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.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.