I could not help but think of Barry Bonds Tuesday night. Bonds was not beloved in most ballparks outside San Francisco, and he took great pride in being particularly loathed in one.
“Dodger Stadium is the best show I ever go to in all of my baseball,” Bonds said in 2005.
“They say, ‘Barry sucks’ louder than anybody out there. And you know what?. . . You’ve got to have some serious talent to have 53,000 people saying you suck.”
Carlos Correa, welcome to the rest of your baseball life.
In Los Angeles, the team up north is commonly referred to as the “hated Giants,” a century-old rivalry with bitterness so ingrained that it survived a cross-country move.
Whatever hate fans might have had for Bonds with regard to steroids, and whatever hate might have been visited on him simply because he was the best player on the Giants, his team never deprived the Dodgers of a championship. In the 15 years Bonds played in San Francisco, the Giants never won a title. (In fairness, neither did the Dodgers.)
Correa is, was, and always will be a face of the 2017 Houston Astros, the cheaters that won the World Series that year — against the Dodgers. In the spring of 2020, after commissioner Rob Manfred sanctioned the Astros for high-tech sign stealing in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Cody Bellinger said, “Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.”
Bellinger also suggested the Astros were cheating in 2019, to which Correa shot back: “If you don’t know the facts, then you’ve got to shut the f— up.”
Later in 2020, the pandemic struck, and Dodger Stadium was closed to fans for the season. Dodgers fans showed up anyway when the Astros came to town, standing outside the ballpark to jeer Correa and the rest of his teammates as the team bus drove past.
And now Correa plays for the hated Giants, on a contract that extends through 2035. There are kids yet to be born whose parents are going to have explain why they are booing him, at a time so far in the future that two of Clayton Kershaw’s kids will be old enough to vote.
“They don’t boo nobodies,” Reggie Jackson once said.
Correa is somebody, the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, and the newly proud owner of the richest contract ever awarded to an infielder.
From Willie Mays and Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal, to Will Clark, Jeff Kent and Bonds, and then to Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, the Giants have thrived on star power. Correa is the next star up.
First things first: The Giants are a better team today than they were yesterday. Correa is not going to close the 30-game gap between the Giants and the Dodgers with one swing, but the Giants had one player that hit 20 home runs last season. The Dodgers had five.
The money — $350 million over 13 years — is not a stretch for the Giants. San Francisco is a revenue powerhouse as it is, and team executives are practically salivating at the increasingly likely possibility that the Oakland Athletics will move to Las Vegas or elsewhere and leave the entire Bay Area for the Giants.
In the meantime, Correa will help lure fans back to Oracle Park. The Giants sold 2.5 million tickets last season, the lowest in the 21 years the ballpark has been fully open to fans. The well-traveled Dodgers fans happily turned Oracle Park blue.
At shortstop, the Giants have a two-time All-Star in Correa and a three-time All-Star in Brandon Crawford. The San Diego Padres have five shortstops on their roster: Xander Bogaerts at $280 million, Manny Machado at $300 million and Fernando Tatis Jr. at $340 million, plus Jake Cronenworth and Ha-Seong Kim.
The Dodgers could use a shortstop. So could the Angels, for that matter.
Dansby Swanson is out there, the last of the big four shortstops on the market, and then the free-agent class drops to the likes of Elvis Andrus and Jose Iglesias. Spring training does not start for two months, so we’ll see.
What takes some of the air out of the anticipatory Correa balloon is the new schedule. In 2023, with division rivals playing four series instead of six, the Giants do not visit Dodger Stadium until the season is almost halfway done.
But rest your lungs, Dodgers fans: the Giants come to town on the third weekend in June, followed the very next weekend by the Astros.