contributed nothing to the San Francisco Giants' biggest win of the young
season last Saturday, not even a handshake. Down 5-2 in the bottom of the ninth
to their bitter rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Giants rallied for four
runs, the last of which scored on a just-deep-enough sacrifice fly by shortstop
Omar Vizquel, sending his teammates streaming from their dugout in celebration.
Bonds, removed from the game in the top of the inning, was nowhere to be seen
on the field or in the postgame clubhouse. It might well have been a dress
rehearsal for 2007. � These days when people talk of Bonds's leaving the yard,
the expression is more applicable to his stealth ducking of reporters than it
is to his hitting home runs. And Bonds's leaving San Francisco for good at the
end of this season has become a real possibility, Giants president and managing
general partner Peter Magowan acknowledged last week. � Asked if Bonds might
continue his pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record of 755 in a different
uniform next season--a move to the American League would offer Bonds the chance
to be an every-day designated hitter for the first time in his career--Magowan
replied, "Is it a possibility? The answer is yes. It might be better for
Barry to be a DH than going out there in leftfield and standing on his feet
after he's been standing on his feet on first base. It doesn't give him any
time to rest. It may be a healthier situation for him to be a DH." � Like
your classic San Francisco fog, Bonds's future and his chances of breaking
Aaron's record have only grown murkier after about a quarter of this season has
been played. Bonds, who turns 42 in July, has been a clearly diminished hitter
who does little more than draw walks and try to jack home runs. His attempt to
pass Babe Ruth's 714 home runs for second place on the alltime list has been
painfully slow, with Bonds mired in a homerless 1-for-19 slump through Sunday
after hitting number 713 on May 7. McCovey Cove, beyond the rightfield wall at
AT&T Park, was left becalmed during the Giants' seven-game home stand last
exhibited almost no interest or ability in the areas of defense and
baserunning. Last Friday, for instance, he embarrassed himself with a runner on
first base by heading back to the dugout after hitting a pop-up that wound up
being dropped by Los Angeles second baseman Jeff Kent. Bonds recovered in time
to barely reach first and avoid a double play.
At week's end
Bonds was hitting .139 in May (5 for 36) and hadn't driven in a single
teammate. For the season he was hitting .217 with five home runs, 12 RBIs, a
.174 average against lefthanded pitchers and a .458 slugging percentage, which
easily would be his worst since 1989. He also saw his career batting average
fall to .299. And Bonds was on pace to become the ninth player in the last
decade to play more than 135 games in a season and score 35 runs or fewer.
At this rate
Bonds would finish 2006 with 21 home runs and 729 for his career, a rate that
would extend his chase of Aaron's record into '08, if he makes it at all.
"The body is starting to fail him now," one AL general manager said
last week of Bonds. "He'll still hit his home runs every now and then, but
he doesn't scare me as much. Guys like Miguel Tejada, David Ortiz, Manny
Ramirez, Jason Giambi this year, Vlad Guerrero, I call them diarrhea hitters.
They give you diarrhea every time they come up because they're so scary. Bonds
is not that guy anymore. [Senator] Jim Bunning had the best line last year: 'I
remember when players didn't get better as they got older. We all got worse.'
That's what's happening to Bonds."
Asked if he would
have interest in Bonds next season as a DH, the G.M. said, "No. I wouldn't
want to add a guy like that to my clubhouse. Plus, look at all the guys like
him, like Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa, who just lost it all of a sudden and
Another AL G.M.,
when asked if he would be interested in Bonds next season, said, "A guy at
his age, you consider him week to week, never mind eight months from now. Four
years ago I had interest, but right now I'd have to say no."
Of course it's
never a good sign, either, when federal agents may want a ballplayer more than
his current employer. Bonds still faces the possibility of indictment on felony
perjury charges stemming from his sworn testimony to a grand jury in 2003 that
he never knowingly took steroids or other illegal performance-enhancing
substances. In addition there is a separate investigation, ordered by
commissioner Bud Selig and chaired by George Mitchell, looking into past
steroid use by players. A source familiar with that probe said last Friday that
Mitchell's work is well under way and that he is "looking under all rocks,
not just what is already publicly known." The outcome of either
investigation could prompt Selig to suspend Bonds, just another piece of
baggage for a team to consider.
formula for employing and, as the Giants now admit, enabling the
high-maintenance Bonds is no longer so obviously in the slugger's favor.
Magowan, for instance, said that Bonds earned and even needed preferential
treatment. Asked if he catered to the notoriously moody Bonds in order to
maximize his investment in the player ($90 million over five years), Magowan
replied, "Yes." Then he added, "Some of the special privileges he
got were not unique when you look at sports and entertainment. I'll say this
about Barry Bonds that not enough people realize: He's a winning ballplayer. He
makes everybody around him better."
One of the
privileges the Giants afforded Bonds was carte blanche access for his personal
trainer, Greg Anderson, who recently served three months in jail after pleading
guilty to steroid distribution. The book Game of Shadows charged that the
Giants discovered through a background check that Anderson may have been
involved with steroids but still granted him full access in order to avoid the
possibility of upsetting Bonds. Says Magowan, of monitoring players for the
possible use of performance-enhancing drugs, "There are probably 30 clubs
in baseball who could have done a better job based on what we know now. To
single out the Giants for being lax in the clubhouse is ridiculous."
Bonds will make
$18 million this season, or about 20% of the Giants' $90 million payroll. He
likely would need to take a massive pay cut to fit into any team's plans next
season, given his declining production and medical issues (unstable right knee,
bone chips in his left elbow) that cast significant doubt on his durability.
Bonds's agent, Jeff Borris, suggested last week that Bonds wants to play next
year and would consider a DH role if the Giants do not retain him. Magowan said
he would have no talks with Borris about Bonds's future until after the