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Bonds' conduct among issues

GIANTS WANT PROMISES OF BETTER BEHAVIOR

By Andrew Baggarly

Mercury News

The Giants are laying the groundwork for potential contract negotiations with Barry Bonds, but baseball sources said they are undecided whether to offer a contract to the 42-year-old left fielder.

Money is only one factor. Sources said the Giants also want assurances that Bonds would conduct himself in a more professional manner than he did this past season.

The prevailing opinion is that the Giants will seek to re-sign Bonds, who needs 22 home runs to break Hank Aaron's career record of 755.

But according to sources inside and outside the Giants clubhouse, Bonds exasperated teammates and coaches several times last season when he chose to make himself unavailable in pinch-hitting situations.

Multiple sources confirmed that Bonds had taken off his uniform during the ninth inning of a 5-3 loss at Milwaukee on Sept. 24. The Giants brought the potential winning run to the plate, but rookie catcher Eliezer Alfonzo hit into a game-ending double play and the loss officially eliminated the Giants from the division race.

Afterward, Manager Felipe Alou covered for Bonds, saying it was a manager's decision.

In another instance, April 20 in Arizona, Bonds disobeyed Alou when asked to take left field after drawing a walk as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning. Alou had used reserve outfielder Jason Ellison earlier in the game and was forced to move third baseman Pedro Feliz to the outfield, where he hadn't played all season.

Bonds also raised eyebrows when he didn't appear as a pinch hitter in a 6-5 loss at Washington on July 27. The Giants were down three runs when Alfonzo hit a two-out, two-run home run in the ninth. Bonds had gone back to the clubhouse, so Alou sent Todd Greene to the plate. Greene struck out.

"I saw him with a bat in the tunnel,'' Alou said after that loss. "By the time I saw that, the game was over.''

The Giants were 0-6 on that trip.

And on Sept. 30, the day the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched a playoff spot with a 4-2 victory at AT&T Park, a source said Bonds was napping in the clubhouse during the ninth inning.

Unlike past years, many of the problems that Bonds generated remained under wraps last season because of veteran clubhouse leaders who made it a mission in spring training to avoid distractions.

But sources said that before the Giants open talks to bring him back, upper management wants assurances that Bonds would be attentive to new manager Bruce Bochy and handle himself in a professional manner.
Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, declined comment when asked about the incidents last season.

The new collective bargaining agreement allows the Giants and Bonds to negotiate past the spring reporting date, but sources say the Giants would determine whether to offer Bonds a contract or let him walk by the end of December.

The Giants have placed two calls to Borris since the season ended to lay the foundation for potential negotiations, but financial terms were only loosely discussed.

Giants General Manager Brian Sabean and owner Peter Magowan have said that they would evaluate Bonds as a contributing baseball player above other considerations.

Omar Vizquel was awarded his 11th Gold Glove and his second consecutive since joining the Giants as a free agent. He led all major league shortstops and set a Giants franchise record with a .993 fielding percentage last season.

Vizquel needs two more to catch Ozzie Smith, who leads all shortstops with 13 Gold Gloves. Vizquel is the oldest shortstop to receive the honor.

"I'm 39 years old and competing against kids who are 25, 26 and at the top of their game,'' Vizquel said.