Bonds’ unsigned contract sticking point for Giants

n San Francisco outfielder must be a team player.

BY T.J. QUINN

McClatchy-Tribune

SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants still have not finalized a contract with Barry Bonds, and baseball sources say the hangup still is over language about the outfielder’s conduct and his entourage.

When Bonds signed his last contract five years ago, it was before the issue of doping became prevalent, along with the role that personal trainers such as Greg Anderson, now serving time for refusing to testify against Bonds in the BALCO steroids investigation, played in bringing drugs into the game’s inner sanctum.

Major League Baseball toughened its rules about who it allowed inside its clubhouses, but the Giants, like other teams, accommodated their biggest star by hiring members of his personal staff and making them club employees. That also was before the BALCO lab was raided, before Bonds appeared before a grand jury and before he was under investigation for perjury and tax evasion.

This time the Giants want him to be one of 25 players. “We’re not talking about it,” Larry Baer, one of the team’s principal owners, said when asked about the status of Bonds’ stalled contract.

The Giants went into talks with Bonds knowing they had maximum leverage, and although they quickly agreed on a “term sheet” that said he would be paid $16 million, neither side signed a letter of agreement.

As talks have dragged on, the Giants have been careful not to say anything that could bind them to Bonds in the event they decide to back out. Officials from the Giants, MLB and other clubs say if the deal falls through, it could leave Bonds without a team for 2007, and with the motivation to sue. Giants GM Brian Sabean has said he wants to resolve Bonds’ contract situation by spring training, and Baer went so far as to cut off a question about how the Giants can expect a circus atmosphere around Bonds.

this season: “You’re assuming he’s on the team. I’m not saying anything one way or the other.”

When a Giants PR employee joined the conversation a short while later, Baer made it clear to the employee, presumably so he would have a witness, that his only discussions about Bonds with the reporter had been about the slugger’s role in the past, not the future, adding that he had not discussed the status of current contract talks.

“The mission here is to deliver an outstanding product to the fans,” Baer said. “Anything we do fits into that.”