No Bonds? No Problem

Barry Bonds had the sniffles, disappointing a zealous crowd at Shea Stadium that didn't battle rush-hour traffic and the Mets' tiered ticket pricing plan to watch Jeffrey Hammonds play left field. <P> But back in the Mets clubhouse, Steve Trachsel wasn't shedding any tears. In fact, Trachsel gleefully showcased a San Francisco Giants lineup card that was missing its most dangerous, intimidating cog.

"I was pretty happy to have him out of there," said Trachsel, who mastered the Bonds-less Giants to the tune of one earned run in eight innings, leading New York to a 6-2 win Tuesday.

Trachsel walked four, which was probably four less than he would have if Bonds had played.

Clearly, Bonds was the story of the day, with a swelling media assemblage – likely the Mets' largest since Opening Day – dispatched to the ballpark to record his every move and utterance.

There was plenty of the latter, as Bonds embarked on a rambling, 45-minute group interview in which he addressed his desire to retire after the 2005 season, his ongoing situation with the BALCO investigations and his love-hate (heck, who are we kidding?) affair with the baseball news media.

With a nasally Bonds spewing out one abstract quote after another, it was easy to get lost in his world and ignore the Mets altogether. That would have been a mistake, as Trachsel's mastery on the mound and offensive surges from Kaz Matsui, Jason Phillips and Mike Cameron made it a fine night at the ballpark, Bonds or no Bonds.

After battling a sore wrist on a sluggish road trip, Matsui got hot with a 3-for-5 night, while Phillips continued to fight his slow start with a 2-for-3 showing, including two RBI. In the sixth inning, Cameron cracked his first Shea Stadium home run, a two-run shot off of losing pitcher Brett Tomko.

"It's a long ways out there," Cameron said. "I was halfway around the second base bag before I realized it was outta here."

The blast gave the Mets a 3-2 lead and sparked a four-run inning that chased Tomko to the showers. Cameron – unaware of the hyperactive theatrics Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez was simultaneously putting on in Cleveland during Boston's 7-6 loss to the Indians – made no secret of his enthusiasm for the bases-clearing blast.

"You get a big hit, it's OK to be excited about it," Cameron said. "It's still a game. It ain't that tough: just go out and try to have some fun."

Still, while the paid crowd of 30,532 was treated to a tight Mets effort (and two errors by one-time Met Edgardo Alfonzo – a rare sight in itself, if you recall Alfonzo's place in the 1999 ‘Greatest Infield Ever'), they missed out on seeing the great Bonds set foot into the batters box.

Bonds did approach home plate during batting practice, clutching his piece of lumber, but was intercepted by This Week In Baseball's Jennie Finch, who – wearing a Mets jersey with her familiar No. 27 – chatted up the superstar for nearly 30 minutes.

In case you were wondering, the Mets aren't going to give out refunds just because Barry needs a few Kleenex. For the moment, it's Finch 1, Fans 0.

Will Barry take the field tonight, or at all during this series? Only time will tell, but this is the first time the 39-year-old slugger can ever remember missing a series due to a cold.

All bets are off, but you can be sure that at least two Mets – neither of them named Jae Seo, tonight's starting pitcher – are hoping Bonds can pop a couple of pills (of the over-the-counter kind, of course) and satisfy those hungry eyes.

"He's a god," Phillips said. "You have superstars, and then there's Barry Bonds."

"Man, I want to see him play," Cameron added. "I don't care what he does, as long as we get the victory."

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