San Jose, Calif. — If Barry Bonds' words are to be taken literally, he has only 297 regular-season games left to play, and counting.
In the meantime, he remains 87 home runs short of the all-time record, and walking.
So if Bonds' pronouncement that he plans to retire after next season is 100 percent credible, then we have a developing super-drama on our hands and the Giants have a gargantuan hole to fill a lot faster than they had imagined.
We have the beginnings of the ultimate race against time and baseball history: 297 games left, 87 to hit. Tick, tick, tick...ball, ball, ball, ball.
But don't start that Bonds Career Countdown just yet, because Bonds, like other men of mythical proportions, is not meant to be taken literally.
He's a perpetual contradiction wrapped inside a riddle, tucked in an enigma, covered by lots and lots of eager reporters.
He's a mystery, and if he retired, he'd take 75 percent of the Giants' offense and 90 percent of the drama with him. And he knows, folks. He knows.
"Half the stuff I say, I don't believe," Bonds acknowledged during his engaging, far-ranging 45-minute session before the Giants' 6-2 loss in New York on Tuesday.
In that vein, he also said that he definitely, absolutely, well, sort of, maybe, possibly will retire after the 2005 season, the last guaranteed year of his contract.
Bonds, who turns 40 in July, affirmed those plans even though he almost certainly will trigger the $18 million he is scheduled to earn in 2006. The Giants have the right to void that year only if Bonds doesn't reach very-makeable participation levels.
Fighting a sinus infection that kept him out of the starting lineup Tuesday, Bonds said his mind was made up -- or at least as made up as it gets. This year and next year, and that's it.
Why would Bonds set such a concrete quit date when he's hitting .463 and has hit 10 home runs despite pitchers avoiding him unabashedly? Why even talk retirement when he remains, by far, the most feared batter in the game?
"Because I want to leave," Bonds said. "I want to do something else."
And if he is, say, sitting at 750 homers at the end of the 2005 campaign, five short of Aaron's mark? He won't hang around, collect $20 million and bust past Aaron?
"Probably not," Bonds said. "Don't need to."
Bonds said he wanted to spend more time with his children. Maybe help out young players the way Willie Mays helped him. But he also admits that whenever he spends time at home, he usually ends up watching TV and getting bored in a couple of days.
Remember how long that Roger Clemens retirement lasted last winter? About as long as it took for Andy Pettitte to call him up and ask him to come to Houston.
How many retirements did Michael Jordan announce and renounce? A dozen?
And if Bonds is really serious about retiring after 2005, why does he remain open to playing for an American League team? Surely he can't imagine that the Giants would let him get away after this season?
"D.H. is fine for me," Bonds said, as long as he was playing in California.
Contradictions, feints, shrugs, the whole deal.
This is just how the Lords of Sports operate.