Players see little issue in adjusting to Barry

If the pursuit gets serious, the Rays say they're fine with it.

By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
Published February 26, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG - Manager Joe Maddon said the Rays' talks about all-time home run king Barry Bonds thus far have been "a minor discussion," an idea that was "thrown out there a little bit, and it really hasn't gone any further than that."

But if - and it's obviously still a huge if - the Rays did decide to pursue the controversial slugger, players in their clubhouse say it wouldn't be a major problem.

"If they are really serious about it, I'm pretty sure we can adjust to it," two-time All-Star leftfielder Carl Crawford said. "It's Barry Bonds - who wouldn't want to have him on their team?

"He still hit, what, 28 home runs last year? He's walking a lot, still being very productive. You can understand why we could be interested in him. I'm surprised to see him not signed yet."

Or, as centerfielder B.J. Upton said: "C'mon, it's Barry. Just his presence alone is different. And it makes everything a little more difficult for the opposing pitcher."

By being at the center of the steroids controversy and moving atop the home run chart, Bonds, 43, was a considerable distraction to his Giants teammates, who based on the comments coming out of Arizona don't seem to mind that he's gone, as well as the media entourage that often accompanied him.

Add Bonds' oft-prickly behavior, larger-than-the-team attitude and divalike arrangements such as multiple lockers and a personal recliner, and it could seem like he would be more trouble than he's worth.

Although outfielder Jonny Gomes joked, "We might have to cut a couple guys first to open up some lockers," players seemed open to the possibility as long as Bonds did his part to be part of the team.

"I don't see a problem with that," veteran closer Troy Percival said.

Maddon didn't want to speculate how Bonds might fit in the Rays clubhouse. "I really don't want to go there right now," he said. "So many things are going good right now. If I have to face those moments, I'll do it at the appropriate time."

Outfielder/DH Cliff Floyd, who could lose the most playing time, said the Rays didn't need to rush. "I think we're going to do good with what we've got, but you're talking about 700-plus home runs, so I don't think anybody in here would disagree with the fact that he's a great ballplayer," Floyd said. "But the stuff that comes along with a great player, can we handle it? Probably so. But we'll wait and see."

Bringing in Bonds could be seen as contrary to the Rays' efforts to rid their clubhouse of problems and create a more positive environment by trading Elijah Dukes and Delmon Young.

But if it translates to more wins, as well as bigger crowds, team officials might see a tradeoff.

"The way things are happening, they're really trying to get the key ingredients to help the team win, so anything's possible," Crawford said. "It would not really surprise me that they'd be trying to do something like this now because they're really trying anything to help us get to the next level."

How much it would cost the Rays would be another issue. Bonds made $17-million last season, but given his lack of options, he would seem likely to take a lower, and possibly incentive-laden, deal.

Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said through a spokesman the Times' Monday report that the Rays had discussed Bonds was "a nonstory."