Yes, Barry Bonds could very well be convicted

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I probably need to clarify a point regarding my assessment of the prosecution’s case in the whole Barry Bonds.  I’ve said many times that I think it’s a weak case. Recently my comments to this effect have been picked up by various blogs and have been characterized as me saying that Bonds is going to skate and the prosecution is doomed. That’s not exactly what I believe.

  • I believe that, as far as perjury prosecutions go, there is way less evidence here than you usually see and that the lies normally turned into perjury prosecutions are typically far more stark and unequivocal than the ones Barry Bonds is accused of telling. I believe that, in most instances this is case that would never have been brought by responsible prosecutors.
  • Some time ago, when it went up on appeal and the court excluded all of the doping calendars and everyone realized that Anderson wouldn’t testify I believed that the prosecution would drop the case and that Bonds would, at that point skate.  That obviously didn’t happen and I’m still surprised that it didn’t.
  • I still believe that the case to is light on evidence, wasteful, misguided and sets a dangerous precedent that actually harms the grand jury process far more than Bonds’ alleged perjury did.

But I also acknowledge that, once you get a jury in the box anything can happen.  My criticisms of the prosecution’s approach aside, the fact is that Bonds is telling a story that’s hard to believe and it’s not at all a stretch to think that the prosecution could get a jury to rule against him.

That doesn’t justify the prosecution because I don’t believe that the government should be casually bringing “yeah, I bet we can convince some people of this” kind of cases. The standard for pulling the trigger on a prosecution should be way higher simply because (a) as the old saying goes, you can indict a ham sandwich; (b) despite their charge to be impartial, juries tend to believe that if someone was indicted that they probably did it; and (c) because of that conviction rates are really damn high for cases that last this long.

The prosecutor has way more power than most people think in the criminal justice system. Good ones decline to go after ticky-tack cases for a lot of good reasons and this is a ticky tack case.  You can say that “well, if he lied he should be convicted” but prosecutors are given a ton of discretion for a reason.  They typically and responsibly decline to prosecute cases when the costs — not merely financial costs but costs to the justice system — outweigh the benefits of the prosecution.  I believe this is one of those cases where that discretion should have been exercised and the prosecution not pursued.

But given that hasn’t happened here it certainly means that, yeah, the jury that is seated next month could convict Bonds. And I’m not making any predictions that they won’t.

Pirates looking for outside outfield help

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Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Pirates GM Neal Huntington is looking for outside outfield help in the wake of Starling Marte‘s 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. With Marte out of the picture, the club moved Andrew McCutchen back to center field and have played Adam Frazier, John Jaso, and Jose Osuna in right field. But, as Brink points out, Osuna and Jaso — neither an outfielder by trade — misplayed balls over the weekend against the Yankees.

Among available free agents, the pickings are slim. There’s Coco Crisp, Jeff Francoeur, Cole Gillespie, Kelly Johnson, and Nolan Reimold (who is currently in independent baseball). The Pirates may have to find themselves a trade partner. They could also try to talk Angel Pagan back into action, as the veteran outfielder recently said he’s taking the year off. The Pirates could also look at Leonys Martin, who was recently designated for assignment by the Mariners.

Matt Barnes ejected after throwing at Manny Machado’s head

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On Friday, tension between the Orioles and Red Sox rose when Manny Machado spiked Dustin Pedroia sliding into second base. Although the umpires found no fault with Machado’s slide, third base coach Brian Butterfield was later ejected, still feeling like Machado wronged the Red Sox. Pedroia exited the game and was not in the lineup on Saturday or Sunday. He’ll undergo an MRI for his left knee and ankle in Boston on Monday.

For what it’s worth, Pedroia didn’t seem to feel any bitterness towards Machado for his slide. As MLB.com’s Jeff Seidel reported, Pedroia said, “I don’t even know what the rule is. I’ve turned the best double play in the Major Leagues for 11 years. I don’t need a … rule. The rule’s irrelevant. The rule’s for people with bad footwork.”

Tempers flared between the Red Sox and Orioles again on Sunday. In the bottom of the eighth inning with a runner on first base and one out with the Red Sox leading 6-0, reliever Matt Barnes threw a first-pitch fastball up-and-in to Machado. The ball actually hit Machado’s bat, so it counted as a foul ball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher ejected Barnes and the Red Sox brought in Joe Kelly. Machado doubled on the first pitch Kelly threw to put the Orioles on the board, but the Orioles ultimately lost 6-2.

MASN’s broadcast later showed Pedroia talking to Machado, seemingly clarifying that Barnes acted of his own volition without encouragement from Pedroia. “You know that,” Pedroia appeared to say. “It wasn’t me. It’s them.”

Update: Pedroia even apologized to Machado and the Orioles, per Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.

Commissioner Rob Manfred will likely look into Sunday’s incident. He could fine and/or suspend Barnes.

The Orioles and Red Sox meet again in Boston for a four-game series May 1-4. It will be interesting to see if the tension still remains then.