Giants

Bud Selig reflects on 'misery' of Barry Bonds' home run record chase

Bud Selig reflects on 'misery' of Barry Bonds' home run record chase

We always knew the relationship between former Giants legend Barry Bonds and Major League Baseball was far from amicable, but former MLB commissioner Bud Selig has more than doubled down on those feelings in his upcoming book, "For The Good of the Game."

In an excerpt from his book published by Sports Illustrated on Tuesday, Selig was not shy about his displeasure for Bonds and the time frame between July 27, 2007, when Bonds connected on career home run No. 754, to August 7, when he hammered his 22nd home run of the season and the 756th of his career. 

"Bonds was on the verge of breaking Henry Aaron’s record for career home runs, and I was doing what a commissioner of a sports league is supposed to do," Selig wrote. "I was hopscotching around the country to be in attendance when the self-absorbed slugger hit the record homer."

Selig presided over baseball as its embattled commissioner from 1992 until he retired in 2015, a period that saw rampant steroid use across baseball -- especially from many of its star players.

While Selig does take responsibility for not doing more to stand in the way of performance-enhancing drug use, he pulled zero punches when describing his emotions during the two-week period where Bonds and his chase for the record was the epicenter of the sports world. 

In addition to lamenting Bonds' arrogance, Selig also noted the contrast between Bonds and Aaron, who Barry was chasing for the all-time home run record. 

"Along the way, I had a lot of time to think about the differences between Barry Bonds, who simply wasn’t likable, and Henry Aaron, who had been such a giant on the field and now was the same way off the field, carrying himself with as much poise as humility," Selig opined. "I have called myself a friend of Henry’s since 1958 and burst with pride every time I speak about him."

Selig went on to discuss the scene in San Diego after Bonds went to the opposite field at Petco Park to get home run No. 755 to tie the MLB record:

I trudged up to a box high atop the stadium the next night. I didn’t mind being by myself. I thought I’d experienced every emotion possible at a ballpark. I’d been nervous a lot and angry more often than I’d like to admit. I’d chain-smoked and I’d felt the level of peacefulness that my friends talk about after long hikes at a national park. I’d been exhilarated and had moments of pure joy. But this took me to a place I’d never been before, and I’ll admit it.

I was thinking about that and a million other things as I watched Bonds drive a pitch from the Padres’ Clay Hensley into the seats in left field in San Diego, setting off a celebration as he tied Henry’s record.

I didn’t go to the clubhouse to congratulate him afterward. I just couldn’t bring myself to look him in the eyes and act happy about what he’d done. I don’t exactly have a poker face.

[RELATED: New Giants draftee Hunter Bishop has similar background to Bonds]

Selig also noted that while Aaron had been hesitant about doing a video tribute for Bonds when he set the record, Selig was the one who convinced him to do it "regardless of the circumstance."

Bonds, due to his alleged steroid use, still is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Giants did retire his No. 25 jersey during the 2018 season though, and Bonds was met with adoring cheers from the San Francisco crowd.

But while Bonds is not in the Hall, Selig was elected in 2017. Selig reflected on the entirety of his career and the steroid era as well in the last paragraph of the available excerpt.

"Steroids became a bigger issue than any of us imagined when we were watching Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in the summer of 1998," the former commissioner wrote. "But through my work with owners—eventually with cooperation from the players union, which was kicking and screaming all the way—we ended up with baseball having the toughest steroid policy in sports. I couldn’t be prouder as I look back. The same is true for the economic overhaul of the sport during my tenure."

Why Farhan Zaidi says he still has faith in Giants' aging veteran core

Why Farhan Zaidi says he still has faith in Giants' aging veteran core

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has made a multitude of personnel moves since taking over control of San Francisco’s roster. 

There still remains a handful of holdovers from the previous regime, many of whom were part of the organization’s three World Series trophies in five years.

Guys like Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey and others are facing increasing competition for innings after several rough seasons in a row for the Giants.

Zaidi wants to continue the team’s rebuild but isn’t going to just jettison every guy who’s not in their prime.

“Sometimes I think the change does not mean a change in personnel,” Zaidi told The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami on “The TK Show” podcast. “But a change in outlook and perspective.

“Baseball is a game where development should never stop, whether you’re a 22-year-old rookie or a 33-year-old veteran.”

Zaidi is hoping that the infusion of fresh blood into the Giants clubhouse should give every returning player an opportunity to re-evaluate their own roles and abilities.

[RELATED: Would Cole be perfect fit for the Giants this offseason?]

“As I view it, being a change agent doesn’t mean just turning over the roster,” Zaidi said. “But it means everybody reassessing where they are in their careers, what they do well, what their roles are, and trying to progress further for the betterment of the team.”

Expect to see some familiar faces, but Zaidi and his new general manager Scott Harris likely will continue making moves throughout the offseason and even in-season, as we saw frequently in 2019.

Analysis: Would Gerrit Cole be the right fit for the Giants?

Analysis: Would Gerrit Cole be the right fit for the Giants?

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have used Buster Posey as a recruiter in recent years, but if they go after the best pitcher on the market this offseason, they'd be better off turning to another longtime member of the team's core. 

As you have surely heard by now, Brandon Crawford is Gerrit Cole's brother-in-law, a connection that is enough to have many fans dreaming of bringing Cole, a runner-up in the Cy Young balloting this year, back to California. But there's another Cole connection that's more meaningful this time of year.

The right-hander is represented by Scott Boras -- he wore a Boras cap after Game 7 of the World Series -- and thus is expected to walk into spring training next season as the owner of the largest contract ever given out to a pitcher. 

As a Boras client, Cole likely will not sign until early in 2020. The Giants went through this a year ago when they chased Bryce Harper and met repeatedly with Boras, and at some point this offseason you can bet that they'll kick the tires on Boras' many top-tier options. 

Cole is as good as it gets, but would he make sense for the Giants? Let's run down the pros and cons ... 

Pros

Cole might be better positioned than any pitcher who has ever hit free agency. Boras is famous for coming up with binders that hype his free agents, and he could literally hand an owner a 700-page book about Cole and be confident that no holes could be poked in his argument. 

Cole hits free agency as a 29-year-old who has pitched 200 innings in four of his past five seasons and has no injury concerns -- other than being a pitcher, of course. His fastball has averaged 97 mph in all but two months of the past two seasons, and it was a robust 96 during those two stretches. He holds that velocity well beyond the 100-pitch mark in starts and puts hitters away with a devastating slider. 

Cole's walk year was one for the ages. He posted a 2.50 ERA, 2.64 FIP and 0.89 WHIP, and led the league with an astounding 326 strikeouts and 185 ERA+.

Want a postseason performer? He has a 2.60 ERA in 10 playoff starts, including a 1.72 ERA in the 2019 run to Game 7. Cole struck out 47 batters in 36 2/3 innings last month. 

Cole's career took off when he was traded from the Pirates to the Astros, and he put up those video game numbers while pitching in a park that is often punishing for starters. Imagine what he could do spending half his time at forgiving Oracle Park, which happens to be in his home state. 

Cole, who grew up in Orange County and went to UCLA (where he met Amy Crawford), reportedly wants to return to California. That has made the Angels the heavy industry favorite to lock him up, with Dodgers fans also clamoring for their front office to make the leap. A deal with the Giants would bring him closer to home and get his wife back to the Bay Area where she grew up.

It would also fill a massive hole for the Giants. They might lose Madison Bumgarner and could use someone to take pressure off their young starters and inexperienced bullpen. Cole pitched at least seven innings in 15 of his 33 starts last season. The 2019 Giants had a starter complete seven innings just 20 times.

Cons

The reasons for pessimism have much more to do with the Giants than Cole. Simply put, he's the right player but at the wrong time. 

Cole is expected to shatter the previous record for a pitcher contract (David Price's $217 million) and should have the highest average annual value, too, topping Zack Greinke's $34 million per year. This is the time of the offseason when the numbers thrown out there sound silly, but the estimates for Cole's contract generally come down somewhere around $280 million.

Some in the game believe he will push for an eight-year deal. Some believe the contract will total more than $300 million. 

The Giants offered Harper $310 million nine months ago and have even more wiggle room this offseason, but they were sold in part on Harper's age (26 at the time) and ability to transform their soft-hitting lineup on an everyday basis. They also felt strongly that Harper would greatly increase their ticket sales, and it's hard for any pitcher -- even someone as good as Cole -- to do that when you might start just once on most homestands.

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has a limited history as the top decision-maker, but he kept contracts for starters to the $50 million range in Los Angeles and spent less than $10 million last offseason on Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz. 

The contract wouldn't make sense for an organization that is just starting to dig out of CBT hell and still has two years left on some massive deals, and the timetable doesn't match up either. Realistically, the earliest the Giants should truly contend is 2021. Cole is a win-now piece who could put a team like the Yankees or Dodgers over the top, but he would be on the wrong side of 30 when most of the next Giants core is in place. 

[RELATED: Top 10 pitchers available this offseason]

Zaidi is opportunistic. He got into the Harper chase when he realized the rest of the market was holding back, and he pushed the Giants relatively close to the finish line. You can expect, then, that at some point the Giants will be connected to Cole, in large part because the connection is just too obvious. 

This is still a rebuild, though, and an organization that has too many needs to commit $35 million per year to one pitcher. It's fair for Giants fans to dream about adding Cole, but the more realistic path is to simply hope he doesn't end up back in the NL.