumped from 69.8 percent to 86 percent. Bagwell, in his seventh year, went from 71.6 to 86.2 percent. Rodriguez never was disciplined for PED use but he has been hounded by rumors for years. He received 76 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot.

Another big jump would put Bonds, the all-time home run leader and a seven-time MVP, on the edge of Cooperstown. He will not get a “Selig bump” next year, but another wrinkle could help his cause. Starting in 2018, all ballots will be made public.

Former Giants second baseman Jeff Kent received 16.7 percent of the vote. 2010 World Series MVP Edgar Renteria received two votes, while Pat Burrell and Freddy Sanchez did not receive any votes. The latter three will not appear on future ballots.

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”