Barry Bonds was hated by most baseball fans. He was hated by some IN baseball. You would never hear anyone deny his talent however. Even his harshest critics claimed Bonds was a surefire first ballot Hall of Famer before all the steroid nonsense came about. But boy, did Bonds get it from every direction. Fans, the media, teammates, ex-players... Bonds was always a hot topic. He was vilified and respected. Hated and beloved. But no matter what view you had of Bonds, you simply had to watch.
Bonds was a circus attraction. From the beginning of his career when he was getting in yelling matches with Jim Leyland in Pittsburgh to his final season in San Francisco where he broke the all time home run record, Barry Bonds was THE main event. During the peak of Bonds's career, the Giants were a huge draw in road stadiums. How could a man so hated bring so many to the park? Well, he did.
AT&T Park was built practically by and for Bonds. While other teams fans hated everything about him, Giants fans (and previously Pirates fans to a certain extent until he left) showered him with nothing but adoration. The bleacher creatures often did the Wayne's World "We're not worthy" any time #25 stepped out to left field.
It was with good reason. Bonds produced like no other player when he was between the lines. For most of his career, that was in San Francisco. Most non-SF fans loathed Bonds but none more than Los Angeles Dodgers fans. I mean, could you blame them?
That little dance above was against the Dodgers, as many of you will remember. Bonds was never short on flare. He was the best in the game, he knew it, and he acted like it. He always put on a show and he wasn't afraid to hot dog it to prove it. In other words, he didn't give anyone outside his home fans a reason NOT to hate him. He even rubbed some teammates the wrong way.
Which leads me to the subject of this blog entry. Is Yasiel Puig the new Barry Bonds?
It's a legitimate question. Puig, as far as I can tell, is universally despised by everyone that is not a Dodgers fan. Well, except for ESPN, who seems to love the guy almost as much as they love(d) Brett Favre. Like Bonds, Puig seems to have detractors within his own organization, namely his manager Don Mattingly and Dodgers broadcast icon Vin Scully who at times can't seem to fathom the antics he's seeing on the field daily by the young Cuban. He's allegedly already had to apologize to teammates multiple times for his transgressions and let's not forget he was scratched from the Opening Day line-up this year because he was late to the ballpark. On Opening Day.
But like Bonds, no one can deny his talent. In his rookie season he hit .319 with a near .400 OBP and a .925 OPS. He chipped in 11 steals and had 8 outfield assists. His arm has already been compared to one of the best recent right fielding arms of this generation in Vladimir Guerrero and he loves to show it off. So far in 2014, Puig is hitting a cool .340 with a .430 OBP and a 1.036 OPS. And oh yeah, he was named player of the month for May after batting .398 with a .492 OBP and setting the Los Angeles record for hits in a month (43) during that period.
Now, Bonds played 22 seasons and put up extraordinary numbers in almost all of them. He finished his career with 14 All Star appearances and 7 MVP's. Not to mention he's the all time home run king and is the only member of the 700/500 club. Puig barely missed the All Star game in his rookie season but undoubtedly will be named to the squad this year. Regardless, he has a long ways to go to even come close to what Bonds accomplished.
With that being said, Puig seems to be the best candidate out there to become MLB's next great villain. He has all the makings: the attitude, the talent, the showmanship, and the ego. ESPN loves him now but if he blows off the media or makes enemies with them, it wouldn't be so hard to imagine them turning on him. Baseball hasn't had a supervillain since Bonds retired. Ryan Braun REALLY tried to become that guy but gosh darn it, the guy just seems too likable no matter how many times he gets caught cheating or throwing innocent people under the bus to try to save his own skin. Albert Pujols definitely had the talent but he was way too boring. Modest. Hard to root against a guy like Pujols.
But now there's Puig. On Twitter, I use #DouchePuig to refer to anyone or anything that is douchey. Kind of seems fitting. Douchebag and DouchePuig sound kinda sorta similar, right? And I'm a Giants fan. So of course I can't stand him. Especially not when he and our ace pitcher seem to hate each other as well.
So after years and years of Dodgers fans having to endure Barry Bonds, the tables may have turned. It is now Giants fans who must endure Yasiel Puig. Hey, what goes around comes around, right?
And I guess the silver lining here is that with Bonds, the Giants never won a World Series. So despite all the angst he brought Dodgers fans that we, as Giants fans, reveled in we never truly got the last laugh because we never won. Not until 2010 and 2012 of course. So let the Dodgers have their Puig. I mean, he was the player of the month for May. But the Giants had the perfect complement... the pitcher of the month for May: Mr. Madison Bumgarner. And oh yeah, the best record in baseball to boot.
So sure, Puig may terrorize us for seasons. But as long as he truly follows in Bonds footsteps and doesn't produce a ring for Los Angeles, then in the end, the Giants still come out on top. Especially if we can add on to that San Francisco 2-ring total.