Although many in the media are clamoring for the Giants to walk away from the contract with Barry Bonds, it wouldn’t make sense for either party. Bonds and the Giants need each other.
Despite claims by his agent, no other team is interested in Bonds. All the problems he brings, the apparently failed amphetamines test the latest, are too much for another team that has no previous relationship with him.
But the Giants have a history with Bonds. They’ve built their team around him since he signed his first contract as a free agent in 1993, and it’s made them successful for most of the period since. He’s also been the major reason the Giants have set franchise attendance records.
In the last year, there have been a steady stream of e-mails from fans urging the Giants to let Bonds go, but there’s a strange disconnect there.
I’ve found that most of those who are vehement about Bonds leaving do not go to games. Some have told me they haven’t been to a game in 20 years.
At the park, it’s quite different. As one of my readers says, "Nobody in my section goes out for a hot dog if Bonds is coming to bat that inning."
When I’m at games, I usually take a break around the fifth inning and walk around the park, often talking to people who greet me. They always express their support for Bonds.
But you can see that from the press box, too, in the way they shout, "Bar-ry, Bar-ry!" when he comes to the plate, in the way they boo when he’s walked — and in the mass exodus from the park after he’s had what appears to be his last at-bat in a game.
Fans at the game put all the extraneous stuff behind them. They just enjoy watching Bonds, who has given them many thrills with his towering home runs, several of them into McCovey Cove. And they’ll be thrilled if Bonds breaks Hank Aaron’s record in a Giants uniform.
So, who do you think the Giants listen to most, the fans who pay to get in or the fans who watch from their armchairs?
The Giants also need Bonds because, even though he’s Bonds Lite now, he’s a much more dangerous hitter than anybody else they’ve got on their roster. He still commands respect from the other dugout, which is why he walked 115 times last season. The Giants simply do not have anybody else they can put in the cleanup slot.
Team management also owes Giants fans something. This was supposed to be the year when they went younger. Instead, they’ve put together another team of over-the-hill players. Without Bonds, this will be an even more boring team than last season.
The Giants can sell season tickets this year because they’re tying them to All-Star Game tickets. But if they don’t give their fans something to watch during the regular season, they’re in danger of losing many of those fans next year.
Giants general manager Brian Sabean has said he expects the contract talks to come to a head soon, perhaps this week. For both sides, it will be best if they resolve the problems. The Giants and Bonds need each other.