Not the best day for the prosecution in the Barry Bonds case

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It was a short day for the Bonds trial — they must all want to get home in time to watch the Giants-Dodgers — and they are now wrapped up for the week.  A bad morning for the prosecution, though, as Bonds’ former orthopedic surgeon, Arthur Ting, totally killed one of the prosecution’s key witnesses, Steve Hoskins.

Hoskins testified last week that he had discussed his concerns about Bonds’ steroids use with Ting many times. In fact, Hoskins said more than 50 times during his testimony. And when he did, Bonds’ lawyer asked him “are you sure about that?” I questioned that at the time, but we now know why he said it:  today Ting said that he and Hoskins only had one cursory exchange ever about steroids. And that it wasn’t even about Bonds. It was just a request for generic steroids information.

That testimony kills Hoskins’ credibility, it seems to me. Seems to be the case for the prosecutors too, who admitted that Hoskins had been “impeached heavily” by Ting’s testimony. And it seemed that way to the judge too, as she later grilled the prosecutors about whether they knew of these inconsistencies outside of the presence of the jury. Between an angry judge and the fact that Hoskins is the guy who has had the most to say about Bonds’ steroids use, this is a big problem for the prosecution.

Also helpful for Bonds was Ting’s testimony that all of Bonds’ alleged steroids symptoms — described by Kimberly Bell — could have been caused by corticosteroids that Ting prescribed for Bonds following surgery he had in 1999, undercutting the notion that such symptoms had to have been called by anabolic steroids supplied by BALCO and Greg Anderson.

After Ting came Kathy Hoskins, Bonds’ former personal shopper and sister of Steve Hoskins. She was far better for the prosecution, testifying that she actually saw Greg Anderson inject Barry Bonds with something on one occasion.  This could, if it holds up, be enough for a conviction on one count inasmuch as Bonds testified that Anderson never injected him with anything and was charged with lying about it. It does not seem, however, that she knew what the substance was, though she did say that Bonds referred to it as something that was “undetectable” and that he took it before road trips. Still, it is likely not enough to get him on the “did you take steroids” counts by itself.

After Hoskins came anti-doping expert Don Catlin, who testified about how his organization figured out what “the clear” was, testifying about how difficult it was to detect. Seems to me that the more they play up the high-tech nature of the substance the less likely it is that a dumb baseball player would be able to understand it, but really, it doesn’t seem to do a ton for either the defense or the prosecution.

All in all a fairly big day: two of the most significant witnesses against Bonds — Kimberly Bell and Steve Hoskins — were harmed. However, Bonds may have been sunk on the count regarding taking injections.  I think the defense will take that trade.

The Yankees attendance and revenue is down, but it makes sense

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There’s a long article in the New York Times today noting that the Yankees attendance is down and that, based on financial figures released as part of their stadium bond disclosures, ticket and suite revenues through last season have fallen by $166 million since the end of 2009.

There is a lot of talk in the article about the exciting young team the Yankees have put together and how much they’ve won so far in the early going. And there is a lot of talk about marketing and demographics — Hal Steinbrenner talks about baseball’s “millennial problem” — but the story of the Yankees’ box office issues, such as they are, is pretty straightforward.

All teams suffer attendance and revenue decline when they play poorly. While the Yankees have not been bad for a long, long time, that’s a somewhat relative thing. They Yankees have sold themselves and sold their fans on the idea that nothing short of a championship is acceptable, so missing the playoffs for three of the past four years is bad for them. Fans don’t want to go see a bad team, be it Yankees fans, Rays fans, Royals fans or whoever.

Despite the recent lack of success, the Yankees have still, perversely, continued to price their tickets, concessions, parking and everything else as though they’re the only game in town. When demand falls and prices remain super high, fewer people are buying your product. Even if you’re the New York Yankees.

The Yankees are good this year. What’s more, they’re good in that exciting way that only young promising players bursting out onto the scene can deliver. It’s a wonderful thing for marketing and stuff, but even under the best of circumstances, ticket sales tend to lag on field success, often by as much as a year. Go back and look at World Series winning teams — especially the surprise winners — and you’ll see that it’s the year after on-field success when the real attendance bumps happen. I expect, if the Yankees continue to play well, their gate will get really nice by the end of the summer, but I suspect we’ll also see a more dramatic bump next year.

Taken all together, this is a dog-bites-man story. The Yankees are not some transcendent institution, immune from market forces. They’re just one of 30 Major League Baseball teams competing against other entertainments for a finite amount of the public’s money and attention. Nothin’ to see here.

David Price had a rocky rehab start last night

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Red Sox starter David Price has been rehabbing a left elbow injury since early March. Last night he made his latest rehab outing for Triple-A Pawtucket. It didn’t go well.

Price allowed six runs — three earned — on seven hits in three and two-thirds innings, requiring 89 pitches to do it. His velocity was good, but otherwise it was a night to forget. This was supposed to be Price’s last rehab start before returning to the Sox’ big league rotation, but one wonders if he’s ready for it.

Price didn’t talk to the media after the game, but Pawtucket’s manager said he was “upbeat” and “felt good.” For his part, John Farrell, upon hearing about the outing, said this:

“There’s no announcement at this point. We’ve got to sit with him and talk about what’s best for him, best for us as we move forward.”

The Sox could really use Price back in the rotation given their injury problems, but rushing him back if he’s not ready is certainly not ideal.

Stay tuned.