Forget Godot, Everyone Is Waiting for Bonds

felipe alou - san francisco giants
San Francisco Giants manager Felipe Alou says he was not disappointed that Barry Bonds failed to show up Tuesday and that he expects to see him Wednesday. (Jeff Topping - Reuters)
By Steve Fainaru
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 22, 2006

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Feb. 21 -- The San Francisco Giants staged their first full workout Tuesday, but without their diva left fielder, Barry Bonds, whose behavior this week has only deepened questions surrounding his physical and mental well-being before a potentially historic season.

The Giants blocked off three choice parking spaces with orange cones while reporters and cameramen stood the length of the dugout in anticipation of Bonds's arrival. Afterward, Manager Felipe Alou said he was not disappointed that Bonds had failed to show up and said he expected to see him Wednesday.

Giants players also played down Bonds's absence.

"It's not that big of a deal," said pitcher Tyler Walker, the club's player representative. "We know this is his 21st spring training. If he doesn't know what he's doing by now, it's a little late. We're kind of used to it. He does his thing, and that's fine."

The practice was technically voluntary, since players are not required to report until Feb. 28 under baseball's labor agreement. However, only Bonds and pitcher Alfredo Simon, a Dominican minor leaguer delayed by visa problems, were missing.

With 708 career home runs, Bonds needs seven to pass Babe Ruth on the all-time list and 48 to break Hank Aaron's all-time record of 755. His mere appearance on the field would go a long way toward clarifying his status. Three knee operations limited Bonds to 14 games last year. In contradictory interviews published Sunday, he announced that he would retire after this season, then said he might play several more years. In one interview, Bonds described himself as "fat" and largely immobile and said he was ingesting countless pills to help him sleep and relieve the pain in his right knee.

But the Giants, who will pay Bonds $18 million this season -- nearly a quarter of the team's payroll -- have continued to send signals that they expect him to play. On its Web site, the team continues to post General Manager Brian Sabean's comments last October that with an intense offseason conditioning program "it's reasonable to think he'll play in 120 games."

Sabean, responding to Bonds's grim self-assessment, declined to put a number on how many games he expected him to play. But he said Bonds's doctor had told him that Bonds has "got a green light to come in here and do what he can to get ready."

Bonds had suggested that he might show up Tuesday for the first full workout. More than a dozen cameras crowded beneath Gate B at Scottsdale Stadium to record his arrival. The cameras mobilized when a tan Ford sedan pulled into one of Bonds's parking spaces, but it was only Harvey Shields, a trainer who is nominally on the Giants staff but who caters almost exclusively to Bonds. Shields dresses in a cubicle next to his boss here in a scaled-down version of the exclusive wing that Bonds occupies in the Giants clubhouse in San Francisco.

Without fanfare, the Giants took the field without their superstar, performing calisthenics and throwing and hitting before the practice ended in the early afternoon.

The players said they were also in the dark about Bonds's status. Outfielder Moises Alou said Bonds had previously talked with him about retiring. "I don't know how serious he was at the time, but since he said it again, I'm just telling you it's not the first time he's said it."

But on the subject of whether Bonds would retire if he was still short of Aaron's record, Alou told reporters, "I know as much as you guys."

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