Barry Bonds suit

Bonds prosecutors get an evidentiary win

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Yesterday I outlined some of the things I thought were on the silly side when it came to the evidentiary battles in the Barry Bonds prosecution.  There was a ruling yesterday, however, that is not at all silly. At least if you’re Barry Bonds:  the judge will allow prosecutors to play a recording to the jury in which Bonds’ trainer Greg Anderson tells former Bonds business partner Steve Hoskins that he injected Bonds with undetectable steroids.  The transcript of the recording, which was unsealed a couple of years ago, is as follows:

Anderson: [E]verything I’ve been doing at this point is undetectable.

Hoskins:Right.

Anderson: See, the stuff that I have . . . we created it. And you can’t, you can’t buy it anywhere. You can’t get it anywhere else. But, you can take it the day of and pee.

Hoskins: Uh-huh.

Anderson: And it comes up with nothing.

Hoskins: Isn’t that the same [expletive] that Marion Jones and them were using?

Anderson: Yeah same stuff, the same stuff that worked at the Olympics.

That recording was the subject of a boatload of litigation by Anderson in connection with his own conviction several years ago. He contended that it was illegally obtained by Hoskins, though ultimately the court did not agree.  Even so, the judge presiding over those proceedings called the tape “as worthless a piece of evidence as I’ve ever seen.”

Maybe that’s so in connection with Anderson’s prosecution, but it’s damaging to Bonds.  Not mortally so in that nothing on the tape speaks to Bonds’ knowledge of what he was being injected with and that’s what’s at issue here.  Indeed, Bonds has long claimed that he knew nothing about what Anderson gave him. The only person who can truly prove that Bonds is lying about that is Anderson and he’s not testifying. But in some ways a tape of Anderson talking about all of this may be more damaging than him actually being there. There’s an illicit quality to it, ya know? It’s all so CSI and juries love that.

Still, I don’t think the case is going to turn on the tape for a couple of reasons.  One reason is that, if Bonds’ lawyers are smart, they’ll paint the absent Anderson as a malevolent figure from the outset.  They can’t and won’t claim that Bonds never took steroids — even Bonds himself suggested in his grand jury testimony that, yeah, in hindsight he did take steroids — they’re claiming that he never knew.  In doing that they’re going to portray Anderson as some training Svengali to whom Bonds simply abdicated his decision making.  You or I may not believe it — I don’t* — but that’s their case. It has to be their case.

And it’s an all or nothing case.  It’s a case that will have to gain purchase in the jury’s mind early.  If it’s doubted at all from the outset — from opening arguments on — there is nothing the defense can do to rehabilitate it because they have no evidence themselves that affirmatively establishes Bonds’ ignorance.  How could they?

At the same time, if the jury believes the defense it will likewise believe it from the beginning . If the jury believes the general idea — if it buys the theme — there is nothing the prosecution can do to rehabilitate its own case because the prosecution has no evidence that affirmatively shows’ Bonds’ knowledge. Not even this tape, which doesn’t speak at all to what Barry Bonds knew.

Indeed, I think that by the time the tape is played, the jury will have made up its mind one way or another. If they’re skeptical of Bonds’ overall defense to begin with, the tape will bolster that skepticism. If they believe Bonds they will dismiss it because it doesn’t jibe with their assumptions.  I don’t see it as a game-changer.

*The fact that I say I don’t believe Bonds didn’t know what he was taking may surprise you given how pro-Bonds I’ve been though this whole prosecution.  That opens up a whole different topic.  One that’s complicated enough that I think is worth its own post.  A post that I’ll put up in a few minutes.

 

Report: Cardinals are scouting Cuban outfielder Luis Robert

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.

There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.

Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.

Cubs extend Pedro Strop through 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.

Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.

The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.

Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.