It's a different Giants team and a different Giants organization since Barry Bonds has been gone. No longer are the Giants a team full of aging veterans past their prime like Omar Vizquel and Dave Roberts (if Roberts ever had a prime that is. I'm still wondering when it was).
Nowadays, we more closely resemble the Oakland A's than the Barry Bonds-led Giants teams of old. We rely on our own farm system guys to fill our lineup instead of signing a plethora of questionable free agents in the offseason (And in the irony of ironies, the Oakland A's look more like our old Giants teams, with aging stiffs like Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Giambi withering away on their roster).
And it's a good thing. We may not score as many runs as those Bonds-led Giants teams (we are currently third-to-last in the Major Leagues in runs scored), but things aren't as glum as they were a year ago. Last year, we were battling out with Roberts and Jose Castillo in the lineup.
Now though, we may have our future slugger in Pablo Sandoval, and we have plenty of good young players with pop like Nate Schierholtz and Buster Posey, who is one year away from making "the jump."
And if that isn't good enough, we have the best two pitchers in the National League, maybe in baseball. Tim Lincecum is making an argument that he is a candidate to repeat as the NL Cy Young Award winner.
Fellow young ace Matt Cain is doing his share to prevent that by trying to win his first. And collectively, both these guys have made our pitching dominating night in and night out as they lead Major League Baseball in fewest runs allowed.
Yes, it is a different team without Barry. There is a youthful dominance on the field and in the clubhouse that brings a happiness to the ballpark that hasn't been seen in quite a while. San Francisco fans don't show up anymore just to see Barry. They come to the ballpark to see the Giants, plain and simple.
No longer are post-game interviews painful for media and fans watching on TV alike. Instead of frowns, one sentence cliches and hostility (as always was the case with Barry), we have energy and genuine love for this team (even though RJ can be a little hostile from time to time, but compared to Barry he looks like Nick Swisher).
And for the sake of Giants fans, management and players, the media circus surrounding Barry has left town with the legendary slugger. Barry Zito doesn't feel the pressure of answering what he thinks about steroids and Bonds.
Manager Bruce Bochy can finally answer questions about how the team is playing instead of how Barry is feeling. Brian Sabean can finally try to get players that fit this team, instead of players that will fit around Barry.
Two years later after he broke Aaron's record, we are finally rid of the Barry "hoopla." We are just a regular ballclub trying to win games and make the playoffs, and no longer the club that houses the most despicable player in baseball since Ty Cobb.
But for some reason...I can't fully embrace this Giants organization without Barry Bonds. I know if we had Barry in the lineup we wouldn't be third to last in the MLB in runs scored.
I know that our offense would be more exciting with Barry swinging a bat, for it is a fact that his presence made players in the lineup better than they actually were (Rich Aurilia and Jeff Kent are prime examples of this).
And for all the hate, abuse and finger-pointing Barry took in his tenure here in San Francisco, I kind of miss defending the guy. I miss how every baseball fan in America hated Barry Bonds and we, as Giants fans, defended him somewhat because he was...well...a Giant.
Never did Barry go out and tank a game like Manny Ramirez because he wanted to be traded. Never did Barry publicly blast Sabean when the Giants were losing in his last couple of years there. He saved his words and stayed loyal to the organization, even as it deteriorated around him.
When the Giants decided to part ways after the 2007 season, Bonds felt slighted because he felt the Giants "were his team." Maybe he felt this way because he knew no team in baseball would be able to handle the PR hell of handling him other than San Francisco, which had been doing so for the last five years in his tenure as a Giant.
But maybe, just maybe, he liked being a Giant. Maybe, his heart was in San Francisco and it pained him that he was being forced to leave. Maybe he felt that he had unfinished business in San Francisco, and that he needed to accomplish one more thing before he finally called it a career.
(And for the record, I think that one last thing was winning a championship for the Giants. After passing Aaron's record, I believe he realized he had concentrated so much on individual accolades that he kind of took down the Giants with his self-centered attitude.
I believe he wanted to stay in San Francisco because he wanted to repay them for sticking with him as he chased the records by helping them winning a championship.
But since the Giants let it be known that they weren't bringing him back almost immediately after he broke Aaron's record, we'll never know for sure because he was so mad that they couldn't wait until after the season to let their plans be known).
I'm not going to lie...I miss Barry Bonds a little. I miss his incredible bat. I miss his patience at the plate that went unrivaled in Major League Baseball. I miss the crowds cheering him on as he took the field.
Barry Bonds showed that if you stayed loyal with a city and an organization, that it didn't matter how despicable you were, or how bad you cheated baseball. The fans would embrace you.
And can you blame us? Giants fans have been slighted more times than we can last remember.
Will Clark walked out on us on free agency to go play for Texas. Jeff Kent crying on the day he was introduced as a Dodger is the most painful image I will ever see in my life considering he used to be my favorite player on the Giants, and was a player I idolized back in Little League.
Barry would have never done what Kent did. Even if he went to another team, I have no doubt in my mind he still would have been grateful to San Francisco. Maybe not a lot, but a little. And a little from Barry Bonds, a guy who is considered the most insensitive prick on earth, is good enough for me.
Maybe our team is better without Bonds. Maybe they wouldn't be as loose as they are currently out on the field today if Barry and his four locker space still was occupied in the Giants clubhouse. In the end, it was the right decision to not resign Barry after the 2007 season. We had to move on. Every team does.
But I remember him last year coming back to AT&T before a Dodgers game and being introduced along with other All-Time Giants such as his godfather Willie Mays. I recall him looking and pointing to the Dodgers dugout.
"It's weird for me not to be in uniform with the Dodgers right there. You heard me Torre, I beat you before and I can beat you again."
After he said those words, for a couple of seconds, I wanted Barry back. I wanted Bochy to give Bonds a uniform and bat right there with Joe Torre and the rest of Dodgers looking and say "Do your thing Barry."
I think a lot of the fans felt the same way too. It was a moment we hadn't seen from a Giant since Matt Williams in the early 90's. Bonds talked trash to the Dodgers because he wanted to show he truly was a Giant, and he wanted to be back playing in a Giants uniform. And I was all for it. I was more than willing to bring Barry back, warts and all.
Only for a couple of seconds though.