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Thursday, January 11, 2007
Latest blockbuster doesn't really change anything

By Jayson Stark

The bull's-eye on Barry Bonds' back got a little larger Thursday.

You wouldn't think this guy would need one more newspaper story linking him to another delicacy from the pharmacy to help him figure out he's the biggest target in sports.

But the New York Daily News reminded him of that anyway Thursday, by reporting Bonds had failed an amphetamines test last season.

We don't know exactly how many other players failed one of those tests last year. But let's put it this way: Barry Bonds wasn't the only one.

Just the only one who, by some astonishing coincidence, had the news of his positive test leaked to a reporter.

Clearly, there were enough players screwing up and testing positive last year that one baseball man said Thursday: "This wouldn't be a big deal -- if it were anyone else in the game."

But it isn't anyone else in the game. It's the one player in the game that the people who run this sport wish would just disappear from the game.

So it doesn't seem to matter what rules, regulations or federal laws exist that ban the leaking of positive drug tests, grand-jury testimony or even private phone conversations.

If leaking any of that might embarrass Bonds or -- even better -- convict him one more time in the court of public opinion, someone in baseball or law enforcement finds a way to get it out there. Funny how that works, isn't it?

"I know one thing," said a baseball executive who has had his share of dealings with Bonds. "A lot of people want to bring this guy down."

Yeah, life with Barry is just one big round of target practice these days. And that won't change …

Until he just goes away.

Except he isn't going away. Not because of this. Not because of any grand juries looking into his truthfulness, or lack thereof. Not because of friends, or ex-friends, getting tossed into the clink for refusing to rat him out.

Not even if he gets indicted -- unless the Giants somehow can negotiate an unprecedented contract clause into that 2007 contract he still hasn't signed.

You can't embarrass Barry out of baseball. It can't be done. And there is no reason to think Bonds will back off this time, either, even after his latest public-relations nightmare.

The buzz in baseball Thursday was that this latest news had caused Bonds to become a more sensitive subject than usual around the Giants' offices. But here's our question:

Why would this particular story -- powerful as it might be -- cause them to dump this guy now?

When this team and Bonds agents agreed last month on the dollars Bonds was going to be paid, wouldn't you say the Giants made that deal knowing exactly what kind of character they were dealing with?

Could they possibly have thought they were going to make it through the year without more Barry Bonds headlines splattered all over their morning paper?

Of course not.

So the Giants' big issue with Bonds is not going to change because of this news. As embarrassing as a positive amphetamines test might be to an organization that is always on the verge of being Barry-ed out, the Giants' biggest issue is trying to turn this back into their team, not his team.

As the Daily News reported Thursday, and we reported ourselves more than a month ago, the Giants are attempting to regain control on three major fronts:

• 1) Bonds' voluminous coterie -- the trainers, fitness guys, chefs and personal aides that have been part of the package as a Giant for years.

• 2) The 87-ring Bonds Circus which is a threat to bust out any time he homers, doesn't homer, plays, doesn't play, talks to the swarming media hordes or doesn't talk to the swarming media hordes -- especially at times when he is making history, making news or both.

• 3) The Giants' continuing inability, over the years, to keep Bonds from becoming a one-man solar eclipse that blocks the view of the rest of his team from all of us mortal occupants of Planet Earth.

The Giants have made all of that stuff an issue from the beginning of these negotiations. They might have decided last month to agree on money first. But these other "problems" always were dangling as the Giants attempted to make it clear to their biggest star, according to an official of one club that has spoken to them, that from now on, they're going to be "a team."

Bonds, on the other hand, has maintained from the beginning that if they wanted him back, they had to take all of him back -- meaning him and all of the perks and pals that have always surrounded him. So that tug o'war persists.

The Giants also are attempting, according to the Daily News, to protect themselves in case Bonds misses any time at all this season because of legal obligations.

That sounds impressive, except it's unlikely Bonds will miss any time because of legal obligations.

Even if Bonds gets indicted by that grand jury, said one baseball lawyer we spoke with Thursday, "there is no chance he would be convicted of anything this year. The defense won't look to rush into a speedy trial. So no matter what the grand jury does, there won't be a conviction during the season. You can bet on that."

And even if a judge were to rule that Bonds had to be in court for all sessions, those sessions most likely would be only preliminary hearings. And how many of those sessions would take place at 7 p.m., right around first pitch?

The courts don't work nights, except on TV. So if Kobe Bryant could commute between court and the basketball floor, you can bet Bonds could work out his own commuting schedule, no matter how the wheels of justice turn.

So does this latest blockbuster make the Giants feel any warmer or fuzzier about their favorite history-maker? Heck, no.

But does it really change anything? Other than possibly to give them slightly more leverage, no.

If they needed each other enough, despite all their baggage, to make a deal last month, they need each other just as much today. So if the latest Barry Blockbuster is now causing their hearts to beat any faster, hey, at least we know it wasn't because they gulped down any magic green pills.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for