As I read Bob Padecky’s column in Sunday’s sports section, about how Tim Lincecum is the first San Francisco Giant to legitimately rival Barry Bonds’ star power, I thought almost immediately of Lincecum’s status as the cover athlete for “Major League Baseball 2K9” (rated E, $40 on Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, $20 on PC, PS2 and PlayStation Portable).

While Giants broadcasters Jon Miller, Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow have played prominent roles in recent baseball video games, the Giants’ biggest stars have been Joe Young, Jon Dowd and Reggie Stocker.

Never heard of those guys? That’s because those are the aliases that video game makers such as 2K Sports and Electronic Arts used for Giants slugger Barry Bonds, thanks to Bonds’ decision in 2003 to opt out of the Major League Baseball Players Association’s blanket licensing agreements. Young, Stocker and Dowd all played left field and could absolutely rake home runs. A couple of them hit left-handed. But that’s where their similarities to the real-life Bonds ended, thanks to an apparent belief by Bonds that he’d be able to ink his own Michael Jordan-style deal with a video game publisher and get more money than he would have under the blanket agreement.

That deal never materialized. Though the reasons remain a mystery to anyone beyond Bonds, his agent and the folks who write video game licensing deals, it’s easy to chalk it up to Bonds’ reputation as being surly, unfriendly toward the average fan and hostile to the media. How many national ads featuring Bonds’ likeness can you recall, anyway?

Bonds’ awkward relationship with game makers stands in marked contrast to Lincecum’s being chosen as cover boy for “2K9” after just his second season in the majors. As you watch this cute TV advertisement where Lincecum tutors his video game likeness on the finer points of the game, complete with a cameo from Randy Johnson, it’s easy to forget about Dowd, Young, Stocker and all those other great Giants sluggers of yore.