SAN FRANCISCO – Barry Bonds is finished in San Francisco.
The Giants told Bonds they will not bring him back next season, ending an era in which he became all-time home run champion and a lightning rod for the steroids debate in baseball.
"It's always difficult to say goodbye," Giants owner Peter Magowan said Friday. "There comes a time when, I think, you have to move in a different direction."
On his Web site, Bonds said he wasn't done.
"There is more baseball in me and I plan on continuing my career. My quest for a World Series ring continues," he said.
Magowan told Bonds in person Thursday night.
"I think he knew the decision was coming. I don't think it was surprising to him. I think, naturally, he was disappointed," Magowan said.
"I do believe he's the greatest player of his generation, one of the greatest players of all time ... and it was a great advantage to have a player of his caliber on our team for all those years."
The 43-year-old Bonds broke Hank Aaron's record with his 756th home run on Aug. 7. Bonds has spent the past 15 seasons of his 22-year big league career with the Giants, and signed a $15.8 million, one-year contract for this season.
But he hasn't played since Sept. 15 because of a sprained right big toe, and he wasn't in the Giants' lineup Thursday night for the opener of what probably will be his final homestand with San Francisco, which signed him as a free agent in December 1992.
Shadowed by steroid speculation for the past few years, Bonds has hit 28 homers this season, raising his career total to 762. The seven-time NL MVP is batting .279 with 66 RBIs.
Prior to the toe injury, he had been mostly healthy, playing 125 games going into this weekend. The left fielder had 2,935 career hits before Friday night's game against Cincinnati.
"He can still play," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said.
Despite Bonds' personal achievements, the season has been a disappointing one for the Giants, who are mired deep in last place in the NL West.
"We've heard for a long time that the Giants are an old team and want to get younger, so we're not surprised," said Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris. "Barry is their oldest player, but qualitatively, he's their best player."
"He's still planning on playing next year, irrespective of whether it's an AL or NL team," he said.
Bonds has long denied using performance-enhancing drugs, but fans across the country have greeted him with placards inscribed with asterisks — baseball-fan shorthand for the belief that his record is hopelessly tainted by allegations of steroid abuse.
Even the person who paid $752,467 for Bonds' historic 756th home run has threatened to stamp it with an asterisk.
Fashion designer Marc Ecko revealed himself this week as the winning bidder for the ball and has posted a Web site giving visitors a chance to vote on what he should do with the ball: donate it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.; brand the ball with an asterisk in reference to the steroid allegations against Bonds; or blast the ball into space.
Bonds ripped Ecko earlier this week, saying the designer is "stupid. He's an idiot."
After parting ways with Bonds, San Francisco will be free to scrap a win-now philosophy in which Sabean surrounded the slugger with aging veterans every year to maximize Bonds' chances to win his first championship. San Francisco reached the World Series in 2002, but hasn't been back to the postseason since 2003.
In his statement, Bonds said he believes the Giants made the decision long ago not to bring him back for next season.
"Although I am disappointed, I've always said baseball is a business, and I respect their decision," Bonds said. "However, I am saddened and upset that I was not given an earlier opportunity to properly say goodbye to you, my fans, and celebrate with the city throughout the season as I truly believe this was not a last-minute decision by the Giants, but one that was made some time ago."
Bonds had said he wanted to finish his career in the comfort of his hometown, where his father, Bobby, played alongside his godfather, Willie Mays.
"I would have loved nothing more than to retire as a Giant in the place where I call home and have shared so many momentous moments with all of you," he said.
San Francisco is where Bonds became entangled with federal prosecutors and with the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, the lab at the center of the steroids scandal in professional sports.
The perjury investigation is focused on whether Bonds lied in 2003, when he told the federal grand jury investigating BALCO that he never knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs.
Bonds said his personal trainer told him he was taking flaxseed oil and arthritis balm.
His childhood friend and trainer, Greg Anderson, has spent nearly a year in prison for refusing to testify to the grand jury investigating Bonds' alleged perjury.
On the field, a championship is about the only thing missing on Bonds' resume.
He played in his 13th All-Star game this summer, an event held in his home ballpark. The waterfront stadium was constantly sold out as Bonds moved closer to history, and his drawing power certainly played a role in the Giants re-signing him as a free agent in the offseason.
Bonds has reached the postseason seven times, and a World Series title barely eluded him in 2002. The Giants were just five outs from the title in Game 6 against the Anaheim Angels, but they lost that lead and also got beaten in Game 7. Bonds hit .471 in those seven games with four home runs, and the Angels walked him 13 times.
A day after last season ended, Magowan said that Bonds would no longer be the centerpiece of the organization and that the team would change its formula for winning.
Bonds then checked out the free-agent market, and a couple of teams — including St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego — showed early interest. But there seemed to be a pervasive feeling around baseball that Bonds would ultimately rejoin the Giants and he did.