Giants slash Bonds' perks, but 'out' clause overstated
Posted: Wednesday January 31, 2007 12:09PM; Updated: Thursday February 1, 2007 4:18PM
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Barry Bonds' $15.8 million deal with the Giants, which could balloon to $20 million, is finally done, much to the dismay of commissioner Bud Selig and other top people at Major League Baseball, many of whom would probably prefer Bonds spend his time in Alcatraz rather than AT&T Park.
This won't ever be described as the "feel good story" of the winter. To some, it only would have qualified as such had Bonds been kicked to the curb.
And yet, in some ways the ending to perhaps the longest-running, and possibly most complex player negotiation in baseball history (yes, much longer and way more complex than J.D. Drew), the result was apropos. The Giants did right by ultimately not backing out of their agreement for $15.8 million guaranteed and up to another $4.2 million in incentives based on plate appearances (only 520 of those earn the full $4.2 million). And the team he's played for since 1993 also did right by not letting him remain King of the Giants, as he has been in the past. Bonds' manservants finally are gone from the clubhouse, and hopefully that throne of his is too (although, I don't believe the contract mentioned the big puffy swivel chairs he uses like a throne).
According to several baseball people, the mid-negotiation revelation that Bonds failed a test for amphetamines (not to mention the public suggestion that he fingered Mark Sweeney) became quite the hurdle in trying to finalize what had to be the stickiest "language" problems in the history of baseball contracts. Right then, the Giants surely stiffened in their resolve not to give too many perks to Bonds, and that also was the right call.
According to the terms of the deal, obtained by SI.com, the Giants did give Bonds five nights of luxury suites at AT&T Park and five complimentary lower box seats for road games. But they didn't quite give him the royal treatment he got in the past. Good for them.
Quite a bit is being made today of the Giants also getting a clause in there that supposedly gets them the ability to get out of the contract should Bonds be indicted in the BALCO steroid investigation, and perhaps that addition could prove pivotal. But I think it just makes the Giants feel better. I doubt it makes a real difference (and Bonds' agent Jeff Borris, apparently still in the arguing mode, told the Associated Press that it indeed does not).
The reality is, in baseball, indictments are usually frowned upon. The clause about teams having the right to break deals with indicted players is in every contract I've ever seen. The standard wording in the typical baseball contract is that teams can end contracts if a player is "unable to perform because he's indicted or reasonably charged." So from here, that supposedly new clause appears to amount to business as usual.
But what could make this case especially interesting would be if Bonds were to be indicted with a homer or two to go to pass Hank Aaron for the all-time home-run record (he is 22 away now). Under those circumstances, would the Giants decide not to release him? Or would they just wait until he surpassed Aaron?
No matter what crazy twist this storied and sordid tale takes next, Borris deserves a purple heart in addition to the customary 5 percent. And you have to wonder where Giants president Larry Baer found the time, considering he was simultaneously dealing with superagent Scott Boras to get Barry Zito moved crosstown, to the tune of $126 million. At the very least, between Boras and Borris, things had to be quite confusing in a winter in which Baer hardly hibernated.
And good for the Giants that Bonds' new contract will exclude Bonds' personal trainers/henchmen/body rubbers/manservants from the premises of the parks. That can only be a good thing for clubhouse camaraderie. The nastiest of the manservants, Harvey Shields (he made Bonds seem like a bon vivant), appeared to have the unusual dual responsibilities of rubbing Bonds' tootsies and shooing away reporters. He'll have to do the rubdowns in private and at Bonds' expense now.
The Giants probably aren't MLB's favorite team today for doing any sort of deal with Bonds. But really, as previously pointed out in this space, what choice did the Giants have?
For three reasons, they had to figure it out:
1) Without Bonds, the Giants have nobody else who resembles a No. 3 or 4 hitter. With him, they might have a shot.
2) While it was pointed out somewhere that a couple players have backed out of deals, there is no precedent for a team backing out. No matter what other players think of Bonds, the Giants don't want to be known as the team that doesn't live up to its word. And it won't be.
3) They made the business decision at the start of the winter that Bonds would be worth bringing back because their paying fans would want to see Bonds break the record, even if most of the rest of the country will close their eyes (or at least one eye) and pretend it didn't happen.
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