By Michael O'Keeffe
New York Daily News
NEW YORK - Barry Bonds' buddies have become the biggest obstacle between the embattled slugger and the one-year, $20-million contract the San Francisco Giants offered him more a month ago.
Club executives are insisting the contract they offered to Bonds on Dec. 7 includes a proviso that would bar trainers, personal assistants, friends and other members of his entourage from the locker room at San Francisco's AT&T Park and other team facilities.
"The posse rule is the real sticking point in the Bonds deal," a baseball source familiar with the talks said. "Bonds doesn't see why anything needs to be different than in the past, or different from any other players."
Asked to comment on the ongoing talks, Bonds' agent Jeff Borris said Wednesday night that he would not characterize them other than to say, "Both the Giants and I are working very diligently on the language of Barry's contract."
Giants officials and Borris are also negotiating over language that would allow the team to withhold Bonds' pay if he missed games because of court appearances, according to sources. Another topic under discussion: What are the team's responsibilities if the 42-year-old left fielder is indicted or runs into other legal problems?
The proviso team officials want to insert in Bonds' contract goes beyond the vague language of the standard Major League Baseball contract, which allows clubs to terminate a contract if the player fails "to conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship."
Giants officials have tried to insert similar language into other contracts so it doesn't appear the team is singling out its controversial star. But in baseball circles, the new rider is known as "Bonds language."
The Giants appear to have good reason to insist on their proposed contract language for Bonds, who needs 22 home runs to break Hank Aaron's career record of 755. Greg Anderson, his boyhood friend and personal trainer, was convicted of steroids distribution in the BALCO case and is currently in prison because he refused to testify before the perjury grand jury.
One other reason why the Giants are insisting on their proposed language: The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that federal prosecutors can pursue the 104 players who tested positive for steroids during the 2003 season. Bonds told the BALCO grand jury he had never knowingly used steroids; his claims that Anderson had supplied him only with flaxseed oil and other legal supplements would be seriously undermined if enough of the 104 players testify they received illegal drugs from Anderson.