Archive for Thursday, October 11, 2001

Bonds may be too expensive for Giants now

October 11, 2001

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And you thought 73 home runs was a big number. You haven't seen anything yet.

As soon as Barry Bonds pulls the crank on the slot machine of free agency next month, the digits are really going to start spinning.

Bonds' 2001 season in which he became major league baseball's all-time season home run record holder likely means that the next few months will bring a double-your-money deal in his direction. It's unlikely, though, that that deal will be with the Giants.

During the season's last week, Bonds was in such a groove that his 70th, 71st and 72nd home runs came in consecutive plate appearances on a total of four swings. That's a nice way to head into free agency.

Over his final six games and 25 plate appearances last week, Bonds made only six outs. He hit four home runs and four singles. He walked 10 times and was hit by a pitch once. The man wasn't missing.

"Even years ago, he always said that if the pitchers throw him something around the plate, he could hit 60," says Giants first baseman Andres Galarraga. "I remember him saying that back when I played for Colorado. It sounded like he was cocky. But I said to myself back then that he's a guy who could do it. And now, as soon as a pitcher throws a strike, he hits a home run. He's got such a sweet swing, the best swing, all the time."

So the reasons were bountiful for last Friday night's ceremonial lovefest on the pitcher's mound after Bonds hit Nos. 71 and 72 off the Dodgers' Chan Ho Park to break the record. As the Giants and Major League Baseball trotted out the tributes in the wee hours, Bonds addressed the fans and directed this stirring homage toward his teammates: "We worked real hard, and we're going to work real hard again," he said, looking back at the assemblage of players behind him. "I love you all very much. It's an honor to play with a bunch of guys like this. I'll play for you any time, any day of the week, any hour, any year."

But the reality of Bonds' stunning season is this: He very likely played himself right out of San Francisco's means. The Giants' player payroll next season will be somewhere between $60 million and $70 million, according to General Manager Brian Sabean. They'll be hard-pressed to commit $20 million or so of that to one player. Bonds and his agent, Scott Boras, will want that much after Bonds made a relatively paltry $10.3 million this year.

Sunday's season finale at Pac Bell Park, in which Bonds hit No. 73 off a 3-and-2 knuckleball from Dodgers right-hander Dennis Springer, probably was his last game in a Giants uniform, but nobody with the team is ready to admit that just yet.

"I haven't even thought about it," said Bonds in one of the least-credible statements of the year.

Everybody else has, including the team's manager, Dusty Baker.

"Whether you like it or not, sometimes in life things change," Baker says. "Some things can't remain the same. It's going to be a pretty touchy situation. What to do? How much is it going to cost? How many years? Can you replace him? There are a lot of things to be decided."

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