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Baseball: Price for Bonds too high

By Paul Gutierrez
Sacramento Bee
SAN FRANCISCO ó This could have been a weekend of intensified intrigue, when Barry Bonds got his first taste of the Subway Series while wearing New York Yankee pinstripes and taking his hacks against the Mets’ Johan Santana in the Bronx.
Or Bonds could have made his triumphant return to an N.L. yard with the A’s as they played in Atlanta.
Certainly the familiar confines of Chase Field would have been inviting, what with Detroit visiting Arizona.
Alas, the 2008 installment of interleague play will be a tad less interesting with no Bonds to play the heavy to the hilt as a designated hitter in the A.L.
But while Bonds, his agent Jeff Borris and the Major League Baseball Players Association might have you believe the still-unemployed home run king is being blackballed as part of some diabolical scheme orchestrated by the commissioner’s office, that complaint should fall on deaf ears.
So let’s get this straight: No one wants to sign a soon-to-be-44-year-old clubhouse cancer with brittle knees who refuses to stretch with the team, just might take time out of his busy schedule sitting in his easy chair in front of his big-screen TV to pose for the team photo and just so happens to be facing a gaggle of streamlined federal perjury charges ó and, oh, yeah, he wants $10 million for his troubles?
Collusion? More like common sense, as a former player echoed this week.
No doubt Bonds still can swing it. He hit .276 last season with 28 home runs and 66 RBIs, and his OPS of 1.045 was third in the majors ó all on bad wheels.
On numbers alone, and potential ticket sales for the ensuing freak show, there should be a market for such a stick, no?
Um, no. Not with all the baggage that accompanies such statistics.
We’re talking increased media scrutiny, a new group of hangers-on, karma, radiation poisoning.
You think the Tampa Bay Rays, the feel-good story of the season thus far ó non-Billy Beane division ó would be anywhere near the top of their division with Bonds sucking the life force and youthful exuberance from their clubhouse? Witness how excitable the Bonds-less Giants get after wins these days.
Plus, the longer Bonds is away from the game, the harder it will be for him to come back physically, as noted by his former manager Dusty Baker when he was in town last month with Cincinnati.
“And the longer he is out, who knows, the less likely he may want to come back,” Baker told reporters.
So radioactive still is Bonds that Baker would not touch a question on how interested he’d be in signing the seven-time N.L. MVP and eight-time Gold Glove winner.
It vexes Houston outfielder Jose Cruz Jr., a one-time Giants teammate.
“I do not see why nobody would take a chance on him,” Cruz said. “He’s still super-productive. He hit 28 home runs in what, (340) at-bats, and his slugging percentage was .565? That’s doing it, man.”
What of the off-field issues?
“I would dare to guess that would be the reason,” Cruz admitted. “A lot of teams now are so image-conscious, and owners are stepping in now and taking charge of the image thing.
“But from my perspective, I can’t understand it.”
Some things in baseball don’t make sense. But in this case, no one wanting Bonds makes all the sense in the world, even if it means less interleague intrigue.

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