The Barry Bonds trial has a jury and now Greg Anderson is on deck

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Twelve people have been picked to sit in judgment of Barry Bonds. A couple of them are baseball fans, but not serious ones. They haven’t heard of BALCO or, if they have, they don’t know anything about it, really. I sometimes find myself surprised that someone could not know anything about this stuff but then I remember that I do nothing but read about baseball all day. If you asked me the first thing about any off-the-ice hockey news, for example, I couldn’t tell you a damn thing and I’m nominally a member of the sports media. It doesn’t shock me at all that you can find 12 people who are largely ignorant of the Barry Bonds case in a single day of jury selection. Guys like this tend to get left off juries.

According to the Daily News, one of the jurors is a young woman who graduated college Phi Beta Kappa, which makes me wonder who actually puts that down on official forms of any kind even if they are Phi Beta Kappa. Another flew choppers in Vietnam. One is always tempted to stereotype jurors based on this sort of information, but you almost always find yourself surprised by how they vote and what they thought about the trial when you interview them after a case. Everyone has jury horror stories, but for the most part people take the job seriously. They’re not perfect, but my experiences with juries are one of the things that allow me to maintain confidence in the system.

With a jury seated, today is the day that Greg Anderson gets called before Judge Ilston again, will refuse to testify again and, unless Judge Ilston is just sick of the guy, she will likely send him back to jail again.  One has to marvel at a person who is so committed to a course of action that has no apparent upside for him. A lot of commenters around here have said in the past that Bonds has to be paying the guy off or something, but if there’s one thing the government is outrageously good at doing it’s tracing money. If Anderson shows any amount of financial largess in the next decade — and I mean even if he buy premium gas or super-sizes his value meal — he’ll likely have IRS agents tracing his accounts back to his grade school paper route and monitoring them until his dying day, eager to see if they can find anything with which to bring new charges against Bonds and Anderson.  The upshot: I’m skeptical that Anderson’s refusal to testify is premised on some kind of payoff, be it promised, assumed or merely wished for.

Of final note was Judge Ilston’s order to the jurors, as reported in the Mercury News:

The judge and lawyers stressed in jury selection that the case, despite its dramatic connection to steroids and baseball, centers on allegations about lying under oath to a grand jury. “You must decide the case on the evidence presented at trial,” Illston told the potential jurors. “You will not be asked to decide whether you like or don’t like steroids.”

And with their theory blown out of the water, the government likely frantically re-wrote their opening statements and direct examinations.

Onward into the trial. Ray Ratto of CSN Bay Area has a most excellent scene-setter for us. This story needs someone with Ray’s sense of humor covering it.  Stick with him throughout and this will all seen less depressing.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.