Barry Bonds

Bonds Trial Update: ex-friends and garbled recordings

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Taking the stand in the Bonds trial yesterday was Steven Hoskins, a childhood friend of Barry Bonds who grew up to be something of a fixer and lackey.  Hoskins would pay Bonds’ bills, make sure his baseball equipment was in order and pay off Bonds’ girlfriends with a wad of cash he kept in a safe in his office. You know, the usual stuff.

The real reason for his testimony, however, was for one of the things he did that wasn’t part of his job description: he secretly recorded Bonds’ steroids dealer so that he could either (a) play the tape to Bonds’ dying father in an effort to dissuade Bonds from continuing to use drugs; or (b) blackmail Bonds so that Bonds wouldn’t pursue charges against Hoskins after he found out that Hoskins had been forging Bonds’ name on baseball memorabilia and contracts and stuff.

Of course, whether it’s (a) or (b) depends on whether you’re a prosecutor or a defense lawyer.

The tape was played in court yesterday, and as we’ve previously noted, its contents are probably only damaging if one already believes the overall narrative that Bonds knew what he was taking. That’s because it contains no mention of Bonds’ knowledge of anything, only Greg Anderson’s admission that they were, in fact, undetectable illicit drugs. The tape will bolster the view of those who think Bonds lied via other evidence that comes in, but it will do nothing to convince someone that Bonds lied, it seems.

Hoskins was subjected to some pretty withering cross-examination on his reasons for making the tape, which occurred after he and Bonds had their falling out over the memorabilia sales.  Bonds had already gone to the government at that point and had asked that Hoskins be investigated. It was the strong implication of Bonds lawyer Allen Ruby that Hoskins made the tape to have something to use against Bonds, either to get back at him for going to the feds or to prevent him from pursuing the charges.  The investigation was eventually dropped. Ruby contends that it was done so in exchange for Hoskins helping the government in its case against Bonds.

Judging on reports from the courtoom — which, granted, aren’t always ideal — the cross examination of Hoskins seemed pretty damaging. Bonds’ lawyers had Hoskins testy and confused at times. He mixed up dates. He contradicted previous statements he had made out of court in which he said he’d seen Bonds get injected with drugs (yesterday he only said that he saw Anderson enter Bonds bedroom with syringes).  To the extent that the jury buys Hoskins as a shifty guy trying to make money off Bonds, they may very well question his reasons for making the tape, buying in to the blackmail notion Ruby was trying to plant.

There was one exchange — passed along by Gwen Knapp of the Chronicle — that struck me: Ruby asks Hoskins if he ever threatened Bonds.  Hoskins said no. Ruby said “You sure about that?”  Hoskins was defiant in his denial. Then he asked to take a break, which the judge agreed to.

We were taught to never ask a witness if they’re sure about their answer unless we had stone-cold evidence that we could burn them later. Because if not, you as the lawyer look desperate and you end up making the witness look more credible.  If you have something that later shows the witness to have been incomplete or something less than truthful in his answer, however, it can be devastating.

Ruby doesn’t strike me as a desperate or sloppy lawyer. Hoskins’ cross-examination continues today. I’m eager to see if Hoskins is truly sure about his answer.

Evan Gattis undergoes surgery for hernia; recovery is 4-6 weeks

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news

One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.

Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.

Gattis was working hard on his overall conditioning this winter, even telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in late January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It sounds like the big slugger might have gone a bit overboard with those workouts, and now he is in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.

Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.

Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.