- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Now that he’s the home run king, Barry Bonds‘ future is a Giant question mark.

Will he keep playing next year, as he has insisted so many times in recent months? Will it be in San Francisco, where he would prefer to retire after spending the past 15 seasons of his 22-year big league career? Or will it be with an American League team as a designated hitter?

“I’ll deal with that when the time comes,” Bonds said. “It’s up to [the Giants]. I don’t run the team. I’m not doing any interviews about my future.”

One thing Bonds knows is that he doesn’t plan to wait until just before spring training this time around to figure out where he will be in 2008 — or whether he’s playing at all, for that matter.

Owner Peter Magowan has had a tough time saying no to the star slugger many times before, and Magowan has acknowledged it’s unfortunate that Willie Mays, Bonds’ Hall of Fame godfather, retired in 1973 with the New York Mets after the Say Hey Kid spent all but the final 1½ seasons of his 22-year career with the Giants.

The Giants have done their share of celebrating this year. Bonds is their home run champ, and he was at center stage for the All-Star Game in the team’s waterfront ballpark as the National League starter in left field.

“My future’s in my house,” Bonds said jokingly last week, sitting on an equipment cart before taking his batting practice cuts.

But there’s also a chance Bonds could be indicted if a federal grand jury determines he perjured himself when he testified in the BALCO case that he hadn’t knowingly taken performance-enhancing drugs.

Bonds would like to call it quits on his own terms and in the comfort of his hometown, the city where he used to climb on Mays and his late father, Bobby, as a boy in the Candlestick Park clubhouse. He has been stretching and socializing with his teammates more regularly lately, perhaps hoping the Giants will notice his good behavior down the stretch.

Bonds received a one-year, $15.8 million contract for this season, again helping generate hype for a losing team. All this after Magowan said the day after last season ended that Bonds no longer would be the centerpiece of the franchise — and the Giants proceeded to sign left-hander Barry Zito to a seven-year, $126 million contract, the richest deal ever for a pitcher.

Yet the Giants lost out on other prized free agents, most notably Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano. The decision on Bonds might all depend on whether they find someone this offseason who can be more productive than Bonds was at 43. That could be a tough call for general manager Brian Sabean because the team hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2003.

Bonds wants to know sooner rather than later at what level he needs to work out this winter and when to start his training. He has said he will have a “ripped” body come retirement after fighting his weight at times the last few years following three operations on his troublesome right knee in 2005. Recovering from surgery limited how much he could exercise.

When asked whether there are any emotions knowing that his time with the Giants soon could be coming to an end, Bonds said, “Not yet,” and shook his head.

“Right now, I’m thinking about packing my stuff,” he said. “Most of it’s gone.”

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