Friday, October 06, 2006
The War of Words Between Bonds and Giants Management
It all began with Bonds telling the media that he won't "ever ever ever ever" accept a contract with incentives in it. Ever. He would rather retire, see ya! He don't need to work, he's tired, he loves his family, he can retire. Meanwhile, Sabean is talking about getting younger and healthier and getting the Giants back on the winning track in 2007 with the same payroll as this season, and how the Giants are probably not going to sign anyone to a big contract, that they need to spread the wealth among the 11 positions opening up this off-season. Then Bonds noted that Clemens didn't accept any paycut, why should he.
Magowan followed that one up with a statement that even if Bonds was resigned, he would no longer be the centerpiece of the team, that he would be part of the equation of returning the Giants to their prior winning ways. Last we left the story, Bonds calls Magowan's statement "dirty".
Bonds Brought This Upon Himself
I love and respect Bonds as much as anybody but, not to sound juvenile, he started negotiating through the media, not the Giants; the Giants had asked that everything be kept private and that is Sabean's style, he doesn't like to reveal much to the public, as I have mentioned many times before in my posts. Even in interviews where he is suppose to be revealing things about the Giants future plans, he hedges everything just so. He tells without telling that much and circles around the question without fully answering it. He is a master at this.
So the Giants were left with bad options. Either they take the high road but get public opinion about the team being shaped by someone who is no longer an employee and potentially gone, or they strike back. Neither way is palatable, but I think they took the route that they had to take, they need to make sure the public understand where they stand in the whole thing.
My Take On Magowan's Centerpiece Statement
Here is how I took Magowan's statements. All he said is that Bonds will no longer be the centerpiece of the Giants going forward. And that's realistic to all but those still wearing Bonds-colored glasses.
Bonds is at the end of his line. Bonds will be playing probably one more year, maybe two if he wants 3000 hits. The Giants took the stance that they are now looking at the next 4-5 years of the Giants, not just year to year like they had been doing the past few years. Hence the Alou "amicable" parting and the search for a manager for the next 4-5 seasons. And hence the statement Bonds is no longer the centerpiece, which fits in with this new management strategy/philosophy that started with Felipe being not re-signed.
Magowan is as media savvy as owners go and there is a huge image problem if the public thinks that the Giants signed Bonds because of the potential for 755. His statements reinforce the marketing message that Sabean has been regurgitating for a while now: Giants are working to bring a winner in 2007, they will have the same payroll budget, they will be competitive. And to win, they need to get younger and healthier, with personnel who they think will be around 4-5 years, not 1-2 like the past few years.
But the Giants management is thinking fans will be thinking that there's no way the Giants can field a winning team if Bonds expects to get the same salary, because the Giants didn't in 2006 with Bonds at a lower or same salary, and are probably losing key players like Alou and Schmidt. How can they sell fans that they are serious about winning if they just bend over for Bonds and hand over even more money plus, say, have Sanchez replacing Schmidt and Linden replacing Alou. That's a negative sum equation in all Giants fans heads, that's an equation for a losing team proposition going into next season. And Giants fans (as well as other fans) have shown that they don't show up for losing teams, no matter what the attraction (they sometimes don't even show up for a winning team).
So to cut off that thinking at the pass, they make it clear that the decision on Bonds will rest on whether the Giants can win with Bonds, at the salary they sign him to, and not at all costs and not for the marketing plus of the home run chase. A side benefit, is that now they can say in negotiations with Bonds that 755 is nice, but we want to win, we are not paying much for your record. Therefore Bonds cannot leverage the Giants as much with his homerun career chase and the Giants will offer less, because now the value equation is how many games we can reasonably expect Bonds to play and to perform well in and not mainly centered on some personal individual goal on his part.
Magowan Not Dirty, Bonds Was
Bonds called Magowan's statement dirty, but really, Magowan didn't say that Bonds would not be a significant producer on the team, nor even the most important player on the team, but that the Giants centerpiece going forward will be someone else, looking at the long term. And implied that the Giants will not outbid anyone to potentially get the record breaking homerun at the expense of a winning season. Sometimes, impression is everything and the Giants don't want fans to have the impression that management will sacrifice winning just to get Bonds back.
If anything, Bonds is the one who was being dirty. First he explains that he would never ever ever ever ever accept incentives in a contract. Which, of course, is a lie because his last contract had an incentives clause that vested the team's option for 2006 if he met Plate Appearance targets, both for 2005 and for 2003-2005. That makes it harder for a team to justify signing him because he's one bad Fred Sanford "heart attack" ("my elbow! my elbow! my knee! my knee!) from costing the team the full contract amount with no production - think the Astro's wouldn't have caught the Cardinals if they had the insurance payment for Bagwell's injury funding acquisitions instead of a useless Bagwell? - which will sink the Giants again in 2007, for its third consecutive losing season.
Then he makes the outrageous statement that Clemens got more, why not Bonds? Well, Barry, it's because Clemens missed the first half of the season, which for a pitcher is good, he can then start all his starts for the rest of the season, but Houston prorated Clemens salary for the games he missed and so he didn't get paid for the games he missed in the first half of the season. If Bonds was willing to prorate his full-season salary based on the games he actually played then that would be the same as Clemens contract, but, oh wait, Barry wants to be paid for all the games he misses too.
The Company Line is "To Win"
So if Bonds being called part of the package to win is "dirty" to him, then perhaps it is time to part company with him. I wasn't too happy with him taking the day off on the last Saturday, if you cannot game up for a game against the Dodgers that could put them out of the players, when can you game up? I want him back but not at the cost of the team winning, if that is what he insists, then his goals are not my goals, are not any Giants' fans goal, which is to win, and to go on and win the World Series.
It would be hard enough even with him on the team, but if he costs an elbow and a knee, it would be even harder. And we are already suffering from the lost of the money for Matheny and Benitez. Plus perhaps Lowry, Morris and Winn, depending on how they recover from their injuries over the off-season and show which was the real player, the one in 2006 or the one they were before. Overpaying Bonds for the privilege of seeing him break the homerun record (and even that is a maybe, he might still need 2008) would not make good business sense, it will cost us a winning season.
So the Giants have a new centerpiece going forward, why is that a big deal, he must have known it would happen someday. And at an age when most players of his ilk are hoping to get enough votes to continue to stay on the HOF ballot, he's still playing well, just not at either of his peaks, of the 2000's or the 1990's, he's just part of the puzzle now. That's life, deal with it, accept that he's not the centerpiece.
And the Next Centerpiece of the Giants Is...
And who will be the centerpiece? My guess at who that would be is that it will be the pitching, headlined by Cain and Lowry plus perhaps Lincecum. Unless the Giants are able to trade for some young great hitter, like Miguel Cabrera, that is what they will have to go with. Or perhaps if they can sign Aramis Ramirez if he opts out of his option with Chicago, but even then the pitching will be one of the key strengths of the team going forward.
But the odds of the Giants getting any young stud appears slim to none unless one of these centerpice starting pitchers are traded because the Giants have said that they probably are not paying any player a large, Bonds-sized salary because they need to spread the wealth and fill 11 positions in total, and probably keep anywhere from 3 to 6 of our free agents because of the dearth of better alternatives on the free agent market. So Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez are pipe dreams unless Sabean can backfill most of the other positions with cheap vets who are nonetheless productive, like Vizquel, only younger.
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