Mar 13, 2014; Surprise, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (35) is congratulated by first baseman Mark Minicozzi (71) after scoring in the third inning against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Barry Bonds was in the San Francisco Giants’ camp for a week or so during spring training, and much was made of this fact. He was outgoing, he was on the field with the players, and he made himself quite visible, for everyone to see. The question is: Did Bonds really help the San Francisco Giants, or was it all just a media act, with Barry in the center of the camera’s focus?
Bonds has, indeed, helped Giants’ hitters. I had only to check out Brandon Crawford’s most recent post from the Brandon and Brandon blog, to get his take on whether Barry was a help or a hindrance. Crawford had this to say, “A highlight of spring camp was working with Barry Bonds. I was pretty terrible at the plate the first three weeks of camp but finished strong, and I think at least some of that credit goes to Bonds.”
Crawford’s issue was the way he was aligning his front shoulder while at the plate. He was standing behind the batting cage one day, while Bonds was explaining to Hunter Pence “about drills he could do to track the ball deeper. He [Bonds] told him to keep his front shoulder in so it didn’t fly open-which was exactly what I was just working on in the cage.” There seemed to be a comfort level established here, that a common problem could be addressed, so that all might benefit.
Though Barry Bonds could be aloof as a player, as a hitting instructor, he was able to get involved enough to suggest strategies for correcting hitting issues to Brandon Crawford.: Photo Credit: Mark Constantini, San Francisco Chronicle
Through Hensley (Bam-Bam) Meulens, Bonds had found out that Crawford was platooned much of the second half of last season against lefties. Bonds then shared with Crawford that he also struggled with lefties when he came up, and that it was not until after he had been in the league for three full seasons, that he “thought he became a consistent hitter.” As Crawford put it, “It was kind of cool hearing from Barry Bonds that it was only after his third full season that he thought he became a consistent hitter. This is my third season.”
Crawford continued, “Once I took a half a bucket of balls from our new left-handed BP pitcher. Half a bucket is a lot of balls. Bonds stayed at the cage the whole time. He told me to actually aim my shoulder at shortstop as kind of an exaggerated way to make sure I kept it closed. It was just a drill for BP, but he said to think about it during the game as a reminder.”
Crawford then explained, “It’s still a little uncomfortable, as all mechanical adjustments are, but I’m keeping my shoulder closed now without having to exaggerate it. There are times when I’ll take a swing and think, ‘Oh man, I flew open there a bit.’ The important thing is I am recognizing when I’m doing it and making the adjustment.”
Making adjustments. That’s what you do when the current program is not working as well as you might like. And Crawford’s numbers against lefties are not what he would like. Therefore, when he came up in the fifth inning of yesterday’s 7-3 drubbing of the D-backs, and knocked in both Hunter Pence and Gregor Blanco, with the sixth and seventh runs of the game, it felt good.
Bonds, Meulens, Sandoval, Aurilla, Morse discussing mechanics at BP on March 11, 2014. Photo by Denise Walos.
It felt good because the clutch hit came with two outs against lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith, and he connected solidly on a three-two pitch, singling into right field, and demonstrating that the adjustments that he has been working on, are paying off. These are the same adjustments about which Barry Bonds was giving him advice.
As a team the Giants are doing many of the things that contribute to offensive success that do not appear in the stats. They have scored 47 runs, 32 of them with two outs. That alone is astounding. They are hitting better with two strikes, and they are batting a league-leading .397 with runners in scoring position. I love the fact that this is happening, but I also want to attribute this success partially to the presence of so many great hitters, who were in camp this spring to help out the Giants. These included Jeff Kent, Randy Winn, JT Snow, Will Clark and of course, Barry Bonds.
Bonds seems to have helped out Brandon Crawford, and the team is certainly doing well, so I conclude that Bonds’s presence in camp this spring was beneficial and should continue in the future.
Brandon Crawford celebrates.