Giants

How Trevor Bauer compares Barry Bonds' home run race to MLB game today

How Trevor Bauer compares Barry Bonds' home run race to MLB game today

Sunday night’s debut of ESPN’s “Long Gone Summer” had us reminiscing on the home run race that put Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and more importantly baseball, on the map in the hot months of 1998.

The documentary was also a reminder that The Steroid Era was alive and well. A quick clip of Giants superstar Barry Bonds during the feature reminded you who would eventually be crowned the single-season and career home run king -- with or without an asterisk. It also was a reminder how he’s deserving of an induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, just as Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer pointed out on Twitter:

He is. 

This is coming from someone who initially wasn’t a fan of the 14-time All-Star slugger.

“I hated Bonds growing up cuz I was a Dodger fan,” Bauer told NBC Sports Bay Area on Monday. “But after he retired and I learned more about the game, I realized how ridiculous his career was. I’m a huge fan of greatness so I became a huge fan of his career in retrospect.”

Without fail, year after year the debate of whether or not Bonds deserves a trip to Cooperstown grows old and tired. And with just two chances left until he ultimately falls off the ballot, the outlook appears grim.

Bonds' ridiculous résumé includes seven NL MVPs, 762 home runs, 2,558 walks (most in MLB history), 73 home runs in 2001 (single-season record), 12 Silver Slugger Awards and a career .298/.444/.607 slash line. But despite all of that, he's left without a celebratory jacket for 22 years of service, due to his association with performance-enhancing drugs.

[RELATED: Imagining best opponents for Bonds in present Home Run Derby]

But Bauer understands where Bonds was coming from during it all. It plays a role in what’s done now.

“It’s similar to what goes on in today’s game,” Bauer said. “Basically every pitcher uses foreign substances … but it’s illegal. So if you choose to not use it you’re putting yourself and your team at a huge disadvantage. If you choose to play on a fair playing field you’re technically cheating. So ... what’re you supposed to do? You’re given a very hard choice because the people above you choose not to enforce rules.”

“There are plenty of guys that used. Some probably in the Hall of Fame that just never got ‘caught,’ even though everyone knew they were using. Bonds was just made an example of. He didn’t handle things the best by any means though. But those are my thoughts.”

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Giants' Buster Posey, Brandon Belt face inevitable coronavirus risk

Giants' Buster Posey, Brandon Belt face inevitable coronavirus risk

To help keep players, coaches and umpires safe, MLB has eliminated the pre-game exchange of lineup cards and instituted new rules regarding how close players can get on the field. The operations manual asks that players stand at least six feet apart during the anthem every night and discourages pre-game fraternization with members of the opposing team. 

The manual includes two full pages of bulleted on-field protocols, including one that says "Players, umpires, and other on-field personnel should practice physical distancing to the extent possible within the limitations of competition and the fundamentals of baseball."

When people around the game started examining the new rules, though, one thing became crystal clear. There are parts of every game that you can't regulate, particularly at the plate and first base. 

You can ask players to do all they can to socially distance, but there's no getting around the fact that every night at least 18 of them will dig into the box, many at the back of it because of hitting preferences, with two catchers in the crouch, breathing heavily as they go through a game. Behind the catchers there still will be an umpire, and they tend to lean on shoulders and get as close as possible to get a better view of the pitch.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

"I've definitely thought about that," catcher Buster Posey said. "I don't know if umpires will have to wear masks or not. I think that would be one thing that would help, but obviously you can't expect the batter to come up and wear a mask or a catcher to wear a mask (under his catcher's mask) during a game."

The current version of the new rulebook does not ask that umpires wear masks as they stand behind the catcher, although it does encourage distancing when possible and demands that they complete COVID-19 education before the season and during.

Posey will be at the greatest risk of exposure on a nightly basis, with Brandon Belt also sticking out from most regular fielders, and not just because the first baseman is the endpoint of so many plays (last year Belt caught more than 1,000 outs at first). When opposing runners reach first, Belt will have to hold them close, often swiping down on throws over to first. 

"Obviously we're going to be pretty close over there," he said. "I'll try not to get in anybody's face anyway. I think I can do the same thing I've always done. Obviously we're going to be close but I'll do my best to stay as far away from them as possible while still being able to play my position. There's probably going to be a little less talking over there for me, which I probably shouldn't be doing anyway. Avoiding face-to-face talking will help go a long way."

While Posey expressed serious reservations about playing this season, Belt, in his first interview since March, said he's optimistic about the season. 

Belt has spent the hiatus back home in Nacogdoches, Texas, but he said his county wasn't a hot spot in recent weeks like the rest of the state, which was slow to react to COVID-19. Belt said he has spoken to doctors "quite a bit" about the risks and will continue to take precautions. 

The Giants are doing the right things during training sessions and continue to mold their plans for the season. But when the games start and wins and losses are on the line, there's only so much that can be done to parts of the game that have been around for a century. The first few actual games later this month will give them a better idea of how to handle nine innings. 

[RELATED: Giants add four to player pool]

"The landscape is going to continually change and we're going to have to adjust and modify how we do things," Posey said. "That's just the reality of the world we're living in right now."

Mike Yastrzemski believes MLB season will feel like September every game

Mike Yastrzemski believes MLB season will feel like September every game

Mike Yastrzemski knows the Giants can't wait around to find their groove. How they start the 60-game season can make or break their year. 

The season is set the begin July 23, what usually is more of a middle point for baseball. Throw that out the window. For Yastrzemski and the Giants, every day is going to feel more like September. Every game matters in this sprint, it's simple as that.

"It's kind of like September baseball all the way around," Yastrzemski said Thursday on 95.7 The Game's "Damon, Ratto & Kolsky" show. "We were in a really good chance in August and September to play really meaningful games. I think we have a good core group that's kind of used to that."

This roster certainly looks different than those of the Giants' World Series teams, but veterans like Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval will look to lead the way. They do have that experience, even though San Francisco hasn't seen the playoffs since 2016. 

Yastrzemski believes the Giants have another advantage of experience, one that dates back even further. 

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"We have a ton of guys who went to college," Yastrzemski said. "Even though we have guys who might have been out of college for a while, we all know what it's like to play a 58-game season. I think having that experience is going to be really beneficial.

"You're gonna kind of lean on your past experiences and try and get an advantage like that."

The Giants' projected starting lineup, which will change nearly every game, does feature plenty of players who played in college, including Yastrzemski. What this team really needs more than anything, is another impressive season from none other than Yaz himself. 

[RELATED: Why Krukow believes 2020 Giants have 'golden opportunity']

Finally making his MLB debut at 28 years old last season, Yastrzemski hit .272 with 21 homers in just 107 games. He feels like every game will be like September, and that should make Giants fans happy, too. Yastrzemski hit .292 with three homers in September last season, and certainly expects even better this year.

The Giants expect to shock many this season, and they'll need players like Yastrzemski to start off hot if they're to do so.