SAN FRANCISCO — Courthouse by day, batter’s box by night for Barry Bonds? It could happen.
Or, the home run king’s career could be over altogether. Bonds didn’t have a long list of suitors before being indicted last week. Now the slugger’s best bet for 2008 might just be a move across San Francisco Bay to the Oakland Athletics — that is, if they still want him.
The A’s had interest in the 43-year-old Bonds before he was charged with four counts of perjury and one of obstruction of justice following a four-year investigation into steroids.
But now, any club that was considering taking a chance on Bonds and all the baggage he brings will have to think even harder about signing the free agent.
Is signing Bonds, perhaps for a reduced rate because of his legal predicament, worth the risk? What if he misses much of next season for his trial? What if he winds up serving prison time?
“I don’t know what his future holds,” Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. “Every club will have to look at it, but we’re not in play.”
Clearly, teams first will want to know when Bonds’ trial will begin and how long it might last. There’s always the chance he could plea bargain, but that seems unlikely given all his public denials that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
Bonds could become more affordable after making $19.3 million in 2007, even for a club like the low-budget A’s. Oakland is in search of a dangerous hitter in the middle of its lineup and someone who would also put fans in the seats. Bonds led the majors in on-base percentage last season at .480 with San Francisco and hit 28 home runs.
Going to the A’s is a viable scenario: Bonds finally plays in the American League as a designated hitter and doesn’t have to leave his fans in the Bay Area.
Still, Bonds’ options might be few and far between. No. 25 might never play again, despite 762 career homers to his name.
“I don’t have any thoughts at all,” said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who previously worked as assistant GM in San Francisco.
It’s not as if Bonds would sign with a team such as Tampa Bay or Kansas City at this late stage of his career, or that those teams would have interest. Bonds has almost everything on his remarkable resume except a World Series championship, but wants nothing more than to win a World Series ring before he calls it quits after falling five outs shorts in 2002 to the wild-card Angels.
The Athletics share the Oakland Coliseum with the NFL’s Raiders — a team with a history for giving second chances to renegades. Then again, the home clubhouse is awfully cramped — the A’s might have to clear out a popular, upright video game just to make room for Bonds and his batboy son.
As for Bonds’ entourage — it can include two publicists, two trainers, his family, an MLB-issued security guard, a personal videographer and his agent — maybe they could take over the entire Raiders’ locker room.
Baseball officials are hesitant to talk publicly about Bonds, but are eager to see how the story plays out before spring training.
Will he be a Hall of Famer? Will his career forever be tarnished?
“This record is not tainted at all. At all. Period,” Bonds said after hitting his record-breaking 756th homer Aug. 7.
Bonds would leave with 14 all-star selections, a record seven NL MVP awards and eight Gold Gloves. He wants to get 3,000 hits, and needs 65 to reach the mark.
He still has his share of supporters outside his San Francisco comfort zone.
“I am so disturbed by the Barry Bonds situation,” former NBA star Charles Barkley said on TNT. “First of all, Barry is a friend of mine, but for (the court system) to do this indictment three or four years later&hellip: I’m deeply disturbed that they made this a witch hunt for one particular guy.”