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.

 

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.