"It was candid and open," Sabean said, also confirming that Bonds was not in attendance."It wasn't prudent," he said about negotiating without Bonds in the room. "I never talk to a player about negotiations, and Jeff agreed." That session was followed by a late night phone call between the two parties, where the parameters of the final deal were evidently discussed. Ultimately, it became reality later on Thursday. Bonds and the Giants seemed destined to continue on their journey together. The Giants are hosting the All-Star Game next July 10, and it would've seemed strange for them to do so without their favorite son on the roster. But for the last month, the two have tangoed.
Bonds tested the free-agent market, but found no willing takers. He generated some early interest from the A's and the Padres, but that had all but dissipated this week as those teams spent their limited finances elsewhere -- Oakland on Mike Piazza and San Diego on Greg Maddux.At the same time, the Giants pursued other free-agent outfielders, but lost out to the Dodgers on Juan Pierre, the Angels on Gary Matthews Jr., the Astros on Carlos Lee, and they were never a serious player for Alfonso Soriano, who signed an eight-year, $136 million contract -- the largest so far of a bullish market this offseason. Bonds joined the Giants as a free agent in 1993 and quickly ascended beyond the level of excellence he had established in his first seven years, starring for the cash-starved Pittsburgh Pirates. He's been the National League's Most Valuable Player seven times, the last four of them in successive seasons from 2001, when he hit 73 homers to break Mark McGwire's three-year-old single-season record, to 2004, the season that ended with knees so sore that he had to undergo arthroscopic surgery on both of them. The first, on his left knee, went well as planned. But the one on his right knee proved to be a disaster. During 2005, he subsequently had to have the knee scoped two more times, the last to alleviate a sinister bacterial infection that could have caused him to lose his lower right leg had it not been checked. Bonds missed all except 14 games that season, when he hit a career-low five home runs. This past season, Bonds was plagued by bone chips in his left elbow as he built the right knee back into playing shape. The bone chips and a spur were removed a day after the end of the season. Even so, Bonds hit .270 in 2006 (after bottoming out at .235 as late as Aug. 20) and tied Ray Durham for the club lead with 26 homers, the most long balls ever hit by a player who turned 42 during that particular season. He added 74 runs scored and 77 RBIs in 130 games, led the NL with 115 walks, and his .454 on-base percentage led the Major Leagues. Bonds went into the season with 708 homers, seven away from passing Ruth. He struggled mightily, going his first 13 games without hitting a homer, and finally getting his first on April 22 at Colorado. He tied Ruth at 714 in Oakland on May 20 after a nine-game drought. The big one came eight days later. Up until then, Bonds had wavered about returning for his 22nd season and his 15th with the Giants. But the day after passing Ruth, Bonds said he would return in 2007 if healthy. He made the determination that he was healthy enough to come back shortly after the All-Star break, and he held fast to that conviction. All he needed was a team and a contract. Now he has both. He'll play out the string with the team he knows best -- in the ballpark nestled on the banks of McCovey Cove.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less