Barry Bonds, Jeff Novitzky

Bonds trial update: Agent Novitzky takes center stage

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The government’s first witness against Barry Bonds was called yesterday: agent Jeff Novitzky, the man who made the BALCO case. And the Brian McNamee case. And the Kirk Radomski case. And who has spearheaded  just about every other investigation into athletes and performance enhancing drugs, from Bonds to Lance Armstrong (case still building).

It was Novitzky who spent a year literally sifting through the trash outside the BALCO labs, looking for evidence of steroid distribution after he received a tip that bad stuff was going down there.  He’s a highly controversial figure who has been accused by some of having a vendetta against Barry Bonds, though that has always seemed like a stretch to me. More likely, it seems, is that he is a careerist who at times has gone too far in order to bring home cases that are less valuable to the protection of the public welfare than they are salacious and attention-grabbing.  His greatest trespass in my mind was his illegal-seizure of baseball’s 2004 drug testing results and subsequent creation of that list of 104 names, some of which have been leaked. He was smacked down by the courts for that.

His testimony yesterday is similar to the testimony he has given in multiple other BALCO cases, all of which have resulted in convictions. He explained how he got on BALCO’s trail, how he came to learn of its clients, including Bonds, and how when the government subpoenaed Bonds and other athletes, there was never an intention to go after them, just BALCO.

Novitzky was cross-examined sharply by Bonds’ lawyers — with many of the questions seemingly designed to discredit other witnesses against Bonds as opposed to attacking Novitzky head-on — but reports from the courtroom suggest that he maintained his cool and made a point to look at the jury when he spoke, not at the lawyer questioning him, which is a small but quite effective touch when a witness is trying to explain technical or scientific evidence. Law enforcement officers tend to do this well.

How effective his testimony was is open for debate. Gwen Knapp, who is in the courtroom live-tweeting the trial for the San Francisco Chronicle suggested that the facts weren’t being strung together very well and that the government, via Novitzky’s testimony, wasn’t explaining its case particularly effectively. The New York Times, in contrast, painted a picture of an engaged jury, following the exchanges between Novitzky and his inquisitors raptly.

Novitzky will continue to be cross-examined today. Then he will return to his work of bringing down cheating athletes. The value of his testimony and that work will both be open questions for some time.

2016 postseason playoff shares announced

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OXON HILL, Md — There used to be a time when postseason money was bigger than most players’ actual salaries. Winning a pennant in baseball’s Golden Age was great for its own sake, but if you were one of the guys who hung around with, say, the Yankees for a long time like Frank Crosetti, the money was basically life-changing.

That’s not the case any longer, but the money is still pretty good, as evidenced by the postseason shares handed out for this past postseason, which were just announced and are set forth below.

Shares come from the “players’ pool,” which calculated by taking 50 percent of the gate receipts from the Wild Card Games; 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first three games of the Division Series; 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first four games of the League Championship Series; and 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first four games of the World Series.  The players’ pool is divided among the 10 Postseason Clubs. The 2016 players’ pool was a record total of $76,627,827.09. Last year it was $69,882,149.26.

The clubs themselves decide how many shares to allocate, with the players making decisions regarding which part timers, cup-of-coffee callups, staffers, etc. get. They also have the ability to hand out straight cash awards in whatever amount they want as opposed to a percentage cut of the postseason money.

The breakdown:

  • Chicago Cubs (Share of Players’ Pool: $27,586,017.75; value of each of full share: $368,871.59) – The Cubs issued 66 full shares, a total of 8.7 partial shares and four cash awards;
  • Cleveland Indians (Share of Players’ Pool: $18,390,678.50; value of each of full share: $261,804.65) – The Indians issued 60 full shares, a total of 8.75 partial shares and 16 cash awards.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers (Share of Players’ Pool: $9,195,339.25; value of each of full share: $123,741.24) – The Dodgers issued 65 full shares, a total of 8.285 partial shares and 20 cash awards.
  • Toronto Blue Jays (Share of Players’ Pool: $9,195,339.25; value of each of full share: $123,045.09) – The Blue Jays issued 66 full shares, a total of 7.75 partial shares and 15 cash awards.
  • Boston Red Sox (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $33,761.22) – The Red Sox issued 61 full shares, a total of 10.686 partial shares and 14 cash awards.
  • San Francisco Giants (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $36,443.03) – The Giants issued 57 full shares, a total of 10.5 partial shares and nine cash awards.
  • Texas Rangers (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $38,422.69) – The Rangers issued 54 full shares, a total of 10.19 partial shares and seven cash awards.
  • Washington Nationals (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $35,442.68) – The Nationals issued 60 full shares, a total of 10.209 partial shares and one cash award.
  • Baltimore Orioles (Share of Players’ Pool: $1,149,417.41; value of each of full share: $18,351.02) – The Orioles issued 52 full shares, a total of 8.36 partial shares and 30 cash awards.
  • New York Mets (Share of Players’ Pool: $1,149,417.41; value of each of full share: $17,951.65) – The Mets issued 51 full shares, a total of 12.75 partial shares and five cash awards.

 

Cubs-Royals reportedly agree to the Wade Davis-Jorge Soler deal

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 3:  Wade Davis #17 of the Kansas City Royals throws against the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium on April 3, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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It was rumored to be close last night but now Bob Nightengale of USA Today is reporting that the Cubs and Royals have agreed to the Wade Davis for Jorge Soler deal. Jeff Passan of Yahoo first reported that the deal was close last night. It’s not a completely done deal as the official announcement is pending physicals, but an announcement could come this morning.

Davis has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball over the past three seasons, posting a 1.18 ERA with 47 saves and a 234/59 K/BB ratio in 182.2 innings. He did, however, miss a lot of time in 2016 — basically the month of August — due to arm trouble and expecting him to be the circa 2014 Wade Davis is probably unrealistic. He’s owed $10 million for 2017 and can become a free agent after the 2017 season. He’ll fill the void left by the departing Aroldis Chapman as Joe Maddon and the World Series champs’ closer.

Soler, who will be 25 when the 2017 season begins, hit .238/.333/.436 with 12 homers and 36 RBI in 86 games last season. He strikes out a lot but takes walks t00 and has shown some good power in short bursts. He’s the sort of player who one could easilsy see putting things together to become a solid regular, which makes him a decent return for giving up a closer in his walk year.