In for a penny ...
Bonds tells Giants he plans to play well into his 40s
Posted: Tuesday February 6, 2007 11:31AM; Updated: Tuesday February 6, 2007 12:38PM
Bud Selig's worst recurring nightmare is entering its fourth season: a man with connections to a federal steroid investigation, who faces the possibility of indictment, is the face of baseball and is on the cusp of breaking one of the game's most cherished records.
As much as Selig likes to talk about this "Golden Age of Baseball", and as exemplary as ballplayers such as Albert Pujols, David Ortiz and Ryan Howard have been, Selig knows that Bonds, because he has been one of the all-time greats and has had Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron in his home run crosshairs, is an unwelcome diversion who demands attention.
The news isn't about to get better for Selig any time soon. Bonds told the Giants this winter, through his agent, that he has no plans to retire -- not after this season and probably not after next season, either. (Feel free to completely ignore all of Bonds' retirement talk soliloquies passed off as news stories over the coming months, just as you should have over the past two years.)
Bonds asked for an easily-attainable vesting option for 2008, with plans to play even beyond that. The Giants, who have no interest in bringing Bonds back for 2008, are quite pleased with themselves for "holding the line" on the Bonds' negotiations, limiting him to one year and $15.8 million (plus incentives) whenever they get around to massaging the contract language about the little matter of a possible indictment.
Given Bonds' strong intention to extend his career into his mid-40s -- he turns 43 in July -- it is inevitable that he will exceed Aaron's record 755 home runs, and maybe by a lot. His agent, Jeff Borris, has raised the notion of 1,000 home runs.
Selig and much of the rest of major league baseball will hold its nose and salute Bonds with as little enthusiasm as possible. As one baseball executive put it when it comes to the weariness of all things Bonds, "Barry just doesn't get it and never will." He points out that Bonds is so out of touch with reality that he has tried enlisting Selig -- of all people -- to lobby Aaron, a longtime personal friend of Selig's, to show more public support for him, especially when it comes to a blessing of the new record as legitimate.
So Bonds and Selig are stuck with each other. There is some poetic justice in that marriage because it's more fallout from an era on Selig's watch when players and owners did far too little to curb the boom in performance-enhancing drugs, acting only out of sufficient public embarrassment or threat.
I wondered why the Giants, who finished in third place with a losing record last year in a season in which Bonds stayed off the DL, would want Bonds back even for one year. The team needs to get younger and more athletic and is in danger of writing off a third consecutive losing season as a prop to the management and maintenance of one aging slugger. Why not move out from under Bonds this year rather than next? Is it a ploy to sell tickets? No, the Giants host the All-Star Game this season and would not be looking at a significant dropoff without Bonds. So I asked Peter Magowan, the Giants' owner.
"I told [GM] Brian Sabean, 'You figure out how to put the best baseball team possible on the field and I don't want to hear one word about marketing reasons,'" Magowan said.
Fair enough. That may explain why Sabean took early runs at free agents Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee and monitored any thoughts the Red Sox had about trading Manny Ramirez. None of those alternatives grew every serious.
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