Bonds Trial Update: Things get personal

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Yesterday was oversharing time at the Barry Bonds trial with the witness who, if Greg Anderson had testified, may never have been called: Bonds’ ex-girlfriend Kimberly Bell.  She testified that Bonds admitted to steroid use prior to his grand jury testimony and, as promised, provided all manner of intimate detail about the life and sexual times of Barry Bonds.

Bell, who met Bonds in 1994, said that Bonds started taking steroids because he noted that they worked for guys like Mark McGwire. As far as motives go, this matches up pretty well with what we learned in “Game of Shadows”: a late 1990s realization that, despite all Bonds had accomplished at that point in his baseball career — and they were likely Hall of Fame accomplishments already — he wanted more.

But Bell wasn’t called to talk about Bonds’ lust for glory. She was called to to talk turkey about Bonds’ physical and mental state. And that she did, testifying that Bonds suffered from shrunken testicles, acne, bloating, hair loss and impotence, all of which can be symptoms of steroid use. She said he was “aggressive, irritable, agitated and very impatient,” and said that he had once threatened to cut her head off, cut out her breast implants and to burn her friggin’ house down.

For as salacious as this all was, it wasn’t new: Bell had talked about most of this stuff in an article that accompanied her Playboy photo spread in 2007, and as the defense’s cross examination of Bell revealed, she had on several occasions tried to sell her story to book publishers and filmmakers.  Which doesn’t make her testimony false, of course, but could certainly undermine her credibility. Juries care about the motivation of witnesses. Indeed, they may do so too much at times, overlooking undisputed facts to which they testified and fixating on the question of witness bias, real or imagined.

More importantly, I question whether Bell’s most critical testimony — that Bonds told her prior to 2003 that he took steroids — is enough to convince the jury that Bonds perjured himself on the point.*  As I’ve noted time and again, the questions put to Bonds before the grand jury of the general “did you ever take steroids” variety were vague and open or, conversely, were often premised on multiple sub-questions relating to specific drugs, specific times and places, etc. It’s possible, therefore, that a jury could conclude that, say, Bonds did take steroids in 1999, but did not lie about taking Whateveriztol 323 via injection from Greg Anderson in October 2001.

Of the several reports I’ve read from yesterday’s testimony, I see nothing which suggests that Bell got into the kind of detail necessary to completely nail down the entirety of the perjury allegations.  But she certainly nailed the “Barry Bonds is a gigantic ass” theme which the prosecution has been itching to inject in this trial. A theme that — like a witness’ motivation — is something to which juries often respond, even if it’s totally beside the point in light of the particular charges against the defendant. Bonds is not on trial for being an awful person. He’s on trial for lying to a grand jury, and the bulk of Bell’s testimony had little to do with that.

All of that said: if Bell is believed beyond a reasonable doubt, it may be enough to prompt the jury to convict him.  That’s a big if, though, and there is still a lot of trial left.

*As is always the case with my opinions about the overarching effectiveness of any testimony in this trial, I offer the disclaimer that I wasn’t in court and am basing this on multiple news accounts of the testimony. How things actually played before the jury in real time may lead to a dramatically different conclusion.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.