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Bonds’ future

Interesting news coming out of Tampa, where it appears the Rays are considering signing Barry Bonds. Gotta say, I didn’t see this one coming, and it’s worth wondering how serious Bonds would be about lacing up his shoes for this group.

The one thing we would know for sure if this deal comes to fruition is that Bonds cares far more about collecting his 3,000th hit than he is in pursuing his first World Series ring. The Rays are no longer the dregs of the American League East, but short of a miracle, they aren’t about to win this division, either.

Buster Olney, an ESPN baseball analyst who is as respected as anyone in baseball, thinks a Bonds addition would be a good move, and lists four reasons why he feels that way. Here would be my two main arguments against Olney’s reasoning.

1. Bonds won’t play for chump change — the figure I keep hearing is that he won’t settle for anything less than $10 million — and the Rays aren’t rich. Moreover, I don’t think he’d be as much of a gate attraction as people think, especially in Tampa. Much of the clinentele for the Rays is the retired crowd, and it seems the older generation is more inclinced to take a stand against Bonds’ indictment for perjury by not buying tickets.

2. Yes, Tampa Bay’s young and developing hitters could learn patience from Bonds, but they would also learn how to thumb their noses at any authority. Simply put, Bonds is a clubhouse cancer (hate to use that word, but it fits) on teams that aren’t in contention, so it’s not hard to see him having a negative impact on Tampa’s young players.

The fact that the Rays are even a consideration indicates that Bonds is getting itchy, and that is surprising. Believe me, come July some team will decide it needs just one more bat to get to the promised land, and then the offers will come. I would argue that Bonds will have a better opportunity to land in a playoff-type situation if he continues to wait. Obviously, we’re about to find out whether he’s as patient off the field as he is on it.

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More Rocket trouble

Roger Clemens might have to start amending his story. Apparently, a photo exists that shows Clemens was at that now-inamous barbecue at Jose Canseco’s house in 1998 that was such a focus of the Congressional hearings on Feb. 13.

The picture apparently was taken by an 11-year-old boy at the time, but it has yet to surface anywhere on the Internet. If it really does exist, then that proves not only that Clemens is the King of the Whoppers but that Canseco’s credibility is back to being lacking.

All you Clemens defenders, what do you think of this latest information?

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A Giants future?

One of the most convenient stops on the spring training tour is the Tucson Electric Park complex. On one side operate the Arizona Diamondbacks, and on the other the Chicago White Sox. So after checking out what was shaking with the snakes, I wandered on over and got down to business with the White Sox.

Two individual subjects pop to mind, and no, I’m not referring to Nick Swisher.

Start with Joe Crede, the third baseman who many would like to see be a Giant. Crede is in an interesting situation, because it’s pretty much an open secret that the Giants are eying him like a lion does prey, but yet he has to prepare as if he’s going to break camp with Chicago.

“This isn’t the first year it’s happened,” he told me. “It seems like every year there’s something that comes up. That stuff is out of your control. I try not to pay attention. This game is tough enough as it is.”

Crede had back surgery in June to repair two herniated disks in his back, and said he’s now able to “lead a normal life.” How much the aftermath has affected his baseball-playing ability is yet to be seen, and that’s probably what Giants general manager Brian Sabean is waiting for, too. But if healthy, Crede is a tremendous clutch hitter (check out his RISP numbers from 2006, his last healthy year) who could do quite a bit to repair the Giants’ offensive woes. Defensively, he ran neck-and-neck with the A’s Eric Chavez for Gold Glove consideration every season, so you’d think he’d be at least as good with the glove as Pedro Feliz. If, that is, he can bend over.

Another guy I ran into in the ChiSox clubhouse was reliever Octavio Dotel, the former A’s closer. Simply put, this is one of most personable guys in the game. He actually made it a point to ask how I was doing, which is something you almost never hear from players. When Santiago Casilla (then Jairo Garcia) debuted for the A’s in 2004, I sat down for a 30-minute interview with him, and Dotel served as the translator. Again, that’s something you rarely, rarely see.

I’m happy for Dotel, because after years of elbow trouble, he seems finally to be healthy. He’ll set up White Sox closer Bobby Jenks, and if he’s right, that would give Chicago a devastating end-of-the-game combination. Dotel also signed a two-year contract with the White Sox, and he said it’s the first time he’s ever had a multi-year deal. So good for him.

Overall, there’s a fairly good vibe in this clubhouse. It’s tough to tell if it will stay that way, because all teams are optimistic in spring training, and the clubhouses are so small. But keep an eye on these guys. After a brutal 2007, they may be ready to ascend again in 2008.

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Eric is Byrne-ing

Swung by the Arizona Diamondbacks camp after landing in Tucson, Ariz.,  yesterday, just in time to see the last remnants of an empty clubhouse. Empty, save for a handful of minor leaguers and one veteran.

Guess who the veteran was.

Now, again, the point of this job is to be as objective as possible, but if you like ball, it’s awfully hard not to like Eric Byrnes. The man has gone from being a fringe player early in his career to a star, both in name and contract.

Yet, from what I can see, and from what his teammates say, he still goes about his business the same way he did when he was a 24-year-old, aw-shuks-just-happy-to-be-here kid with the A’s. Now 32, he’s being projected as a middle-of-the-order hitter for a team that’s probably the favorite in the National League West.

Oh, and in the offseason he continued his budding career as a future radio star with several entertaining efforts hosting shows on KNBR and doing a program for XM Radio.

His other offseason activities: He got married (bad news ladies), and he dined with President Bush. I imagine Eric and I won’t be discussing politics, because our views toward the Prez are probably entirely different. That said, how can you not be at least a little envious of a guy who has dinner at the White House?

Anyway, in what should be down year for the local nines, Byrnes provides a rooting interest for both sides of the Bay. He grew up a Giants fan, hit for the cycle as an Athletic against that very team, and is one of the better guys the Bay Area has produced. I was around him for three years on the A’s beat and have stayed in touch periodically since his departure, and I’ve never seen (or heard about) him “big-league” anybody. And, by the way, it’s hard not to root for a guy who drives what’s dubbed a Shaggin’ Wagon.”

Shame the Giants couldn’t get him, but the D’backs’ pre-emptive strike in August was a smart one. He’s as important a figure on this team as any other. Not a bad rise for someone who started his career as an afterthought.

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Spring in the Air

Getting ready to hop aboard a much-too-early flight to Arizona for my annual spring training tour. This year, it will be Arizona only, and you get the chance to help me out.

Each year, I tour various camps — the primary purpose of which is to bring myself and the reader up to speed on what’s happening on teams other than the A’s and Giants. No different this time, and some of the story themes are pretty obvious. I’ll be visiting the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks to check in on Nick Swisher and Dan Haren, respectively.

But beyond that, how bout you tell me. What stories would you like to see. The Cubs, in their 100th year in search of a championship and with Kosume Fokudome in town, seem an interesting story, but any more so than the perennial AL West favorite Angels? Anything strike you as can’t-miss about the Rangers or Royals, the latter team having decided to spend a ton of money on Jose Guillen, of all people.

And, column-wise, what really strikes your fancy about the locals? Give me your comments, and I’ll take them under advisement. Remember, no such thing as a terrible idea.

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Andy Pettitte speaks

Andy Pettitte faced the music about an hour ago at the New York Yankees’ camp, and before start any more of those annoying “St. Andy” testimonials, let’s start with this:

He’s been caught in another lie.

The latest was revealed when Pettitte told the assembled gathering at the Yanks’ camp in Florida that his friendship with Roger Clemens has been strained, but that “Roger knows how I feel about him. He knows I’ve admired him and continue to admire him. He’s a great friend to me.”

Now, that may well be true — though why would he continue to admire Clemens? — but it goes in direct contrast to what a “friend” of Pettitte told Newsday on Jan. 19. The friend said that Clemens and Pettitte “were never as close as they were made out to be.”

Didn’t see Pettitte rush to clarify his views once that article was written. So, in essence, he was an accomplice to that lie. Or, he’s lying now about his feelings toward Clemens. Either way, it adds to Pettitte’s “mis-truth” total, and by now, I’ve lost track of the number. Needless to say this “role model” or “consistent honesty,” (Representative Henry Waxman’s words) could have a dueling-nose fight with Pinocchio by now. 

OK, that said, Pettitte deserves a little credit (very little) for sitting down with the media, becuase the gutless, baseball-player thing to do would’ve been to avoid it altogether. And he does seem genuinely sorry for his role in baseball’s steroid mess. Hopefully, Clemens was watching. He could learn from Pettitte’s humility.

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On Clemens and more

Back in the office after the final two weeks of offseason vacation, and feeling a bit like it’s the first day of school. Time to catch up on some things I missed, as well as looking ahead:

— The Roger Clemens/Brian McNamee “debate” on Capitol Hill basically revealed nothing. We learned that 1) Clemens is a scumbag. 2) McNamee is a scumbag, and 3) Congress has many buffoons representing it. Honestly, didn’t we already know all those things?

—  Meantime, let’s stop the “Andy Pettitte is a saint”  summations. The man lied on numerous occasions himself, up to and including the tale he put forth in the aftermath of the Mitchell Report. Good for Andy for not lying under oath, but is that what passes for being a forthright person these days?

— Speaking of Pettitte, it seems his congregation is praying for him. He’ll need them, because he faces the New York media today.

— So, the Giants are giving Barry Zito another Opening Day start. Giants fans, if you didn’t figure this out last season, let’s repeat: The best chance Zito has to succeed is to get outside his head. Handing him the ball for the opener, in my humble opinion, is not an effective way to start that process.

— I’m not even in Arizona yet, and I can already smell the fresh air created by the absence of Barry Bonds’ scent.

— Meantime, A’s starter Joe Blanton is a hot commodity, but unless the Reds are ready to part with Jay Bruce or Homer Bailey, among others, and the Dodgers are set to give up a bounty, bet on Billy Beane holding onto Blanton at least until the July 31 trade deadline.

— Eager to see how Jack Cust’s season unfolds for the A’s. True, he seems to have a job nailed down entering the spring, and that’s a first for him. But you wonder how much rope he’ll get. Cust, a career minor-league journeyman before 2007, hit only 11 home runs after the All-Star break, and finished at .217 with 7 HR and 26 RBI vs. lefties. With Mike Sweeney in camp, and the Daric Barton era about to start, Cust may wind up expendable.

More to come after we hear what “Saint Andy” has to say. 

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The Big Game

Just a quick football opinion, before we turn back to our usual subject. After all, the aftermath of Super Bowl XLII seems much more enticing than discussing which of the local nine is in better shape

My take on the Super Bowl (besides the fact that I can make terrible predictions with the best of them): Karma still exists. The Giants’ stunning upset of the Hoodies in Super Bowl XLII is proof of the above.

I speak, of course, of Randy Moss, and I’m sure Raiders fans know to what I’m referring. The fact that Moss quit on the Raiders during his brief two-year stint with them is unforgiveable. It’s one thing to say a situation is a hopeless joke (which in the Raiders case, it is), but to admit that you only “play when I feel like it,” is the worst thing a pro athlete can do. It’s bush on so many levels, we could spend an entire day discussing it.

Thus, the idea of Moss winding up with a ring on an undefeated team while earning accolades as “team leader” was enough to make any Raiders fan puke. Add the prospect of adding “game-winning touchdown” to that scenario would’ve been too much.

Thanks to Eli Manning and David Tyree , Plaxico Burress and the Giants’ relentless defense (one of the greatest performances ever), Moss didn’t get any of those things.  It’s nice to see that the earth hasn’t completely fallen off its axis.

Hearing a lot of commentators suggesting this was not the biggest upset in NFL history. Not only do I disagree, I rate only the USA’s Miracle on Ice hockey win against the USSR in the 1980 Winter Olympics as a bigger upset in U.S. Sports. Take into account the stage, what was at stake, and the dominance of the favorites.

As far as baseball upsets that compare? How bout these:

— 2004 Red Sox over the Yankees in the ALCS: Overcoming a 3-0 deficit in games is probably the only way you can find a true baseball equivalent to the odds the Giants had to overcome in their Super Bowl win.

— 1988 Dodgers over the A’s in the World Series: Conventional wisdom said it all fell apart for the Bash Brothers when Dennis Eckersley gave up Kirk Gibson’s famous home run in Game 1. I say it went to smithereens when Eckersley walked Mike Davis just before it.

1972 A’s over the Reds in the World Series: That dynasty’s first title came against a team that was supposed to dust them in the Fall Classic. The A’s got three of their four wins on the road, including the last one.

1969 Mets over the Orioles in the World Series: Man landed on the moon that summer, and the Miracle Mets beat a 109-win juggernaut three months later. The latter seemed more outlandish. 

– 1954 Giants over the Indians: Cleveland had won 111 games, 65 of them coming from their Big Three of Early Winn, Bob Lemon and Mike Garcia. But Dusty Rhodes’ pinch-walkoff home run in Game 1, and Willie Mays’ amazing catch were the equivalent of knocking a QB on his butt a half-dozen times. 

On vacation for the next two weeks. Next blog will be Feb. 18, when spring training will be in full swing.