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Guess which color Barry Bonds' uniform will be next season

December 09, 2007|Jim Litke | Associated Press

Everybody expects to see Barry Bonds in a uniform next season.

Some will be surprised by what kind.

The home run king is expected to plead not guilty at his arraignment Friday in San Francisco on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Everything after that -- from the makeup of Bonds' legal team to a breakdown of his next contract -- is open to speculation.

Q: Orange prison jumpsuit or Oakland A's green?

A: Green. But don't be surprised if it's Kansas City blue, the teal of Seattle, whatever color the Tampa Bay Rays turn out in for 2008, or another hue of the American League rainbow.

Never underestimate baseball's appetite for spectacle -- even the conflicted variety show that is Bonds -- or a buck. At some point, some AL team could be desperate enough for both a designated hitter and a box-office bump to hire him.

Strange as it sounds, being indicted for lying to a grand jury about whether he knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs might actually help Bonds find work. It forces him to drop his asking price, making him affordable even to bottom-feeding clubs. Any team that signs Bonds could see him sent to prison by the feds or to his room by commissioner Bud Selig after the Mitchell report comes out.

Some people scratched their heads when his agent, Jeff Borris, said Bonds still plans to play another year and for a team that is "committed to winning."

OK, so Borris is kidding himself about finding a contender. It's hard to imagine the Yankees or Red Sox even bothering to return his calls. And in Detroit, where Bonds pal Jim Leyland is the manager, there's no shortage of power hitters and Gary Sheffield has the DH spot sewn up.

Leyland said at the winter meetings he'd like to see Bonds play: "Absolutely. I know he's been working out. I know he's in great shape. I don't know where the fit will be for him, but I certainly hope there's one."

Reading between the lines, Leyland hopes the fit is a few hundred miles from Detroit, at a minimum. He knows from their days in Pittsburgh how big a headache Bonds can be -- and that was a few hat sizes ago.

Still, if Sheffield suddenly goes down in spring training and owner Mike Ilitch gets itchy about "winning now," then maybe GM Dave Dombrowski picks up the phone and . . .

If not, maybe Oakland does.

The A's are probably the best fit, though team insiders say privately they've lost interest. But GM Billy Beane is a bargain hunter supreme, and better still, Bonds might be offering a hometown discount. That way, Barry, his entourage and his few remaining fans wouldn't have trouble getting to the ballpark most days, even after spending the morning in court. It's close enough, too, if Bonds were to qualify for work-release.

Q: Speaking of court, aren't we getting ahead of ourselves?

A: If convicted on all counts, Bonds could go to prison for 30 years. Yet even in a worst-case scenario -- from Bonds' perspective -- he likely wouldn't serve a day until he's exhausted all his appeals. That could take years.

More relevant at the moment is his trial date, because that will let everyone know Bonds' availability for next season. He's been lawyer-shopping recently. According to reports, he's had trouble settling on a lead attorney because he's been demanding deep discounts.

The wheels of justice grind slowly enough as it is. Toss a few continuances into the process early on while he settles on a defense team, then toss in a few more while Bonds shops for ties to match his suits and the half-dozen cars he plans to drive to the courthouse and -- voila! -- it's late October or early November.

Although Borris won't represent Bonds in court, he probably wasn't guessing when he said, "Barry's legal situation should not conflict with the 2008 baseball season."

Q: How much is any ballclub willing to risk?

A: Depends on the club, but a good guess is somewhere between $4 million and $5 million guaranteed, with perhaps double that in incentives. Anything less could be a problem. That's barely half of what Bonds pocketed last year and while he's looking at some sizable legal bills, there's only so much disrespecting a man can take.

Bonds is 43, his knees are shot and the rest of the moving parts that must work in sync to turn around a baseball are long past their warranty date. On the other hand, Bonds hit .276 with 28 home runs and 66 RBIs in just 340 at-bats. Love him or hate him, every one of those plate appearances was worth the price of admission.

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