We have gone back in time enough now to reach the final season of Barry Bonds in The House That Steroids Built miniseries. We have shown that Bonds was very underappreciated by MVP voters in his time, and how that led to his use of PEDs. This was his final, fateful season in San Francisco with the Giants before he limped off into the irrelevant sunset of his own design.
This was the first season of Manager Bruce Bochy and his time in the City by the Bay, and we can see the transition between Bonds and the organization philosophy necessary to pay off debt and recapture an immoral, bandwagon fan base. Read on to see the connections in a 71-win season that all but broke the bank in San Francisco.
Exhibit A: Barry Bonds
We’re including him now, because we can. There’s little to say here that has not been said already, of course, but at age 42, Bonds was kept viable for marketing purposes as he closed in on Hank Aaron and his hallowed home run record. He still hit better than he did at age 26, in fact, even though he was on his last legs in the sport, thanks to “injuries” that cost him most of 2005. Truth? Bonds was just worn out.
His 132 walks, .480 OBP, and 43 IBBs still led the National League, however, while his defense (-1.5 dWAR) was a career worst. Everyone knew he was a statue in left field at this point, anyway. Most of us knew it back in 1992, even though he somehow kept winning Gold Gloves until 1998. He defense was never good after the 1991 season, in truth.
The fact Bonds posted more HRs (26) and a higher OPS (1.045) at age 42 than he did at age 26 (25 HRs, .924 OPS) says a lot about just how much this man altered his natural body chemistry in order to prove something to himself and the world. He will remain a disgrace to baseball until the end of the time, and the Giants enabled it for financial reasons without punishment. Why would they ever change?!
Exhibit B: Randy Winn
At age 28 with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Randy Winn was an All Star with an .821 OPS. Then he spent three almost three seasons with the Seattle Mariners, playing slightly better than he had in Tampa (.762 OPS in 416 games, compared to .743 OPS in 519 games). Before the end of the 2005 season, however, the Seattle dumped his slumping bat (.733 OPS in 102 games) on the desperate S.F. organization.
You know this story, as you have heard it before: Old guy fades elsewhere, but ends up in The House That Steroids Built and plays his best ball ever! Winn somehow posted a 1.071 OPS in 58 games to end the 2005 season with the Giants, and they rewarded him with a 4-year contract that eventually paid Winn—at age 32, no less—almost $29M (!) before the team dumped him after the 2009 season.
In 666 games with San Francisco (make your own jokes), Winn posted a .776 OPS in a notorious pitcher’s park to be at his best during his age 32-35 seasons, when his decline that began in 2003 at age 29 should have continued—and steeply. But no, Winn turned back Father Time rather readily, and we’re sure the fact he played in the outfield with Bonds had something to do with it.
Exhibit C: Dan Ortmeier
This utility man made his MLB debut in 2005 with San Francisco at age 24, and in 2005-2006 combined, he put up a .176/.263/.206 slash line. Somehow, though, in 2007, he posted a .287/.317/.497 slash line, seemingly out of nowhere. He’d had 1 extra-base hit in 2005 and 2006 combined, but suddenly, Ortmeier ripped 17 XBHs. That SLG improvement was shocking, considering his .421 SLG in the minors.
Alas, it did not last: In 2008, Ortmeier reverted to a .219/.315/.313 slash line and was never seen in the major leagues again, despite signing with Colorado before the 2009 season. Somehow, the Giants gave up on him, just like that. With any other club, we might argue that Ortmeier just got lucky with some hard-hit balls in 2007, and it was all a fluke. And maybe it was.
But in The House That Steroids Built, we see a guy—desperate to hang on to his fledgling career—dipping his toe into the pool before realizing it just was not his thing. You cannot fault us for being skeptical of every little anomaly we see here, either. The pattern is clear.
Exhibit D: Brad Hennessey
This is another guy we suspect tried to get with “the program” to save his career before realizing he just couldn’t do it. From 2004-2006, Hennessey posted a 4.54 ERA over 62 games and 252 innings. Then, in 2007, he miraculously learned how to pitch! At age 27, he entered his prime with a 3.42 ERA in 68 1/3 innings, appearing in 69 games exclusively as a reliever and notching 19 saves. The Giants had a closer!
Or not, for the next year, Hennessey forgot how to pitch … throwing up a 7.81 ERA in 17 games over 40 1/3 IP. The Giants released him after the 2008 season, and he never pitched in the major leagues again. So what happened during this 2007 season, where his ERA was 1.25 runs lower than his career mark?
Hennessey’s control was a career best during this 2007 season, too, so maybe it was a fluke. However, to repeat ourselves a little bit, we are skeptical of flukes in San Francisco since they seem to happen so often and in literally the same fashion over and over again.
Exhibit E: Vinnie Chulk
We get one for the thumb today. And it’s another guy who had a career year out of nowhere in 2007 and then quickly regressed to anonymity and oblivion. From 2003-2006, Chulk posted a 4.40 ERA in 157 1/3 IP with the Toronto Blue Jays—nothing special at all. But the Giants traded for him, and in his 28 appearances with them in 2006, he posted a 5.24 ERA. He stunk.
Of course, in 2007, Chulk suddenly figured out how to pitch to major-league hitters: His 3.57 ERA in 57 games was a career low, and at age 28, maybe he was just finding his prime as an MLB pitcher, right? Nope. Because in 2008, he went back to his old habits with a 4.83 ERA in 27 appearances, and San Francisco released him in the offseason. He barely pitched again in the majors.
Overall, his career ERA (4.51) looks awfully high in comparison to his one-year brilliance in San Francisco, doesn’t it? Again, if he suddenly learned how to pitch, then he suddenly forgot, too. Also, if it was the new coaching staff, did they suddenly lose their touch in 2008? Neither narrative makes sense, and if you rule out the endless string of fluke performances in The House That Steroids Built? Right.
Conclusion: The patterns keep showing up, and it was never “the coaching staff” … ever
This was the third straight losing season for the Giants after they just missed the postseason in 2004 by one game at the end. The debt was real, and the S.F. organization knew it couldn’t milk Bonds for much more after he broke Aaron’s record. They brought in a manager with a history of PED enablement, and the Giants just continued with business as usual—minus Barroid, of course.
We know how it all turned out, as we’ve been through every season from this one to the present day to demonstrate the clear pattern of ridiculous performances that meet no statistical rationale or explanation. We know it wasn’t the coaching staff, either, outdoing the opponents. That myth is a joke, and we’ve shredded it 100 times here already.
There is only the obvious to conclude in The House That Steroids Built—as usual.