Baseball: Giants profit from Bonds' double dividend: An MVP-in-waiting lights up Candlestick Park. Richard Weekes reports

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

History will need no prompting to record the contribution Barry Bonds has made to the long march of the San Francisco Giants this season. The left fielder has underlined his exceptional ability to hit with both power and control: he leads the majors in home runs and has a shot at winning the league batting averages. The figures tell the story, and they add up to National League MVP in October.

Yet his father, Bobby Bonds, the Giants hitting coach, could make an equally convincing claim to the MVP award. He could, but he won't, because while Barry likes to strut his stuff, Bobby is quite content to take a back seat.

'I'm not looking for credit,' Bonds Snr said last week. 'My job is to teach hitting, to get the best out of each individual, to see things they may be doing wrong and try to correct them. They hit the baseball, I don't'

Thanks to Bobby Bonds's tuition since he joined the team last winter, there are not many things the Giants are doing wrong at the plate this year. Not since the Fillmore West was in its pomp has a San Francisco line-up swung to such effect.

It was in spring training in Arizona that Bonds began to make his 'minor adjustments' to the team's hitting. 'Darren Lewis,' he recalls, 'we developed his bat speed to get his bat through the strike zone a bit quicker . . . Royce Clayton, he needed to shorten up his swing, stay in the proper position longer . . . Matt Williams, we opened up his stance, changed the direction of his hands so he was able to see the ball a lot better . . .'

The figures tell the story. The eight members of the Giants' regular starting line-up (excluding the pitcher) are batting on average .311 this season, nearly 50 points better than their 1992 average of .262. That translates into first place in the NL West, leaving even the much-fancied Atlanta, with their Fab Five pitching rotation, a distant second. 'This year has been a tremendous thrill,' Bonds Snr said. 'We're right where we want to be.'