Saturday, October 26, 2002
Updated: October 27, 4:45 AM ET
Rooting for Bonds and Appier
By Rob Neyer
On the eve of Game 6, my local sports columnist wrote, "...What is important is how you conduct yourself, how you treat other people. If you choose to be pathologically obnoxious, what does it matter that you can hit a little round ball with a wooden bat? Bonds is on track to break Hank Aaron's career home run record. I think he will do it, perhaps within four years. But like Ty Cobb, his legacy will be carved in stone -- as the greatest player no one would follow out of a burning building."
It's nothing more than human to let your personal feelings get in the way of doing your job, and so I'm not surprised or particularly upset when a baseball writer loses sight of the bigger picture. But let's face it, this guy crossed a line.
I know that columnists aren't really required to be fair, and in fact we're sometimes discouraged from seeing both sides of whatever issue on which we're pontificating. But I read this column, and I was reminded why so many people don't trust the media.
And I wanted Barry Bonds to win a World Series.
Which presented something of a problem, because I also wanted Kevin Appier to pitch well. To win, even, which is something he hasn't done at all in October. In fact, it's almost something he hasn't done in October or September. Appier's last victory came on September 4. Against the Devil Rays. He won his start before that, too. Against the Devil Rays. For Appier's last non-Devil Rays victory, we must time-travel all the way back to August 24 -- two months and two days -- when he spun six shutout innings at Fenway Park.
See, Kevin Appier deserves to win. I've written about Appier's lousy luck a few times, so here's just a brief recap ... From 1990 through 1997 while with the Royals, Appier was one of the best pitchers in the American League. But nobody noticed, because he was stuck with lousy run support, year after year, and then with a manager who had no earthly idea how to keep him healthy. He got hurt, and has now spent four seasons trying to get back to where he'd been.
He's not there yet and probably never will be. But he is a good pitcher again, he helped the Angels get to where they are, and he deserves a fair measure of luck. Which makes him a fair representative of his franchise, come to think of it.
But then again ... there was Bonds. I know that some of you recognize the hypocrisy of the writers who have covered the Giants, or who have simply been asked to write a story about the game's greatest player. Barry Bonds is a bad guy because ... well, because he doesn't really care to waste his time with the scibes. Meanwhile, Jeff Kent gets a free pass because ... well, because he's friendly with the writers and spouts cliches like Nuke LaLoosh near the end of Bull Durham. What do you think the writers would write if Barry Bonds crashed his motorcycle and then lied about it (as Kent did). What do you think the writers would write if Barry Bonds made a snide comment about "queers" within earshot of half a dozen reporters (as Kent did).
You know what they'd write, don't you, if Barry Bonds did those things.
But Jeff Kent? Pass directly to GO, and do collect $200.
We'll not see Kevin Appier again -- he at least kept them in Game 6, so he's a popular fellow in Orange County this evening -- but these plucky Angels have won me over. I was pulling for them at the start of the Series, I switched my allegiance sometime during the middle games, and now I'm back aboard the Halo Haywagon.
But you know, I won't be at all sorry if the Giants win, especially if it sticks in the craw of every half-baked columnist who thinks that any player who doesn't like to answer questions should be forever branded as an Enemy of the People.
Me? I prefer to focus on who can hit the little round ball with the wooden bat, and who cannot.