© St. Petersburg Times, published April 7, 2002
In major-league clubhouses across the country last week, Barry Bonds commanded attention on televisions throughout the league in San Francisco's opening series against the Dodgers.
Jim Tracy, however, got a first-hand look at the spectacle that was Bonds.
"The more you watch him, the more you reflect on what he's done," the Dodgers manager said. "He's beginning to make a case for himself that he's arguably the best player ever to play the game."
After setting major-league records for walks (177), home runs (73) and slugging percentage (.863), Bonds began the 2002 season by joining Eddie Mathews as the only major-league players to hit four homers in the first two games of a season.
Mathews did it in 1958.
"That's what superstars do," Giants manager Dusty Baker said. "It's kind of past surprising."
Bonds, who needed 21 homers to pass Frank Robinson for fourth on the all-time list before the season began, had never had more than one RBI on any of his 16 previous opening days. He finished the series 6-for-8 with 1 double, 3 walks, 4 homers, 6 runs and 9 RBIs
"He's spoiling us right now," Giants pitcher Russ Ortiz said. "You come to the park, and he's one of the people you come to see just to see if he's going to do something exciting. You just shake your head and say he's an unbelievable player. He's capable of doing things that nobody else has done before."
BEANTOWN BLUES: Were he somebody else, Pedro Martinez might be fighting to keep his spot in Boston's starting rotation.
The Red Sox's ace, who went 2-1 with a 6.62 ERA during spring training, makes his second start today against Baltimore, five days after a horrid opening-day performance. He allowed seven earned runs on nine hits, walked two and hit two Blue Jays batters.
"Who knows if I'm going to be okay," Martinez said.
He spent the offseason rehabbing his right shoulder, in which a slight tear and fraying of the rotator cuff was discovered last year, and added 14 pounds of muscle to his upper body.
"I know you guys are spoiled," he told Boston reporters. "You expect me to be the same way all the time, the same way I used to be. So far, I've had a bump in the road, and I have to overcome that and go back to where I was. A lot of people should just be more patient. It's not that easy."
ROWDY NIGHT: The Expos drew a raucous 34,351 for their 7-6 season opening win against the Marlins at Olympic Stadium.
"It felt like it was the World Series," said Marlins outfielder Cliff Floyd, who played two full seasons with the Expos in 1994 and 1996. "That was the loudest I've ever heard it in Montreal. Thirty-five thousand sounded like 75,000."
Apparently, their primary motivation wasn't cheering for the home team.
Fans displayed signs expressing disdain for Jeffrey Loria, who owned the Expos for 21/2 years before selling them and purchasing the Marlins. They threw plastic beer bottles, sodas and candy bars at Marlins players. They ran onto the field, on top of the Marlins dugout and shook a foul pole.
"I got dumped on -- beer, water, Coke," Eric Owens said. "Amazing. I told them I wasn't hungry or thirsty, but they kept throwing. A lot of people in Montreal have a lot of hatred. I think it's the cold weather."
A RING THING: Sent out to pick up his dad's world championship ring, 6-year-old Gehrig Schilling accidentally dropped it on the ground as he walked back to join Diamondbacks players during a pregame ceremony last week.
One wonders if Curt Schilling's son could have even lifted Mike Morgan's ring. The veteran reliever wears a size 12, but got his $9,000 championship ring sized at 15 1/2.
"So I could get more gold," he said.
ODDS AND ENDS: Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood improved his lifetime mark against the Reds to 6-0 with a 1.34 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 47 innings. ... The Mariners dropped out of first for the first time since the end of the 2000 season after losing the opener to the White Sox. ... For the first time, Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-12 in his first three games of a season. ... Randy Johnson no longer is the tallest to pitch a major-league game. That record belongs to Jon Rauch, the White Sox's 6-foot-11 fifth starter, who pitched 1 1/3 perfect innings Wednesday.
THE LAST WORD: Unnerved by commissioner Bud Selig's complaints about the Forbes magazine report that showed 20 of 30 major-league teams made money last season, Twins player representative Denny Hocking had this to say about Selig: "Gee, should I believe a magazine that spends 365 days a year researching finances, or someone who has zero credibility?"
-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.