Big Apple fans no big deal to Bonds

Big Apple fans no big deal to Bonds

NEW YORK -- The reception for Barry Bonds at Shea Stadium this weekend was tepid, to say the least.

There were no oversized syringes tossed on the field like Opening Night in San Diego. No fan arrested like April 17 in Phoenix for invading his space with a toothpaste-like tube. No thin Barry in his Pittsburgh days set against an overstuffed Barry from his alleged performance-enhancing-drug San Francisco days like early last month in Philadelphia.

"This [New York] was pretty weak," said Bonds, rolling his eyes with that "you've got to be kidding me" look. "It's much tougher in Los Angeles. I love the way the fans act out there. I just love it."

Oh, the Mets fans jeered the Giants slugger every time he came to the plate or caught a fly ball out in left field. They booed him when he jogged off the field for a pinch-runner in the eighth inning after going 0-for-4 in a 7-6, 12-inning San Francisco win over the Mets on Sunday. But that was just normal stuff even where Babe Ruth once ruled supreme. Armando Benitez, the former Mets closer who blew his third save opportunity of the season in the 10th for the Giants, was the object of more derisive fan rage.

In the city where Banner Day was once made famous, there weren't many. No one in the left-field bleachers attempted to match the creation at Citizens Bank Park that grew larger during each evening of that early May three-game sweep by the Phillies: "Babe Ruth did it on hot dogs and beer. Hank Aaron did it on class. How did you do it?"

In New York, like Philly, the jeers grew louder and were turned on the hometown teams when their respective managers opted to intentionally walk Bonds, thus depriving fans of perhaps seeing one of his epic home runs.

"It was less than I expected," said Giants manager Felipe Alou when asked about the anticipated Big Apple venom for Bonds. "I always said, people in this part of the world, they like homers. They are used to players hitting a lot of home runs -- even if they don't play for the local team."

Perhaps it was also a bit of PBS -- Post Babe Syndrome.

Since Bonds passed the Bambino into second on the all-time list with his 715th homer hit at AT&T Park on May 28, Bonds, the fans and even the media have been downright docile. Bonds, in fact, received a standing ovation from a crowd of 7,683 when he came up to bat to open the second inning Monday at Dolphin Stadium in his first appearance since hitting the milestone blast.

Bonds hasn't hit a homer since, going 14 plate appearances without one. Overall, he's hit only two homers in his last 83 plate appearances, including No. 714 on May 20 at Oakland.

It hardly seems to matter. Bonds has had a smile on his face all week. Told that he plays better when a bit agitated, Bonds dismissed the notion.

"I'm very happy right now," he said. "I don't ever want to get mad at anything again."

to the babe and beyond

Even so, Bonds' surgically repaired right knee was swollen again Sunday before the Giants took the field at Shea Stadium. This despite the fact that the 41-year-old Bonds had taken four days off this week -- two games in Florida, plus an off-day and rainout in New York.

"It's been the road trip from hell," Bonds said. "The weather started in Florida and it just killed us."

Friday's rainout was followed by a rain-delayed and continually drenched doubleheader split Saturday, during which Bonds played the first game and sat out the second until making another pinch-hit appearance against left-hander reliever Billy Wagner with none on and one out in the 10th inning of an eventual 3-2, 11-inning Giants loss.

Bonds had one of his better games in the opener, a 6-4 win, going 2-for-3 with two singles, two walks (one intentional), a run scored and a run batted in. Bonds, whose batting average had gone as low as .143 the first week of the season, was up to .262 after the doubleheader.

"I'm just trying to get my swing in gear," said Bonds, who has seven homers in the team's first 56 games.

The Wagner confrontation was highly anticipated, particularly since Bonds had hit a pinch-hit, game-tying homer (No. 711) against him the last time the two faced off April 16 at San Francisco.

This time, Bonds took three balls before Wagner came back in the strike zone for a called strike. The fifth pitch clocked at 99 mph and Bonds swung through it. On the next one, Bonds grounded out to second baseman Kaz Matsui playing in shallow right in the shift.

"I still hit it," Bonds said.

As he came back across the field, Bonds gestured and smiled at Wagner.

"We were just laughing at each other," Bonds said.

Asked whether he was surprised Wagner came after him in that situation, Bonds said: "The guy throws 100 mph. Have you ever known a guy who throws that hard not to come at you? That's what makes baseball fun."

On Sunday, Bonds' first three appearances were against Steve Trachsel, the Mets right-hander who allowed Bonds' 710th homer April 25, also at San Francisco. This time, Bonds grounded out twice into the shift and was hit by a pitch. His RBI fielder's-choice grounder in the eighth came off reliever Duaner Sanchez with the bases loaded and knocked in the team's second run.

As he jogged off the field toward the dugout, replaced on the bases by Jason Ellison, the last of the jeers cascaded from the 48,791 in the stands.

As he disappeared down the tunnel to the clubhouse, his words of earlier in the weekend reverberated. Asked about the negative responses he generally receives on the road, Bonds said: "I don't think it's been negative. I think it's been fun."

Asked why, Bonds added: "Because if I was in their uniform, they'd be cheering."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.