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 Barry Bonds loves the little people and loves his job, or so we found out when he scooped the San Francisco Giants to announce he had been let go.
And while San Francisco fans for the most part loved him while he chased Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, there were no reports of distraught people flinging themselves off the Golden Gate bridge upon hearing Bonds will not be back.
They understood that Bonds' last year in San Francisco was a marriage of convenience for both the slugger and the team. Fill the seats for the record chase and help us celebrate the All-Star game, and in return we'll pay you another $20 million.
The year is just about over, and both parties pretty much got what they wanted. So it's interesting that the only one who seemed surprised by the parting of ways was a certain left-fielder whose massive ego is even bigger than his huge head.
This was never going to be a sentimental goodbye, because the bottom line is baseball is still a business and Bonds is still Bonds. And Bonds couldn't make it so, though he tried by issuing a statement thanking the fans and, most importantly, the people who work behind the scene at the ballpark.
Who would have known that Bonds loves to walk into the clubhouse and hear their ``hellos'' every day?
Bonds will hear them one last time Wednesday when the Giants end their home season against the Padres. The Giants say they will have a ceremony to honor his 15 years in San Francisco, where he hit an astonishing 586 of his 762 home runs, though there hasn't yet been a rush on tickets.
Both the Giants and their fans seem eager to move on. Bonds, for his part, has no choice.
He should have had an inkling this was coming. Home run kings seem to always wear out their welcome, no matter how much they were loved at home.
The Babe himself ended up with the Boston Braves, while Aaron finished his career with the Milwaukee Brewers. Even Bonds' godfather, the great Willie Mays, last played for the New York Mets.
They all got jobs long past their prime, and the odds are likely Bonds will, too. The only question is how many teams will be eager to sign a 43-year-old who brings lot of baggage along with his big bat.
Plenty, if you believe his agent, who seems to think it will merely be a matter of fielding the best offer for his client.
``Barry will look at his options and look at the team that gives him the best chance to win a World Series,'' Jeff Borris said.
Unfortunately for Bonds, it won't be quite that simple. He'll want money, and lots of it, and teams that compete for the World Series, with the exception of the Yankees, usually don't get there by throwing $15 million or so at a player whose skills are in decline, whose clubhouse credentials are suspect, and who just may be under federal indictment by then.
Fortunately for Bonds, there will always be at least one general manager desperate enough to do just that.
Prevailing wisdom, of course, is that Bonds will go to the American League, where fans will be spared the painful sight of him trying to run down a fly ball. There will always be teams interested in a guy who has 28 home runs and has gotten on base 48 percent of the time this year.
Anyone who gambles on Bonds will also have to gamble that he won't be indicted for lying to a grand jury about steroids and that fans will give him a pass on the entire issue. The grand jury could be a problem, but teams tend to overlook other issues as evidenced by the way the Texas Rangers embraced Sammy Sosa this year.
The only player truly shunned because of steroids was Rafael Palmeiro, and that was probably more because he tried to rat out his teammates than anything else.
Good news for Bonds is he doesn't need 30 teams chasing him. One is plenty, and there's so much money in baseball these days that rolling the dice on Bonds for $15 million or so a year doesn't seem any more outlandish than giving Roger Clemens $17.4 million to pitch six innings a game for half a season.
As an added bonus, every home run hit over, say the Green Monster, or into the right field stands at Yankee Stadium, sets a record. And Bonds needs only 65 hits to join the 3,000-hit club.
Bonds didn't appear at the press conference the Giants hastily called to announce his departure. He had nothing to add to the statement he posted on his website.
It's easy to see his ego has been bruised and his pride wounded. This is a guy, after all, who was campaigning to keep his job after hitting No. 756.
In the end, though, Bonds has only himself to blame. He never made an effort to connect with the fans, never tried to become a beloved figure.
Throughout his career in San Francisco, he was aloof, surly, and in touch only with himself. He barely knew his teammates, much less the guy running the stadium elevator.
That guy won't be able to make Bonds' day anymore by saying hello to him. He'll have to find some other little people to befriend, at some other team's stadium.
Something tells me the elevator operator won't be terribly sad to see him go.
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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org
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