Will the Giants retiring Bonds' number boost his Hall of Fame chances?


Will the Giants retiring Bonds' number boost his Hall of Fame chances?

It’s difficult to know if the San Francisco Giants think they should retire Barry Bonds’ number because they think he won’t be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, because they think it might minimally boost his chances, or just because they recognize the debt they owe him, but the decision to depart with tradition for his sake makes perfect historical sense.

In short, he defines a clear and distinct era in Giants history, as John McGraw did 100-plus years ago, as Mel Ott did, as Bill Terry did, as Willie Mays and Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal did, and as Buster Posey and and Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval and Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean do now.

And as there is not yet a plan in place to retrofit the left field stands to retire a replica of Bochy’s skull, that means that Bonds’ turn happens now, for whatever reason.

In doing so, the Giants break their own protocol of retiring only the numbers (or initials) of Hall of Famers. Indeed, of the 187 retired numbers in baseball, only 39 are of non-Hall denizens, or barely 20 percent.

But Bonds’ number represents, both good and ill, more than 10 percent of all Giants history, and if you believe that the idea of commemorating history means commemorating all of it, then Bonds’ jersey must be retired. Not because he was a fan favorite necessarily (you can have a dandy CalTrain fistfight over that one at your leisure), but because he was the indisputably central figure of the ‘90s and ‘Oughts, spanning both the end of Candlestick Park and Name That Telecommunications Company Stadium.

True, there are fan favorites in a lot of cities that got their jerseys retired for sentimental reasons – Minnie Minoso in Chicago, Ted Kluszewski in Cincinnati, Willie Horton in Detroit, Frank White in Kansas City, Junior Gilliam in Los Angeles, Kent Hrbek in Minnesota – as well men who died while still in service to their teams either contractually on in memory – Jim Umbricht in Houston, Dick Howser in Kansas City, Jose Fernandez in Miami, Johnny Oates in Texas.

But Bonds is in a smaller group of non-Hall of Famers, with Billy Martin and Gil Hodges and Pete Rose, whose jerseys were retired simply because the history of the team does not stand without them. And for an honorific like this, that reason is as good as any.

And maybe it helps him bridge that final one fifth of the Baseball Writers Association of America. I mean, it probably won’t sway a lot of minds – the Giants put on a full-court media press for an entire year to get Orlando Cepeda approved by the Veterans Committee when his writers eligibility ran out – but the Giants clearly made whatever peace needed to be made with the thornier sides of the Bonds ethos some time ago, and his number is the last step to take before commissioning a stadium statue of him.

And the rest of the potential motives don’t matter at that point. Because when you want to say you appreciate and are indebted to an employee, nothing short of a plaque in upstate New York says it like bronze.


Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase


Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase

Tim Lincecum was back on a mound Thursday, trying to prove to teams once again that he still has a little bit of magic left in his right arm. 

The former Giants star held a bullpen session for scouts Thursday in Seattle. The event was closed to the media, but Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that between 25 and 30 scouts were in attendance. 

And Lincecum may have some of his velocity back. According to Heyman, Lincecum was sitting between 90 and 93 miles per hour. 

Lincecum last pitched in 2016 with the Angels. In that season, his fastball averaged just 88.4 miles per hour. In nine starts with the Angels, Lincecum was nowhere near what he once was and went 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA. 

The Giants planned to be at Lincecum's showcase, according to Insider Alex Pavlovic. 

Over nine seasons with the Giants, Lincecum posted a 108-83 record and a 3.61 ERA. He won back-to-back National Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, was a four-time All-Star and led the league in strikeouts three times. 

Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul


Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul

SCOTTSDALE — Catchers are usually the only position players to hit on the main field during the first few days of spring training, but Austin Slater snuck into a group Thursday to take a few cuts. With manager Bruce Bochy leaning against the back of the cage, perhaps Slater’s session will serve as a reminder: I’m still here, don’t forget about me.

The 25-year-old broke through last summer before injuries halted his progress. As Slater focused on getting healthy this offseason, Bobby Evans focused on overhauling the outfield. That has left several familiar faces in precarious spots, and Slater finds himself fighting for a fifth outfielder job a year after batting .282 in his first 117 big league at-bats. 

At the same time, he’s trying to balance competition with health. He wants to push for an Opening Day job, but also is very aware that he needs to back it down at times as he recovers from sports hernia surgery.

“You want to prove that you can play here and win a job, but (the staff) stressed health over everything,” he said. “It does no good to push and then start the season on the DL. For me, health is the most important thing. I feel like if I’m healthy I can prove myself. There’s nothing I can prove on the DL.”

Slater originally tore his groin on July 8 and the Giants thought it would prove to be a season-ending injury. He worked his way back ahead of schedule, though, seeing limited action before sports hernia surgery the last week of September. “They went in there and cleaned up the groin,” he said, smiling where others might grimace. The procedure kept Slater from playing in the Dominican Republic as planned, although that might have been a blessing in disguise. 

The Giants were aggressive with their winter ball plans because so many young players got hurt during the season. But Jarrett Parker lasted just 24 hours before being sent home with a health issue. Christian Arroyo’s hand swelled up soon after he arrived, and he headed home. Ryder Jones immediately got food poisoning and lost 12 pounds in just over three weeks before player and team decided a mutual parting would be beneficial. 

Slater stayed home throughout, living in the Bay Area and rehabbing. The Giants told him to focus on his rehab instead of lost at-bats and then come out and try to win a job in Scottsdale. By mid-November, he was hitting again. By Thanksgiving, he was on a regular lifting and running schedule. In late January, he felt like his old self again. 

For the Giants, that means a versatile option in a new-look outfield. Slater had a .290/.343/.430 slash line going before his first injury and he’s working to tap into more power. As Bruce Bochy pointed out Thursday, Slater has a long history of putting up numbers at every level. 

“He really did a nice job of figuring out what it takes to play in the major leagues, and he has a tendency throughout his career to just get better,” Bochy said. “You have to love his right-handed bat. He’s got some pop. I think he can play all three outfield positions, so he’s in the mix.”

The Giants have Andrew McCutchen in right and Hunter Pence in left and Austin Jackson as the third guy, and Bochy’s preference is to have a true center fielder as his fourth outfielder. That leaves Slater fighting for the fifth job, alongside many others. No matter what he did last year or does this spring, Slater has options remaining, and that will come into play. A year after using 13 different players in left field, the staff is intent on having greater depth at the Triple-A level. 

Slater is a Stanford product who spent the offseason surrounded by Giants fans. He knows the math after the offseason moves.

“It doesn’t change anything,” he said. “It just adds some great guys to learn from, and there are still outfield spots to be won, so it’s not discouraging, it’s encouraging. I didn’t expect them to keep an open roster spot for a guy with 120 at-bats. We’re trying to win a championship here.”