SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The San Francisco Giants will not reconsider a decision to part ways with controversial home run king Barry Bonds, the team president said on Wednesday.
Last season Bonds passed Hank Aaron to become Major League Baseball’s career home run record holder, packing the stands at the Giants ballpark on the scenic San Francisco Bay.
But the club, who at the end of the season said they would not re-sign the free agent, have now removed prominent tributes in the stadium to the slugger, who has steroid allegations and perjury charges hanging over his head.
The legal case is expected to drag out for many months after a federal judge told prosecutors to restructure the indictments against the seven-time National League Most Valuable Player and single-season home run record holder.
Bonds, 43, has said he is fit and ready to play, but in a media event prior to the start of the season team president Peter Magowan said they would not accept Bonds back, even at a reduced price.
”No, not this team,“ he said, standing along the first base line of a ballpark where images of Bonds have been removed since last season. ”We’re going in a new direction; that would not be going in a new direction. The time has come to turn the page.
“We’re very respectful, at least I am, appreciative of all the contributions he made to the Giants over all that long period of time but the time came when we needed to go in a new direction.”
The left field wall no longer bears an image of Bonds chasing Aaron for the home run crown, nor elsewhere is the number of Bonds’ home runs in relation to Aaron posted.
A team spokeswoman said the Giants would put up a plaque to note where he had hit his last homer.
With a team that many sports columnists expect to land in last place this year, the Giants face difficulties in building as much excitement as in the past season. But Magowan said the team still expected to sell three million tickets in 2008.
“If we miss, we are not going to miss by much,” he said.
“Last year, we had the benefit of the All Star Game, Barry Bonds’ home run chase, the first time we played the Yankees since 1962, three weekend home series with the Dodgers. All of these things increased our attendance about 150,000 last year from where it had been.”
Noting the Giants, who mark their half-century anniversary in San Francisco in 2008, were in a process of rebuilding, Magowan said: “We’re asking our fans to be patient.”
“With Barry Bonds gone, this is a club at the beginning of a new era.”
Editing by Justin Palmer