The photo at left kind of tells the whole story about public reaction to Barry Bonds these days. You have the guy on the left screaming insults, the guy on the right applauding politely, the guy with the camera phone snapping a dark, crappy picture for posterity, and the guy in the front row, far right, who is just happy to be out of the house. They broke out the asterisks again on Monday, as the Barry Bonds Anti-Reality Tour swung through Houston for the first of a three-game series with the Clemens-less Astros.
We've actually kind of made our peace with the fact that Barry continues to wear a major league uniform. First of all, we're impressed that New Era makes hats in a size 9 3/4. Second, we appreciate that baseball needs an antagonist, and Bonds serves that purpose nicely. Every day on the road with the Giants is a Carnivale of the Bizzarre, with Bonds filling two roles: that of villain, and of course, bearded lady.
Astros fans came to play on Monday, as we knew they would. There was the guy with the "Ruth on 'roids: 1,048 home runs" sign. And high-decible booing. But Houston is going to have to up the ante in Games 2 and 3 if they want to climb the charts. Our ranking of Bonds-unfriendly venues so far this season:
• 7. Milwaukee. Sedate, barely showed a pulse. Although it was the field where Bonds was knocked loopy by a batting practice foul ball. (The batter, Kevin Frandsen, is now in the minors, by the way).
• 6. Colorado. Altitude makes it difficult for fans to get worked up about much of anything.
• 5. Los Angeles. Appropriate Bonds-hating zeal, but it was only a two-game series.
• 4. Arizona. Brought the goods in the opener, but tailed off thereafter.
• 3. San Diego. The first road series for Bonds gave us possibly the greatest single moment, as a disgruntled fan tossed a plastic syringe onto the field.
• 2. Houston. Close the roof, turn up the volume and make us proud. Also, we like any sign that subsitutes a syringe for the number 1.
• 1. Philadelphia. Phillies fans are going to be hard to top. They've built a cottage industry around hating Bonds, including t-shirt sales, and a guy selling foam "cheater" syringes.
Giants' road series we're genuinely looking forward to: New York, St. Louis, Oakland. Bring it, people!