Barry Bonds is enjoying a season worthy of a future Hall of Famer. But the main question concerning Bonds is not how many home runs he will hit, but where will he be playing next season?
His contract with the San Francisco Giants expires at the end of the year and the 37-year-old slugger wants to play at least another three or four more seasons. So if the Giants want to retain him, they’ll have to pay dearly.
The club couldn’t afford to keep Ellis Burks for this season - a huge loss - and Bonds will command an astronomically higher salary. On the other hand, can the Giants not afford to let Bonds go? He’s the centerpiece of the baseball revival in San Francisco. No negotiations will take place until the season is over.
If Bonds doesn’t remain with the Giants, the team he’s most likely to wind up with is George Steinbrenner’s New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers could well use him in left field immediately and eventually as a designated hitter. Moreover, the Yankees can afford him.
Meanwhile, even with Bonds, the Giants are struggling to stay above .500. Their other outfielders are weak sticks, their young pitchers haven’t progressed as hoped, and the trading away of third baseman Bill Mueller and replacing him with no-hit, no-field Russ Davis was a monumental mistake. If Dusty Baker can win another divisional championship with what he now has, he’s indeed a miracle worker.
Facts & Fancies
Here’s an example of why betting on baseball is a tough proposition. The last five times Boston’s Pedro Martinez has started against the Yankees, the Red Sox are 0-5, although Martinez has been involved in only one decision.
After their surprise surge to the playoffs last year, the Chicago White Sox figured that the acquisition of veteran southpaw David Wells would be the finishing touch to their request for the American League pennant. Instead, the Sox and Wells are finished. The team is rattling around last place in the A.L. Central and Wells has been mediocre at best”¦
The White Sox are trying to trade him but they can’t expect to get much in return for a 38-year-old hurler who carries a salary of $9.5 million. Furthermore, Wells can become a free agent at the end of the season. He’ll likely be moved to a National League team. The Houston Astros, who have suffered from disappointing pitching, are the most likely destination”¦
Major League Baseball is beating a dead horse by keeping a franchise in Montreal. So far this season the Expos are averaging barely more than 10,000 cash customers per game. And that average is going to decrease. Last week one of their games drew a crowd of 4,186. French Canadians have little interest in American baseball. The most obvious solution is to move the franchise. Almost any place you can think of would be better. Montreal is the black hole of baseball. It’s time to get out”¦
Rick Ankiel remains a strange case. The young and talented St. Louis Cardinals’ southpaw, now toiling in Memphis, threatens to set a world record for wild pitches. Nobody knows if the root of his problems is on or off the field. One thing, however, is certain. Tony LaRussa, the most overrated manager in baseball, and his $400,000-a-year pitching coach Dave Duncan, are not qualified to practice psychology”¦
These are sunny days for NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. The NFL realignment plan was adopted with a minimum of difficulty and a Los Angeles jury tossed out the $1.2 billion suit that Oakland Raiders’ boss Al Davis had brought against the league, claiming the Raiders had been forced out of the Los Angeles market in 1995. Even though the league’s other club owners won the case, there was no feeling of elation. It’s safe to say that if Davis were to drop dead, the list of NFL owners at his funeral would be sparse”¦
They’re playing the U.S. Women’s Open this weekend at Southern Pines, N.C., and among those watching on television will be Nancy Lopez, denied a special exemption into the tournament by the United States Golf Association. This is ridiculous. Even though the 44-year-old Lopez is no longer a factor on the tour, she is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and remains a popular and charismatic figure of the sport. Shame on the USGA”¦
All through the basketball season, a continuing story was the feud between the Los Angeles Lakers’ Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, how it disrupted the team and that coach Phil Jackson had lost control, etc., etc., ad infinitum. It turns out that it was all a lot of nonsense. The defending champions were just coasting through the regular season and have displayed their true colors in the playoffs. They’re a mortal lock to repeat.