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No end in sight for Bonds

So, why not 800?

Is there anyone prepared to say that Barry Bonds, who hit the 700th home run of his career Friday night -- and his 701st yesterday afternoon -- can't become the charter member of the 800 club?

As he said after No. 700, "I have game left."

Bonds, who hit the milestone 700th in front of family, friends, and godfather Willie Mays in SBC Park (the same setting in which he hit Nos. 500 and 600), is up to 43 homers on the season. He hit 46 in 2002 and 45 last season, which would suggest that he won't break Hank Aaron's record of 755 next season, but he isn't that far removed from the record-setting 73 he hit in 2001, so all bets are off.

Giants owner Peter Magowan said last week the club almost certainly will guarantee the $18 million contract option for 2006 that would have kicked in automatically if Bonds had 400 plate appearances next season. Bonds had been lobbying the club to exercise it before the 2005 season, and with that now a given, he said he'd like to talk about an extension for 2007, in case he chooses to play one last season, during which he would turn 43. Magowan said he's open to that.

And if 800 is looming, that might be incentive enough for Bonds to come back in '07, given that his game is showing no sign of decline. The biggest obstacle to Bonds getting to 800 is not the ravages of age, which he is mocking, but the reluctance of opposing managers to pitch to him. Bonds has walked 207 times this season, 105 times intentionally. Both are records.

Bonds is averaging a homer every 8.2 at-bats this season. To reach 800 at that rate, he would need another 820 at-bats, which a normal hitter could expect to get in two seasons, assuming he stays healthy. But because of the way he is walked, Bonds's quest probably would have to carry over to '07. Maybe he's already done the math, which is why he's talking about tacking on another year.

But anyone looking for signs that he is slowing down, look elsewhere (except for his 1-for-9 performance against the Red Sox in three games in San Francisco, his worst effort against any team this season).

Bonds, who is leading the majors in hitting with a .372 average, already has batted over .400 in two months (.472 in April, .414 in August) and at .400 in September, he is working on a third. Entering yesterday, he was batting .409 with runners in scoring position, .298 with two strikes, and a ridiculous .550 with a 3-and-1 count (granted, he's had only 20 such at-bats; most teams choose to walk him when he's that far ahead in the count).

There may be one other reason for Bonds to carry on: It would be tough for the game's greatest player to finish his career without a World Series ring, the one goal that so far has eluded him.

He doesn't buy this `consumer' advocacy

Carl Everett, who last season was struck in the head by a cellphone tossed from the upper deck at Network Associates Coliseum, had little sympathy for the fans involved in last week's ugliness in Oakland, where a female spectator sustained a fractured nose when struck by a chair thrown by Rangers reliever Frank Francisco. Francisco is facing a felony charge in connection with the incident, and a civil suit is possible.

"There and Philly," Everett said. "They shouldn't even have teams. They shouldn't. Their fans are terrible. In Philly, they throw golf balls, bats, everything. Oakland, the same thing.

"They claim the fan is always right. I say bull. I was assaulted in the same ballpark and they didn't do nothing. I got hit by a fan in the head with a cellphone. Is he in jail? They knew who did it. Ask them if he is in jail. Did he ever serve time?"

Everett pointed an accusing finger at Major League Baseball.

"Major League Baseball has always protected the fan," he said. "We're the product. They don't really care about the product. The consumers is where you make the money. You can always get more product, I assume. We're expendable."

Baker steers through breakdown lane

While the Cubs announced that Nomar Garciaparra would miss at least five games because of a strained groin, there are fears the injury could sideline him another week or more. Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez missed two weeks because of a similar injury, and Garciaparra's might be worse.

Give general manager Jim Hendry kudos for coming up with Neifi Perez to fill the breach until Nomar returns. Perez, formerly with the Giants, was hitting close to .400 for the Cubs.

"This has been the worst year of injuries I've had as a manager," said Dusty Baker. "As soon as we get whole, another part breaks down. That's why I don't appreciate a lot of people getting on this team so much, simply because of all the injuries we've had. We've had to overcome a lot.

"We know what the problem is. My job, our job, now is to figure out a solution. If you dwell on the problem, you're just walking around sad all the time, and life is too short for that."

Etc.

Wanted man

While the Diamondbacks made their first contract offer to Richie Sexson last Monday, they are expected to receive stiff competition from the Mariners, who play near Sexson's home in Vancouver, Wash., and need a big bat in the middle of their lineup.

Lopsided results

Curt Schilling's 20th win put him 16 wins ahead of the two pitchers, Casey Fossum and Brandon Lyon, for whom he was traded. Fossum is 4-14 while Lyon hasn't pitched all season because of elbow problems. The long ball has bedeviled Fossum, who has allowed 29 home runs in just 126 innings.

Easy targets

The Pirates are on pace to tie the NL record for most times hit by a pitch, 100, set in 1997 by the Astros.

The honor is Veras's

Former Sox wannabe Wilton Veras was named Player of the Year in the independent Northeast League. Veras hit .369 (.401 on-base percentage) with 29 doubles and struck out just 27 times in 320 at-bats. But the Dominican-born third baseman, who played 85 games for the Sox in 1999 and 2000, hit just five home runs. Veras plays for the New Jersey Jackals, who reached the league finals against North Shore but are down, 2-1, in the best-of-five series.

Pushing the buttons

While the Red Sox have let Schilling's feats speak for themselves, the Twins have been more aggressive in promoting their Cy Young Award candidate, Johan Santana. At his start Tuesday, fans were given "Santana for Cy Young" buttons.

It's the thought that counts

Marlins pitcher Carl Pavano, who is sure to be one of the most ardently pursued free agents this winter, left four tickets for Steve Bartman last weekend in Chicago. Bartman is lying low since he became the Cubs' Bill Buckner for impeding Moises Alou's attempt to catch a foul ball in Game 6 of the NLCS last season . . . And yes, Schilling has continued in Boston his tradition of leaving a ticket for his late father whenever he pitches.

Caught on film?

To all you Saugus Little League fans still reliving last summer's glory: If you happened to take pictures or shoot video of Jason Varitek's folks being honored as the Little League Parents of the Year in Williamsport, drop an e-mail here (edes@globe.com). The Variteks didn't get any . . . Though their priority will be to re-sign Adrian Beltre, it's hard to imagine the Dodgers not having interest in Varitek after they traded Paul Lo Duca in the Brad Penny deal.

Angels stand to cash in

The Angels should have plenty of cash to throw around this winter. They stand to save almost $38 million from the expiring contracts of Kevin Appier, Troy Glaus, Aaron Sele, and Troy Percival. The Angels have potential replacements in position for Glaus and Percival in highly touted third baseman Dallas McPherson, The Sporting News's Minor League Player of the Year, and Francisco Rodriguez, who closed in Percival's absence and has gotten the call a few times even with Percival back.

Invisible man

While Schilling feels the love of a full house every time he pitches in Fenway, his old running mate, Randy Johnson, is making history in semi-obscurity in Arizona. Johnson, who turned down a chance to be traded, was watched by a crowd of just 22,598 -- only 528 more than the smallest crowd in D-Backs history a night earlier -- when he passed Steve Carlton as the all-time leader in strikeouts by a lefthander with 4,139.

Local flavor

There's a little bit of Fitchburg in the new hall of fame opened by the Cincinnati Reds. There's a plaque from Redland Field honoring the manager of the 1919 Reds, Pat Moran, a Fitchburg native. The '19 Reds won the World Series against the scandal-ridden "Black Sox," and later played an exhibition in Fitchburg as a fund-raiser for Moran, who died of Brights disease (a kidney ailment) in 1924 at age 48.

Time to move on?

Devil Rays owner Vince Naimoli is fighting a losing battle against all the speculation that has Lou Piniella replacing Art Howe as manager of the Mets. "A contract is a contract. We honor contracts and we expect them to be honored," Naimoli told Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. "We're happy with Lou and look to be associated with him for a long time." Piniella has two years left on the four-year, $13 million deal he signed to be closer to home with the D-Rays, but he admits that this has been his toughest year of managing and he is looking for signs from the club that it plans to spend to upgrade this winter. For all of Naimoli's talk of expecting Piniella to live up to his contract, there would be little upside in the D-Rays holding onto an unhappy Lou. Getting compensation from the Mets would be an obvious option.

Take this man to Vegas

Giants GM Brian Sabean was 4 for 4 in coin tosses to determine possible playoff matchups; on the fifth toss involving the Giants, the Dodgers called wrong, giving the Giants a clean sweep.

Material from interviews, wire services, and other beat writers was used in this report. 

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