The A’s got their man, Mike Piazza. Now, can the Giants reel in Barry Bonds?
The Giants and Bonds need each other. Despite earlier talk about going young, the Giants have moved to basically put together the same old lineup — emphasis on old. The idea of turning their back on Bonds because they wanted to make a big change seems quaint now.
Butthe players the Giants have signed — or, in the case of Ray Durham and Pedro Feliz, re-signed — are mostly mediocrities, right down to their latest signing, 32-year-old catcher Bengie Molina.
They still have no middle-of-the-lineup hitter to scare pitchers. The options they’ve reportedly investigated, such as trading for Manny Ramirez or Richie Sexson, are more attractive than Bonds, but the Giants have no top trading chip besides Matt Cain, whom they will not deal.
So, it’s back to Bonds, but Bonds’ agent, Jeff Borris is sunk deep in fantasyland. First, Borris insisted there was interest in Bonds among all 30 major league teams, overshooting by at least 27. The only teams other than the Giants who publicly expressed interest were the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles and they pulled back quickly. You can forget the latest rumor about the St. Louis Cardinals. I know manager Tony La Russa — and he hates Bonds.
Even now, Borris is insisting on a multiyear contract for Bonds at close to the annual $18 million contract he signed after the 2001 season, when he was at his peak.
Not going to happen.
It was much easier for the A’s. They quickly targeted Piazza to replace the departed Frank Thomas as their designated hitter, waiting only for the Dec. 1 arbitration offer deadline to pass so they wouldn’t have to surrender a draft choice. Piazza also got an offer from the Rangers and his agent, Dan Lozano, left the choice up to him. Piazza chose the A’s offer of $8.5 million for one year.
Meanwhile, the Bonds negotiations seem stalled.
I’ve maintained for months that the Giants would be the only team willing to sign him. Other teams are put off by his baggage — the steroid claims and the threatened legal action. He wouldn’t be a draw for another team, either, until he got within two to three homers away from Hank Aaron’s record. Fans in other cities have no history with Bonds. Many actively dislike him. That’s one reason the A’s weren’t interested, despite rumors to the contrary.
It’s much different for the Giants. Though local writers, who hate Bonds, have campaigned for the Giants to cut their ties with him, the fans who pay the freight by coming to the games mostly love him.
When I’m at AT&T Park, I walk around during the middle innings, talking to people and feeling the love for Bonds. Even from the press box, you can hear the loud cheers for Bonds — and the boos when he’s walked. And you can see the mass exodus of fans after his last at-bat.
He’d be welcomed back by the paying customers, especially since his at-bats would be about the only chance for offensive excitement.
Since Bonds’ agent won’t be realistic, the Giants should make an offer and tell Borris if he doesn’t accept this, the next offer will be lower.
Then, maybe Borris will stop posturing and the Giants will get their man.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.