Judged entirely by Barry Bonds' dash across a hotel lobby in Florida last week, the San Francisco Giants got themselves a bargain when they re-upped the player whose five tools otherwise are down to a wrench and a rusty paint scraper, and for what could be a fifth of their total payroll.
His baseball skill set now consists of: runs (behind Beverly Hills Sports Council's flying wedge), catches (grief), throws (blame), naps for average and, OK, hits for power.
Only one of which will do the Giants much good, assuming their intent is to make up the 13 wins they'd have needed to finish ahead of the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers last season, and not nearly the good Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, Manny Ramirez or even Gary Sheffield might have done.
But he'll pack that pretty little ballpark by the Bay, and hit home runs, and haul down Hank Aaron, and hug his kid at the plate. And he'll make it all a dreary experience, right up until the early September day the Giants are eliminated from the part of the drama that includes their playoff contention.
Few in the organization are at all pleased about another year in the clutches of Bonds' swings of mood and entitlement, particularly as they'll host a Bonds Watch more bloated than last season's, which, by bloated standards, was a Pedro Gomez short of full distention.
If nothing else, they've put off the decade-long personal services contract – which will pay him $1 million annually – for another year. Who knows what that'll entail. Maybe they'll throw in a little more if he promises not to service them, personally or publicly.
By the time this goes down, he'll be 43 or close to it. He'll have all but done his time, 22 seasons and 756 home runs come and gone. There is nothing poor old Bud Selig or George Mitchell can do about it now, other than wait for the unavoidable, one fat, tortuous fastball at a time. It's not even bad for baseball anymore, because all but a few see it for what it is, and will forever.
For this, the Giants gave Bonds another $16 million, with a chance to make $20 million, as though he were 28 years old and clean of body and conscience. They – they being owner Peter Magowan – believe Bonds saved the Giants in San Francisco and then built them a new ballpark, and since has put ear-muffed people in the seats inside of it.
So, here's the severance check: More riches, more autonomy, more influence, more friends in the clubhouse, and eight guys around him every night, all wearing same-colored shirts. Have at it, Barry.
A year from now Giants general manager Brian Sabean can have his pick of Andruw Jones or Vernon Wells or Ichiro Suzuki or Michael Young, with Bonds money to spend, a franchise to rebuild and an organizational culture to forget.
In the meantime, maybe Bruce Bochy will help. Maybe he'll just survive it and still be whole for the experience. By the end of last season, Felipe Alou was talking about a quiet piece of water and a fishing pole, and this was a guy who'd spent his whole life in the game.
Bochy could be different, though. As one long-time associate of his said Monday, "He gives the players a long rope. I'd like to think that if anybody could get through to him and make him part of the process, Bochy's the guy."
It seems doubtful that Bonds will become one of the gang, and it's probably not worth the effort. Bonds is going to do his thing, with his people. Such a philosophy has served him well enough to arrive shoulder to shoulder with Aaron, just ahead of any pesky indictments, well ahead of what anyone thinks of him, complimentary or otherwise. After those few days in Florida, we can be reasonably certain Bonds desperately needed the Giants, the Giants needed him, and, as it turns out, they deserve each other.
What's another season of that? It'll be gone before we know it, and then we can get back to baseball.
• Andy Pettitte agrees to what amounts to a $32 million contract with the New York Yankees and arranges to take the physical after a hunting trip. So, basically, all that stands between him and $32 million is shadowy woods, jumpy game and some high-powered weaponry. We'd go with the body armor and orange hat.
• The AL East: The Yankees take a step forward. The Toronto Blue Jays take a step back. The Boston Red Sox take a step … where, exactly? This Daisuke Matsuzaka stall-out comes in part because the Red Sox failed to gauge their role in establishing D-Mat's place in a flush market. Seven years ago, the Seattle Mariners won negotiating rights to Ichiro, then with Orix, for $13 million. Ichiro made that in an initial three-year contract and totaled about $46 million in his first six seasons. The Red Sox bid was $51.1 million. Based on the Ichiro model, you can be sure agent Scott Boras has asked for at least $15 million a season over six years, and the Red Sox never saw it coming. Which is really good news for Roger Clemens.
• Good for the St. Louis Cardinals, who handed Dave Duncan the keys to Jeff Weaver and got World Series rings for it. We're guessing the water-into-wine thing has its limits, though, and they start with Carl Pavano.
• The New York Mets haven't been able to get what they've wanted for Lastings Milledge (the remaining Oakland Athletics starters not named Esteban, to name a few), so they're almost forced to declare all in on Barry Zito. The Giants, Mariners, Texas Rangers and Cardinals are also in, with the Los Angeles Angels lurking. Weaver and Jeff Suppan will fall to those who miss on Zito.
• The Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, Baltimore Orioles and Angels have shown the most interest in Darin Erstad, who, at 32, will be as productive as his body allows. The White Sox and Angels would make the most sense, given Erstad's uncommon clubhouse demeanor and career .339 postseason batting average.