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Barry Bonds talks Miggy, Leyland, dumb questions

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Barry Bonds looks different in a Miami Marlins uniform.

Some things, though, never change. Like, for instance, his humility, or lack thereof.

“Are you serious?” Bonds, now the Marlins hitting coach, said when asked if Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera is the better hitter of the two.

“Not even close.”

Wait, not even close?

“He’s close,” Bonds said, backtracking as much as you’d ever expect him to. “But he’s not a better hitter than me, no.

“That’s like putting us in a rival that doesn’t need to be there. I don’t think that’s right to do, I think that’s a cheap shot for both of us, but if you want to write it, go ahead and do what you want.

“He’s a great hitter.”

Bonds, 51, baseball’s all-time home-run king with 762 from his 22-year career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants, spoke to a group of Miami and Detroit reporters for about 8 minutes before Tuesday’s series opener at Comerica Park.

And the conversation was exactly what you’d expect.

Bonds suggested just about every question was a dumb question, but still was gold for reporters mining for nuggets to write about.

“Like, am I a better hitter than Tony Gwynn? Hell no,” Bonds said. “Am I better hitter than Ichiro (Suzuki)? No.

“No way, I know where I stand.”

Cabrera, 33, obviously was an easy jumping-off point in the chat with Bonds, who is back in baseball in an official capacity for the first time after he retired following the 2007 season, in which he broke Hank Aaron’s career home-run record.

Cabrera is regarded as the greatest hitter on the planet today, as Bonds was often referred to as such during his playing days.

“His IQ is better than most,” Bonds said. “He’s in that league, that IQ.”

While Bonds might not concede Cabrera is the better hitter of the two, he acknowledged the feat Cabrera accomplished — a Triple Crown in 2012 — that eluded Bonds, even though he did have some close calls along the way.

“It’s a hard feat to do, to be able to be that complete of a hitter,” Bonds said. “That’s pretty impressive.”

Then the questioning turned to Cabrera’s swing, particularly what Bonds — now a hitting coach paid to analyze other peoples’ swings — thought of it.

And that’s when Bonds decided he had enough.

“We’re asking dumb questions,” Bonds said. “He’s (bleeping) great, that’s it. Let’s move on to something else now that’s more challenging than Cabrera.

“To me, he’s (bleeping) great.”

Bonds said he’s been impressed with Cabrera since he debuted with the Marlins as a teenager in 2003, and they have become good friends in the years since.

But Bonds prefers to spend his time and energy focusing on the younger hitters of today, especially the Marlins’, like Giancarlo Stanton or Marcell Ozuna.

“He can be the Cabrera of the young age now,” Bonds said of Stanton. “That’s what’s fun to see, that’s what I like to see, the younger guys. You see yourself in those guys, ‘Wow, I remember those days.’

“That’s what I like to reminisce about.”

Bonds also likes watching Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, but not Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, because, as he says, “They come on at a different time.”

Allrighty, then.

Among the other questions Bonds called “crazy” or “false”:

■How the reaction has been around the league to his return to baseball, after all the steroid talk that has dogged him over the years: “That’s kind of a crazy question.”

■About the notion that the best players don’t make good coaches, because they expect every pupil to be as good as them: “Such a false statement that you guys make.”

Bonds, who laughed often while dismissing many of the reporters’ questions, did appreciate one or two of them, though.

Specifically, Bonds got serious and softer-spoken when asked about his former manager, Jim Leyland. The two had one of the most famous run-ins in sports — in a oft-played YouTube clip, Leyland, in his first managerial gig with the Pittsburgh Pirates, was caught on camera cussing out Bonds, who was moping about a contract situation.

While managing Detroit Leyland never spoke ill of Bonds. In fact, he often defended him, as the scrutiny from fans and those around baseball grew louder.

“We’ve been friends forever. The best manager for me when I first came up,” said Bonds, acknowledging he had other good managers, including Dusty Baker and Felipe Alou.

“He brought the best out of me, which I liked.”

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter.com: @tonypaul1984