When the San Francisco Giants signed their troubled yet undeniably talented left fielder Barry Bonds to a one-year, $15.8 million dollar contract extension it was thought the worst was over. No more uncertainty, no more speculation on who would (or could) fill the large void he would leave, and it gelled the payroll after an off-season of spending. Instead it brought more questions and fodder for accusations.
The Bonds circus is not old hat to the ball club that brought the man back to the Bay Area as a conquering hero in 1993. Giants management has had to weather the ups and downs of Bonds’ ego among his drug scandals, tax evasion investigations, and numerous attacks on his character. After years of letting the tail wag the dog Giants management finally toughened up and drafted a contract that in no uncertain terms showed that they were calling the shots now.
Bonds signed the new deal last month and by scrawling his name on the dotted line he agreed to terms that would change him for the better. His entourage was banned from the clubhouse and his personal training staff was no longer allowed on the team payroll. The Giants would require him to make personal appearances at events, something that he would rarely do voluntarily.
Another caveat of the new contract was giving the Giants the right to terminate his contract should he be indicted in the BALCO investigation. It was a daring move by management and one made to cover the team’s behind. It was an even bigger surprise that Bonds went for it.
With management’s demands met and Bonds contractually obligated to play nice it seemed this chapter of the story was complete. Until Major League Baseball rejected the contract, that is. The indictment clause was not the point of contention, to the surprise of many. Instead it was the personal appearances stipulation that commissioner Bud Selig would not approve, according to an anonymous source in the commissioner’s office.
Why would the sticking point be the appearances clause and not the indictment clause? MLB’s Uniform Player Contract states a player "agrees to cooperate with the club in any and all reasonable promotional activities,” as ESPN.com reported on the contract difficulties? The redundancy of the appearances clause should not present that much of a problem to void the deal outright.
According to a New York Times report, the commissioner’s office took out a clause that dealt with promotional activities because, in its specificity, it went beyond the collective bargaining agreement that deals generally with a player’s activities for a team. In recent memory, Bonds has not made many public appearances if any at all. Whether he will participate in the team photo is a question every season. Why the CBA’s appearances edict did not apply to Bonds previously and why it is a problem now are unanswered questions.
Furthermore, why would Bonds’ agent Jeff Borris contradict the indictment clause, calling it unenforceable under the MLB Player Association’s collective bargaining agreement and still let his client sign the contract? The union would surely file a grievance if the clause was upheld, regardless of the fact that Bonds himself gave the go-ahead to revoke their agreement.
The exact level of involvement of sports agents in contract negotiations is not known except in rare cases, like Scott Boras’ dealings, but it would stand to reason that Borris would at least give the piece of paper a read through before passing it along to Bonds to sign. It would stand to reason that Boras knows exactly how these things work, understanding the union involvement, knowing the position it gives his client, and yet it appears he misrepresented Bonds—knowingly if he had in fact read the contract, or unintentionally if he did not do his job properly and let Bonds sign without reading it over. Either way, Borris looks even worse than usual.
Bonds refuses to sign the revised version of the contract that no longer includes the personal appearances clause despite his reluctance to agree to the clause in the first place. Borris’ sticking point is the indictment clause as approved by his client. The Giants cannot put together an agreement to appease the triad of difficulty that opposes them. Nobody is addressing the questions that really need answers. The contract is a problem. Why it cannot be satisfactorily completed is the bigger problem.
Chris has been a Giants fan since her days in utero. She loves baseball and writes about whatever she can get her hands on…even the Athletics. She’s a Bay Area gal through and through. This is her 24th season of fandom. Love/hate mail can be sent to email@example.com, where the love mail gets top priority and the hate mail gets used for kindling.
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