Finally, Barry Bonds isn't just Bobby Bonds' son.
You might want to refer to him by his new title: National League Most Valuable Player. He was a near unanimous choice, receiving 23 of a possible 24 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers of America Association after his career year led the Pittsburgh Pirates to their first NL East Division title in 11 years."I knew I was capable of this, but there are so many great ballplayers out there, I didn't know if it would be this year," Bonds said Monday. "I just put it together in the right year."
In his first four major league seasons, Bonds tried unsuccessfully to reach the standards of excellence his famous father achieved while hitting 30 homers and stealing 30 bases in five different seasons.
Now, after enjoying the kind of season Bonds himself wasn't sure he had in him, he's making others guess how much better he can get. According to Pirates manager Jim Leyland, even an MVP can get better.
"Barry's maturing and coming of age," Leyland said. "He's a hungry player and his concentration is better than it's ever been. People say he's finally playing up to his potential, but, hey, he was a pretty good player before this season.
"Sometimes he goes off the deep end and wastes an at-bat here or there, and if he didn't do that, he could hit 40 homers."
That would put the 26-year-old Bonds in the 40-40 category with Jose Canseco, a class not reached even by Bonds' father. For now, Barry Bonds will have to be content being the majors' first 30-50-100 player.
Bonds, who had never hit higher than .283, batted .301 this past season. He'd never hit more than 25 homers, but he hit 33. He'd never driven in more than 59 runs, but he did that by July 8 and finished with 114. He'd never stolen more than 36 bases, but he stole 52 for the NL East champions.
He hit .377 with runners in scoring position - an incredible figure for any player, much less a player whose .103 career average with runners in scoring position in late-inning situations was the lowest in baseball, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"He had a monster year," said Bobby Bonilla, Bonds' teammate and the MVP runner-up.
The 1-2 finish by Bonds and Bonilla completed the Pirates' domination of the postseason awards. Leyland was voted the Manager of the Year and Doug Drabek (22-6) won the Cy Young Award. Dave Justice of Atlanta prevented a Pirates' sweep by winning the Rookie of the Year.
The only previous time Pittsburgh had the MVP and Cy Young winner in the same season was 1960, when Dick Groat and Vern Law did it. The Pirates' last MVP was Willie Stargell, who shared the 1979 award with Keith Hernandez of St. Louis.
The Killer B's, Bonds and Bonilla, wished they also could have shared the award. But, as Bonilla said, "It was Barry's year.""I wish I could share it with Bobby," Bonds said. "I wish I could split it down the middle."
Bonds received 331 of a possible 336 points. Bonilla got the other first-place vote and 212 points. Darryl Strawberry, formerly of the New York Mets who has since signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was third with 167 points.
No player has ever been so productive in so many categories in one season - he also scored 104 runs - but the 26-year-old Bonds won't guess how much higher he can take his numbers.
"I hit .500 in high school and people thought I should hit .600," he said. "I hit .350, .390 in college and people weren't satisfied. I've been in the majors since 1986, and people still say I'm not living up to my potential.
"I've had that stamp on me since Day One of my career. ... I didn't know if I could do it this year, but my father and (Pirates' conditioning specialist) Warren Sipe had me convinced I was invincible."
He's also lived with a famous last name. He doesn't rank up there with Mays or McCovey in Giants' folklore, but Bobby Bonds was one of the forerunners of the player of the '90s - the Cansecos, the Rickey Hendersons, the Eric Davises - who generate runs by the home run and the way they run.
Barry Bonds once considered his last name a curse, a cross to bear.
"I always got tired of hearing the same questions about my father, or being called Bobby," Barry Bonds said. "I didn't want to be known just because my dad was a major leaguer. I wanted to be known for what Barry Bonds could do.
"My father was my own worst enemy just because of the name. Now, he's my best friend."
When Barry hit his 30th homer to join the exclusive 30-30 club that is captained by his father, the Three Rivers Stadium scoreboard carried a congratulatory message from Barry's father and mother.
"I can talk to him better than I ever could before," Barry Bonds said. "Now I want to put all those father-son hitting records so far out of sight nobody will ever be able to touch them."
And you thought the Griffeys were baseball's only famous father-son combination.
"My ultimate goal is to make the Hall of Fame," Bonds said. "I don't want to do this just for one season or two seasons. I don't know if I can do that, but I do know that I can tell my kids and my grandkids someday that for six months, I was up there with the best of them."