Barry Bonds

Imagining best opponents for Barry Bonds in hypothetical Home Run Derby

Imagining best opponents for Barry Bonds in hypothetical Home Run Derby

There might not be a more perfect candidate for an all-time MLB Home Run Derby than former Giants legend Barry Bonds. His 756 home runs are the most in baseball history, and no single player’s power has been as intimidating as Bonds was in his heyday.

MLB.com recently came up with a hypothetical matchup for Bonds in their “#WhatIf Derby” series, choosing Los Angeles Dodgers star and 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger.

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It’s safe to say fans clearly favor one side in this showdown of sluggers.

Bellinger’s power is no joke, but he doesn’t hold a candle to Bonds’ prowess at the plate. 

This got us thinking, who would make the most formidable foe for Bonds in an imaginary home run derby?

Sticking with current players, there are plenty of viable candidates to challenge Bonds in a home run-hitting duel.

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. put on an absolute show in last year’s derby, smashing a ridiculous 40 home runs to overtake Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson in the second round. Guerrero Jr.’s dad famously won the 2007 derby at Oracle Park while playing with the Los Angeles Angels.

Another player who, if fully healthy, could give Bonds a run for his money is New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton. While he’s battled injuries in recent years, Stanton’s raw power and force he puts into each swing doesn’t have many parallels in any era of MLB.

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Completing the ideal foursome of participants would be Stanton’s New York teammate in outfielder Aaron Judge. The Fresno State product won the 2017 derby in an effort that included four home runs traveling further than 500 feet.

These four sluggers together all in their prime competing in one home run derby would be an unreal scene. There aren’t many in today’s game who even come close to Bonds’ strength in the box, but Guerrero Jr., Stanton and Judge are about as close as it gets.

Ex-Giant Javier Lopez recalls vivid details about facing Barry Bonds

Ex-Giant Javier Lopez recalls vivid details about facing Barry Bonds

It took more than a decade, but in 2015, Chase Utley finally got a hit off of Javier Lopez. In their 24th matchup, Utley hit a ball off Lopez's spikes and it rolled into left field, allowing Utley to reach second.

"He asked me to sign the ball while he was staring at me at second base," Lopez said. "We had a little laugh about it."

Their first matchup came all the way back in 2004, when Utley was with the Phillies and Lopez was in his second big-league season with the Rockies. Utley hit into a double play, and it never got any easier. He finished his career with one hit in 23 at-bats against Lopez, with 13 of those outs coming on the ground.

On this week's Giants Insider Podcast, Lopez said Utley was his favorite matchup among contemporaries. But over his entire career, the moment that really stood out in a left-on-left matchup came against a fellow Giant. Lopez soaked up Barry Bonds highlights while coming through the minors and got to face Bonds in his second month in the big leagues. 

Former Giant Bobby Estalella -- Lopez said the massive catcher's nickname was Chestalella -- was behind the plate for the Rockies and came running out to the mound when Bonds walked up. 

"I think he could tell my heart was beating through my jersey. He was like, 'Alright, calm down, just stay with me the entire time. We're going to throw breaking balls, the slower the better, because he cannot stay back. He's a tremendous hitter but he struggles with that pitch,'" Lopez recalled. "I was like, 'Whatever you put down I'm going to throw.' I remember I threw a fastball and they called it a ball and I'm walking back to the mound, I lick my fingers, I'm rubbing the ball, and Barry Bonds has not left the box. That was his thing, standing in there and just kind of wiggling his bat. I was like, 'Oh boy, here we go.'"

Lopez threw a couple of sliders and got a strike Bonds didn't like. Then he tried a fastball up-and-in and watched as Bonds pulled a missile foul. First baseman Todd Helton looked at him with a clear signal in his eyes: Don't throw that pitch again. Lopez went back to his sweeping breaking ball and Bonds swung through it and headed back to the dugout. Lopez watched him go. 

"I'm staring at Barry Bonds not because I'm some cool stud," he said. "I'm just like, 'That's Barry Bonds and I just got him out."

They faced off nine more times before Bonds retired, with the home run king picking up a double and two singles, but no bombs. Lopez struck Bonds out three times overall, something that naturally came up years later when they were both affiliated with the Giants. He recalled telling Bonds he had punched him out three times. Bonds asked how many times he homered and was told it never happened. 

"That's because you threw that sidearm cheating stuff," he replied. 

Lopez had his own legendary Giants career and is now one of the team's broadcasters. Bonds works for the team as an advisor and spends time with players in spring training. Lopez said the two still laugh about their matchups whenever they get together. 

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"He's such a great player," Lopez said. "Just to know that he's a small chapter in my book, my strikeout book -- it's a very short book -- but it's nice that he's got a page in it."

For more from Lopez on his big league memories, the current MLB proposal to the Players Association and his excellent walk-up songs, you can download the Giants Insider Podcast here or stream it here: 

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Barry Bonds closer comparison to Michael Jordan than Madison Bumgarner

Barry Bonds closer comparison to Michael Jordan than Madison Bumgarner

Michael Jordan and his exploits have dominated the internet for months since ESPN’s “The Last Dance” premiered. Comparisons and retrospectives have become a constant across social media. 

In that spirit, Bleacher Report tried to analyze who most closely resembles MJ’s legacy in MLB and identified two former Giants who possess Jordan-esque qualities: Madison Bumgarner and Barry Bonds.

For MadBum, his postseason dominance draws the closest parallels to Jordan. In over 100 innings of playoff pitching, Bumgarner has just a 2.11 ERA. That includes a dominant World Series in 2014 where MadBum closed out Game 7 with five scoreless relief innings, earning World Series MVP in the process. Bumgarner was critical to each of the Giants' three World Series titles over the past decade.

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Bonds, on the other hand, simply struck fear into the hearts of opponents in a way few athletes ever have. Teams were willing to walk players in with the bases loaded just to avoid giving up a grand slam to Bonds. His eye-popping seven NL MVP awards surpass Jordan’s five NBA MVPs, and the slugger owns all sorts of other league records. Bonds’ lack of a World Series makes this a tough comparison, but baseball is a completely different sport, and one player absolutely isn’t enough to win a championship. Bonds hit four home runs in the one World Series he ever appeared in, but the Los Angeles Angels managed to overtake the Giants in seven games.

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While neither player is a perfect correlation to Jordan, Bonds clearly is the closer comparison here. MadBum is phenomenal, but he’s never been considered the greatest player or even the greatest pitcher in MLB. Bonds was at the top of the sport for several years and is the greatest slugger the league ever has seen. 

As B/R's Jacob Schafer closes his article with, baseball doesn't have a person who perfectly matches up with Jordan's skillset, personality and impact on the sport.

One thing is for sure: both Bumgarner and Bonds could hit a baseball a heck of a lot better than Jordan ever did.