Bonds won't return with Giants for '08, team confirms
SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds is finished in San Francisco.
The Giants told Bonds they will not bring him back next season, ending a 15-year run in which he set the single-season and all-time home run records and became a lightning rod for the steroids debate in baseball.
"It's always difficult to say goodbye," Giants owner Peter Magowan said Friday. "It's an emotional time for me. We've been through a lot together these 15 years. A lot of good things have happened. Unfortunately a lot of bad things have happened. But there comes a time when you have to go in a different direction."
On his Web site, Bonds said he wasn't done.
"There is more baseball in me and I plan on continuing my career. My quest for a World Series ring continues," he said.
The 43-year-old Bonds did not join Magowan and general manager Brian Sabean at the news conference. Asked whether he had anything to add, Bonds said, "I already made my statement."
Bonds had always said he wanted to finish his career in the comfort of his hometown, where his father, Bobby, played alongside his godfather, Willie Mays. Bonds talked with Giants Hall of Famer Willie McCovey and took batting practice in the cage before Friday night's game against Cincinnati.
Bonds hasn't played since Sept. 15 because of a sprained right big toe and was out of the lineup again. Manager Bruce Bochy said he thought Bonds could play this weekend. The Giants' final homestand ends Wednesday night.
Magowan said he and Sabean recently decided about Bonds' future. Magowan personally told Bonds in a 90-minute meeting during Thursday night's game against Cincinnati.
"I think he knew the decision was coming," Magowan said. "I don't think it was surprising to him. I think, naturally, he was disappointed, maybe somewhat saddened. But he was really very respectful."
Bonds broke Hank Aaron's record with his 756th home run on Aug. 7. Bonds helped revitalize a struggling franchise that nearly moved to Florida before he signed with the Giants as a free agent in December 1992.
Bonds has spent the past 15 seasons of his 22-year big league career with the Giants. Re-signed as a free agent in the offseason, he made $19.3 million in a one-year contract, including $3.5 million in bonuses.
Shadowed by steroid speculation for the past few years, Bonds has hit 28 homers this season, raising his career total to 762. The seven-time NL MVP is batting .279 with 66 RBIs and a major league-leading 132 walks.
"He can still play," Sabean said. "He's still one of the biggest threats of any No. 4 hitter in the National League."
Prior to the toe injury, he had been mostly healthy, playing 125 games. The left fielder has 2,935 career hits and has said that reaching 3,000 is a goal of his.
"This is a guy who plays every day and is still leading the National League in some league categories, which is amazing," teammate Barry Zito said. "He's really done special things this year being at the age that he is. If Barry has the opportunity to go be a DH somewhere I'm sure that's only going to prolong his career."
Despite Bonds' personal achievements, the season has been a disappointing one for the Giants, who are mired deep in last place in the NL West.
"We've heard for a long time that the Giants are an old team and want to get younger, so we're not surprised," said Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris. "Barry is their oldest player, but qualitatively, he's their best player."
"He's still planning on playing next year, irrespective of whether it's an AL or NL team," he said.
Bonds has long denied using performance-enhancing drugs, but fans across the country have greeted him with placards inscribed with asterisks -- baseball-fan shorthand for the belief that his record is hopelessly tainted by allegations of steroid abuse.
Even the person who paid $752,467 for Bonds' historic 756th home run has threatened to stamp it with an asterisk.
Fashion designer Marc Ecko revealed himself this week as the winning bidder for the ball and has posted a Web site giving visitors a chance to vote on what he should do with the ball: donate it to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.; brand the ball with an asterisk in reference to the steroid allegations against Bonds; or blast the ball into space.
After parting ways with Bonds, San Francisco will be free to scrap a win-now philosophy in which Sabean surrounded the slugger with aging veterans every year to maximize Bonds' chances to win his first championship. San Francisco came within five outs of winning the World Series in 2002, but hasn't been back to the postseason since 2003.
"It is certainly unprecedented for an organization, especially a general manager, to replace a player like this, which will be nearly impossible," Sabean said.
In his statement, Bonds said he believes the Giants made the decision long ago not to bring him back for next season.
"Although I am disappointed, I've always said baseball is a business, and I respect their decision," Bonds said. "However, I am saddened and upset that I was not given an earlier opportunity to properly say goodbye to you, my fans, and celebrate with the city throughout the season as I truly believe this was not a last-minute decision by the Giants, but one that was made some time ago."
"I would have loved nothing more than to retire as a Giant in the place where I call home and have shared so many momentous moments with all of you," he said.
Bonds' presence helped the Giants build their waterfront ballpark that is on pace to draw more than 3 million fans for the eighth straight season since opening. Bonds was the biggest draw but Magowan said he was not concerned about how his absence would affect attendance.
"I think we pride ourselves as an organization on knowing what our fans think. On this issue the fans are divided," Magowan said. "We listen to our fans carefully, but they don't make the decisions. They are made by the baseball people."
San Francisco is where Bonds became entangled with federal prosecutors and with the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, the lab at the center of the steroids scandal in professional sports.
The perjury investigation is focused on whether Bonds lied in 2003, when he told the federal grand jury investigating BALCO that he never knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs.
Bonds said his personal trainer told him he was taking flaxseed oil and arthritis balm.
His childhood friend and trainer, Greg Anderson, has spent nearly a year in prison for refusing to testify to the grand jury investigating Bonds' alleged perjury.
On the field, a championship is about the only thing missing on Bonds' resume.
He played in his 13th All-Star Game this summer, an event held in his home ballpark.
Bonds has reached the postseason seven times, and a World Series title barely eluded him in 2002. The Giants were just five outs from the title in Game 6 against the Anaheim Angels, but they lost that lead and also got beaten in Game 7. Bonds hit .471 in those seven games with four home runs, and the Angels walked him 13 times.
A day after last season ended, Magowan said that Bonds would no longer be the centerpiece of the organization and that the team would change its formula for winning.
Bonds then checked out the free-agent market, and a couple of teams -- including St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego -- showed early interest. But there seemed to be a pervasive feeling around baseball that Bonds would ultimately rejoin the Giants.
"The fact that we failed doesn't mean that Barry failed the Giants in some fashion," Magowan said of the team's losing season. "He did all that we could have reasonably expected or anticipated he could do when we signed him."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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