It isn’t often I will characterize a panel discussion between Steve Phillips, John Kruk, Dusty Baker and Karl Ravech as must-see television, but Sunday’s early edition of ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” featured the hottest debate since Admiral Stockdale posed the rhetorical question, “who am I?”

Phillips proposed that if Barry Bonds fails to pass Hank Aaron’s career HR mark during the Giants’ current 7 game homestand (starting tonight against John Smoltz and the Braves), SF should sit the Sultan Of Surly for the entire 6 game road trip following, “for the good of baseball.”

Zipper Problem Steve’s logic went something like this : at least Barry will be warmly received at home. Were he to break the record in LA or San Diego, however, “things could get ugly” warned the former Mets GM.

The resulting expressions on the faces of Kruk and Baker could not have been more quizzical had Phillips suggested the age of consent be lowered to 9.

I’ll let the SF Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins pick it up from here :

The Giants long ago trashed any notion of integrity when it came to Bonds and the 2007 season. As soon as they signed him, they relegated everyone else on the team to interested (or some cases, incensed) spectators. There would be no “team,” and the team’s current last-place standing is the perfect residue of such madness.

Sitting out Bonds against two N.L. West contenders, however, is going way over the edge. As Kruk pointed out, the Giants would essentially be telling Arizona and Colorado they have no chance, they’re irrelevant, they shouldn’t care what happens with the Dodgers or Padres. Host Karl Ravech might have made the best point, saying the record has to be real, that if it happens on the road, and people are booing, well, that’s just how it falls sometimes.

Trying to explain the rationale from the Arizona-Colorado end, Phillips studied a sheet of numbers and announced that the Giants play better when Bonds isn’t in the lineup. Well, for one thing, they’re resolutely awful whether he’s playing or not. And it’s true that his recent homers haven’t helped the team at all, most all of them coming in a losing cause. But try to tell Bob Melvin or Clint Hurdle, managers of those N.L. West rivals, that they’d rather see the Giants face the contenders without Bonds.

I’d like to see Bonds make history at Mays Field, just like the majority, but I also think it would be bitterly appropriate for him to do it in L.A. or San Diego. He has a long history of damage in both stadiums; some of his most impressive moments have occurred there. If the fans are booing — hey, isn’t that the story here, that people question the legitimacy of his record? Many will cheer, because they just can’t help themselves. Many will bring cameras, flashbulbs going off like crazy. Many will boo. Some might get a little bit nasty. Isn’t that a lot more authentic than performing at home to unadulterated worship?

I’ll go out on a limb here — there may be no moment on ESPN this year as honest or funny as Kruk shaking his head and talking to himself as they cut to commercial. If this wasn’t quite Tom Jackson asking Michael Irvin, “are you retarded?”, that’s only because the Kruky Monster could barely hold it in.