Prosecutors drop six of the 11 charges against Barry Bonds

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You know the sign of a righteous prosecution advanced by confident prosecutors? Dropping half the charges on a several-years-old indictment relating to a seven-year-old incident on the eve of trial:

Among the charges eliminated from earlier indictments were claims that Bonds perjured himself by denying that he received testosterone from his trainer, Greg Anderson, and that Anderson supplied him with certain lotions – known as “the cream” and “the clear” – before 2003.

I read the entirety of Bonds’ grand jury testimony when it was released and some of Agent Jeff Novitzky’s, and the stuff about Anderson supplying Bonds the cream and the clear may have been the most muddled part about it. Novitzky had mistakenly — Falsely? You be the judge! — told the grand jury that the cream and the clear were actually considered controlled substances at the time, when they were not.  Likewise, a lot of the government’s loose and sloppy questioning of Bonds at the time was premised on them being illegal substances.  Bonds’ answers on this were all over the place. When asked if he was given the cream he’d say stuff like “well, we were at the ballpark …” and kind of fart around for ten minutes after that.

I’m guessing that a big reason the government is dropping questions about the cream and the clear from the indictment is that they don’t want Bonds’ defense team to kill them about the “were the cream and the clear illegal at the time” angle, whether such an attack would be legitimate or not.  For example, the defense could argue that the questions were based on a false premise which thus confused Bonds and rendered his testimony perfectly kosher.

Or — though it is beside the point because one can perjure themselves about perfectly legal activities — they might just bark loudly all trial long about how “what Bonds took wasn’t even illegal at the time! What a waste this is!”  Which, while kind of irrelevant, may be more effective.  Now that those things are out of the indictment, they’re not going to be able to refer to them much.

Overall this doesn’t change the nature of the prosecution. Bonds is still accused of lying and obstructing justice and the case against him is still a monumentally weak and wasteful one.  If they get a conviction, it will likely be over one of the more innocuous and inexplicable lies Bonds told under oath such as saying “not that I know of” when asked “did you ever use a syringe.”  Dumb question. Bizarre denial. Pretty meaningless even in the context of a wasteful and pointless grand jury investigation back in 2003.

Your tax dollars at work, citizen.

2017 Preview: Chicago White Sox

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Chicago White Sox.

After a couple of years of an all-in approach with a core of Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Todd Frazier, Adam Eaton and friends, Rick Hahn and the White Sox finally decided to tear it all down. And they tore it all down pretty productively, actually, dealing Sale and Eaton for a boatload of prospects, leading with Yoan Moncada, who has hit .287/.395/.480 with 23 home runs, 100 RBI and 94 stolen bases in 187 minor league games.

They also picked up righthander Michael Kopech who hits triple digits on the regular, one-time top prospect and still-promising Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning. They all join existing young talent like Tim Anderson, Carlos Rodon, Zack Collins, Carson Fulmer and Alec Hansen. The system, she is stocked.

 

In addition to all that new talent, the Sox have a new manager in Rick Renteria. What he’ll have to work with at the big league level is somewhat spotty, however, and could change pretty radically as the season wears on.

Still in house: Carols Quintana, Frazier, Cabrera and David Robertson, all of who are likely on the trading block (we know Quintana is). Hahn will entertain offers for anything not nailed down which, in this case, means anyone over the age of 25 or so. We could give a blow-by-blow of the offense, the pitching and the defense like we normally do here, but if you’re an obsessive White Sox fan you know that stuff already and if you’re not, all you really need to know is that between those inevitable departures and the loss of their ace in Sale and their best position player in Eaton, last year’s 78-wins are gonna seem like a distant memory.

Beyond trading stars for prospects, the White Sox have signaled that they’re in non-compete mode in other ways as well. New in the fold: Derek Holland, Peter Bourjos and Geovany Soto. Veterans who do a task or two well, go about their business and, if they have a super nice year, can get dealt at the deadline. In short, the lifeblood of a rebuild, not the stuff of greatness. There’s nobility in fulfilling that role even if there aren’t a lot of wins to be found in it.

Where are some wins to be found? Jose Abreu had a down year in 2016 and could be better this year. Both Holland and James Shields are capable of better years than they had last year. Indeed, it’d be close to impossible for Shields to be worse. They’ll have Carlos Rodon, who took a step forward last year and could be poised for a breakout. Quintana and company will be around until July most likely before they’re traded and before Hahn begins to call young dudes up for second half cups of coffee.

And that’s what this season is about, really. The cups of coffee. Seeing what the Sox have in their young talent, particularly Moncada, who has little left to prove in the minors, even if he spends some more time there and Rodon, who is already a key part of the big club. They may lose just as many games or more than they lost the past couple of seasons, but they’ll do it with more interesting players who fans can imagine being better in a White Sox uniform one day. And, heck, if someone develops a bit more quickly than expected, it could actually lead to good baseball. At least here and there.

Prediction: Fourth place, American League Central.

The Braves cave, a little anyway, on their outside food policy

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On Friday the Atlanta Braves announced a new policy for outside food, prohibiting ticket holders from bringing in their own. This was a reversal of their old policy — and the policies of the majority of teams around the league — which allowe fans to bring in soft-sided coolers with their own food and beverages, at least as long as the beverages were sealed.

The Braves claimed that the policy change was “a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league,” but this was clearly untrue as no other teams are cracking down on outside food like this. If there are new security procedures, everyone else is able to accommodate them without an opportunistic crackdown on fans bringing in PB&J for their toddlers. It seemed more likely that this was a simple cash grab.

Today the Braves have reversed the policy somewhat:

While they’re looking for kudos here, this is likewise an admission that the “security” stuff was bull because, last I checked, security procedures aren’t subject to popular referendum and aren’t changed when people complain. What really happened here, it seems, is the Braves, for the first time in living memory, were called out by the public for their greed and realized that even they have some responsibility to not be jackasses about this sort of thing.

Still, a gallon bag policy is not the same as it was before. You could bring coolers into Turner Field and still can bring them into most parks around the league. But I guess this is better than nothing.