- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer
- 0 Shares
They gave him the boot.
Harsh? Sure, that characterization is harsh. But it's never easy for a team to sever ties with a player who has been the face of the franchise for a decade and a half -- particularly when the player has no desire to leave. Factor in Bonds' ego and the feeling among some people in the Giants' front office that the team has catered to his whims for too long, and Bonds and owner Peter Magowan were never going to part ways as the best of friends.
Judging from his farewell news release, Bonds felt more wronged by the timing of the decision than by the cold, hard reality that the Giants don't want him back in 2008. After 15 seasons in San Francisco, five MVP awards and 586 home runs, he has one more homestand to bask in the adulation, choke back the emotions and prepare for a new life in a different area code.
"I think a classier move would have been to give Barry a little more notice so he could have had the appropriate amount of time to say goodbye to his fans and have some closure," said Jeff Borris, Bonds' agent. "It is what it is."
I keep hearing that the Giants' goal is to get younger for the future. Obviously, Barry is their oldest player. But it seems sort of contradictory to get rid of your oldest player when he's the best player on the club.
--Barry Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris
For the Giants, the announcement is a testament to the belief that you can't move forward while clinging to the past. Despite baseball's 11th-highest payroll and a pretty darned good rotation, the Giants are last in the National League West with a 67-86 record and limping to the finish. When general manager Brian Sabean looks around the division and sees the young talent Los Angeles, Arizona and Colorado are running out every day, he has to realize the Giants are light years behind, doesn't he?
The hard work actually begins now. No one would suggest that Fred Lewis, Rajai Davis, Kevin Frandsen, Dan Ortmeier et al compare with the Justin Uptons and Troy Tulowitzkis of the world. But the Giants aren't going to find out what they have until the kids play. And that's hard to do when Bonds, Dave Roberts, Ray Durham and a bunch of other 30-somethings are consuming so many at-bats.
People around Sabean seem to think he's invigorated by the challenge of rebuilding the franchise, and clearing the decks today allows him to go into the offseason with a clear head and a focused agenda. Sabean won't have to deal with all the rhetoric, posturing and talk of "mystery teams" that engulfed Bonds' offseason free-agent odyssey this past winter.
As for Bonds, even his detractors have to concede he's still a force with a bat in his hands. Try 28 homers in 337 at-bats, a .483 on-base percentage and a .570 slugging percentage.
"I keep hearing that the Giants' goal is to get younger for the future," Borris said. "Obviously, Barry is their oldest player. But it seems sort of contradictory to get rid of your oldest player when he's the best player on the club."
Still, Bonds is a 43-year-old man with a history of knee problems, which means he can expect to be pigeonholed as a designated hitter this winter. He ranks near the bottom of NL left fielders in zone rating and range factor, and ardent Giants-watchers can cite a number of balls this season that he simply couldn't reach because of his physical limitations.
"He's not horrible," said a West Coast scout, "but he's below average by major league standards now. I would think if you wanted to get the most out of him as a hitter, you'd want him to be in the American League, where he could DH at least some of the time."
I would think if you wanted to get the most out of him as a hitter, you'd want him to be in the American League, where he could DH at least some of the time.
--A West Coast scout on Bonds
Last year, when Bonds took aim at Hank Aaron's 756, Borris at least could sell the possibility of his making somebody's turnstiles spin. Now, Bonds will have to sell himself strictly on the merits, and we'll see whether his talent remains at a sufficiently high level to counteract all the baggage. Other than steroid allegations, a prickly personality and the likelihood that he's going to want a ton of money, nothing immediately springs to mind.
Where could Bonds wind up? Maybe Texas, Detroit or Oakland can find a way to make things work. If Borris is a magician, maybe he gets the Yankees or another big-market club to bite. But all those teams had their shot at Bonds last year and gladly passed.
Borris declined to speculate on whether Bonds might be willing to take a cut from his $15.8 million base salary in 2008.
"I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on money," he said.
But the agent discounted the prospect of 3,000 hits as a motivating factor, even though Bonds is a mere 65 hits short.
"Barry's had only one goal since his first day in the big leagues, and that's to win a World Series," Borris said. "Anybody who knows him knows that he's all about winning and being a good teammate. That's it."
Starting next week, Bonds will be all about finding employment. And there's one team he definitely can cross off his list.
1dInterview by Buster Olney
1dDanny Knobler, Special to ESPN.com