|Barry easily outslugs the Babe|
By Jason Whitlock
Page 2 columnist
As Barry Bonds hammers away at the myth that he's a poor postseason player, he's also hammering away at the myth that Babe Ruth should be regarded as the game's most legendary slugger.
Babe Ruth played before integration. It has always bothered me that, given the obvious impact of African-American and Latino ballplayers, we somehow manage to place pre-integration major-leaguers on the same accomplishment platforms as the post-Jackie Robinson players.
Babe, Ty Cobb, Josh Gibson and all the rest don't deserve it. I'm not saying they should be punished for our societal sins. But when we evaluate their performances, we should factor in that they performed in leagues (and I'm including Negro Leagues legends in this, too) that were significantly inferior to the league Bonds currently rules. Barry rules the world. Babe ruled White America.
Willie Mays can keep his "greatest player" title. Ted Williams deserves his "greatest hitter" crown. And, for now, Hank Aaron retains his "home run king" moniker.
But from now on, when we talk about baseball superstar, baseball legend, when we talk about the slugger who defined the game -- and please don't ever forget that baseball, like America's other national pastime, the adult entertainment industry, is a game defined by the man carrying the biggest stick -- we should begin the conversation with Barry, not Babe.
The one hole on Barry's résumé is quickly being filled. Barry allegedly couldn't produce at playoff time. Before this October, Barry had never won a playoff series. His postseason batting average was below .200. Barry was no Reggie Jackson.
Three home runs and a Game 5 victory over the Atlanta Braves signaled a change in that perception. Suddenly, Barry's critics had to give him credit for single-handedly carrying a very average squad to the NLCS. Have you studied the Giants' roster? For the most part, Bonds' supporting cast has been passed around the majors more than a phat blunt riding shotgun in Randy Moss' Lexus.
Second baseman Jeff Kent is a nice player. Closer Robb Nenn is solid. Dusty Baker is an outstanding manager. But the rest of these guys? Rich Aurilia, David Bell, J.T. Snow, Kenny Lofton, Reggie Sanders, Tom Goodwin, Shawon Dunston and a ho-hum starting pitching staff isn't exactly a New York Yankees-type supporting cast.
Wednesday night's NLCS Game 1 performance by Bonds was more proof that the knocks on the game's biggest star are unfounded. In leading the Giants to a 9-6 victory over the Cardinals, Bonds launched a 2-RBI triple, drew three walks, scored two runs and, more importantly, provided some much-needed intimidation when both benches cleared in the fifth inning.
Did Lofton overreact to Mike Crudale's inside fastball? Absolutely. But it was the perfect time for Lofton, Bonds and the Giants to overreact. They had control of the game on the scoreboard. St. Louis' ace Matt Morris was awful. He didn't have his good stuff from the get-go. The Giants got lucky. They're going to need more than luck to win this series. They need to seize emotional control of this series. The Cardinals have the better team.
That's why Barry was at home plate jawing with Cardinals, flexing his muscles and daring anyone in a red-and-white uniform to take a swing at the baddest slugger on the planet. Barry and the Giants need to turn this postseason into Barry's postseason. The Giants need to be the team of destiny, the "we-are-family" Pittsburgh Pirates. Or remember the Philadelphia 76ers squad that was determined to get Doctor J his NBA title?
If Barry wins the World Series, I'm planning to petition Congress to pass a law forbidding Babe Ruth's name to appear in the same sentence with Barry's.
Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for the Kansas City Star (kcstar.com), the host of a morning-drive talk show, "Jason Whitlock's Neighborhood" on Sports Radio 810 WHB (810whb.com) and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of The Sports Reporters. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.