08/13/2002 00:54 am ET
Giles joins some elite company
By Ed Eagle / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- While former Pirate Barry Bonds has dominated the headlines recently by hitting 600th home run, it was current left fielder Brian Giles who joined an elite group of Bucs sluggers Monday night, a group, by the way, that does not include the great Bonds.
Giles' solo home run to right off of Cardinals reliever Steve Kline in the seventh inning gave him 30 for the season. Since being acquired from the Cleveland Indians during the 1999 season, Giles has hit 30 or more home runs in four consecutive seasons with the Pirates. In the 116-year history of the Pittsburgh franchise, only two other Pirates have ever accomplished this feat: Hall of Famers Willie Stargell and Ralph Kiner.
"He's a pretty special player," said Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon. "Tonight was a great accomplishment. I wish it would have happened on a winning night. It kind of got overshadowed a little bit."
Unfortunately for Giles, Monday's blast, like so many others in the past few seasons, came in a Pirates loss. As a player known for his team-first attitude, celebrating an individual accomplishment after watching his club lose 10-6 was difficult. But Giles did recognize the elite company that he had joined.
"They're Hall of Famers, and this organization has had some great players in it," said Giles. "It's special. Just to be mentioned in the same breath with those two is special. But right now, we're trying to win baseball games and hopefully the more home runs I hit will help us win more games."
In his four seasons with the Pirates, Giles has been the model of consistency. He has never hit fewer than 35 home runs or batted less than .309. His 2002 numbers should be even more impressive. Giles is on pace to hit 41 home runs -- no Pirate has hit as many since Stargell's 44 in 1973 -- and drive in 106 runs despite being on pace for more than 120 walks.
Not focused on the historical significance of his accomplishments, Giles prefers to keep his goals simple.
"(My goal is to) stay healthy and finish the year," he said. "It's such a weird game and numbers are so different year-in and year-out. But if you stay healthy you have an opportunity to be a consistent player and duplicate your numbers from the year before.
"I just want to stay healthy. I'm confident that if I go out there every day I am going to put up some good numbers."
Despite all of his gaudy statistics, Giles is one of the most underrated player in the game. He came into Monday night's game leading the National League in extra-base hits -- ahead of such notables as Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Lance Berkman, Vladimir Guerrero and Shawn Green -- yet did not even make the All-Star team.
"It's all about winning," he said. "The more you win, the more recognition the guys on your team get."
Giles has decided to wait until his playing days are over to look back at his accomplishments, preferring instead to focus on winning games at this point. According to his manager, he could have a very impressive career to reflect upon.
"He has a chance to do some (great) things in a Pirates uniform if he stays healthy," said McClendon. "As consistent as he is, he has a chance to become an elite Pirate."
Giles' 141 home runs place him seventh on the franchise’s all-time list. At 31, it is not unreasonable to believe he could continue at his current pace until his contract runs out after the 2006 season. By then, he could join the Pirates' 300-home run club, another elite group with just two members -- Stargell (475) and Kiner (301).
Ed Eagle covers the Pittsburgh Pirates for MLB.Com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.