Bonds case update: the prosecution will rest today

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Today will be the last day of the prosecution’s case-in-chief in the Barry Bonds trial, as they finish with Don Catlin, the anti-doping expert, and have the grand jury testimony read to the jury. The defense will then start their case, either today or tomorrow, but it will be a shorter deal than the prosecution’s. Indeed, it could be over this week.

Observers are pretty down on the prosecution after one of their own witnesses, Dr. Arthur Ting, blew a hole in the credibility of one of their other witnesses, Steven Hoskins on Thursday.  Calling Ting was just a baffling move by the prosecution. If they knew what he was going to say, why call him?  If they didn’t know, why risk it and, really, how prepared were they?  Given that, in the absence of Greg Anderson,  Hoskins is the witness who comes the closest to nailing Bonds for knowingly using steroids, having him impeached like that is simply brutal.

The consensus now is that, if the prosecution is going to get a conviction, it will be on count two of the indictment: the “did you ever have someone inject you” count. This, I think, Hoskins’ sister nailed pretty well, and did so with credibility according to those who watched her in court.  For those who never obsessed on this bit, the testimony in question involved a particularly hostile exchange between Bonds and the prosecutor in which, after Bonds was asked if Greg Anderson ever injected him with anything, Bonds lashed out with a rambling non-sequitur. His testimony:

“I’ve only had one doctor touch me. And that’s my only personal doctor. Greg, like I said, we don’t get into each other’s personal lives. We’re friends, but I don’t – we don’t sit around and talk baseball because he knows I don’t want – don’t come to my house talking baseball. If you want to come to my house and talk about fishing, some other stuff, we’ll be good friends. You come around talking about baseball, you go on. I don’t talk about his business. You know what I mean?”

Which made absolutely no sense. He eventually said no, Anderson never injected him.  Ego demands that, at this point, I reproduce my analysis of this charge from March 2008:

The famous “don’t come to my house talking baseball” digression. Bonds offers it – and a few paragraphs more about not knowing what’s in his wife’s purse and “getting into other people’s business” – in response to a simple question: “Did Greg ever give you anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with.” It’s a total non-sequitur on Bonds’ part, and seems distinctly like someone vamping while trying to figure out how to answer a question he doesn’t want to answer.

The question is why he’s doing this? To that point he’s done a pretty convincing job of playing dumb. Even if Bonds himself knows that he’s being injected with illegal North Korean nuclear secrets, he’s probably Scot free if he says “yes,” and when asked what he was injected with says “I don’t know.” Instead he draws glowing neon attention to himself with his non-answer, and it prompts follow up questions about injections, many of which can be found in the indictment.

What is Bonds doing? To me the answer appears obvious: he’s trying to protect Greg Anderson. No other explanation makes sense. Simply saying he was injected with something does nothing to put him in any worse a light than the stuff he’s already says. The issue of syringes are ultimately inconsequential, but as I note above, the thing he’s probably most likely to be convicted of lying about at trial. How utterly pathetic.

Know what I think? I think this was the one time when the prosecution asked Bonds a simple question that required a yes or no answer and Bonds, unable to truthfully say no, kind of freaked out and ultimately lied.  If they did this with the steroids-related questions he may have pleaded out years ago or he may be convicted now.  But he was allowed to weasel and, ultimately, was allowed to testify without explicitly lying on those points.  With the syringe question, however, he’s fairly dead to rights.

The interesting question is going to be what we make of it all if Bonds is convicted on a single count of lying about something that doesn’t itself involve steroids.  Some people have sought to make Bonds and Roger Clemens special cases among PED users because they allegedly lied rather than come clean (the Andy Pettitte corollary, we can call it). If Bonds is acquitted of lying about his use under oath, these people will need a new argument to stay intellectually inconsistent it seems. Or, I suppose, they could cite his lie under oath about a syringe as the same thing. Or they could just join in with the “Bonds is a bad seed crowd” and forget their prior distinction.

It does seem to me, however, that the legal and public case against Barry Bonds was premised on more than a mere lie about whether a syringe was ever used on his body by someone other than his doctor. If that’s all that comes out of this, I don’t see how one can conclude that this was a success by any measure.

Report: Qualifying offer to be in the $18 million range

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According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, teams have been told that the qualifying offer to free agents this offseason will be in the $18 million range, likely $18.1 million. The value is derived by taking the average of the top 125 player salaries.

At $18.1 million, that would be $900,000 more than the previous QO, which was $17.2 million. This will impact soon-to-be free agents like Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Yu Darvish, among others. That also assumes that the aforementioned players aren’t traded, which would make them ineligible to receive qualifying offers. We’ve seen, increasingly, that teams aren’t willing to make a QO to an impending free agent and that trend is likely to continue this offseason.

The QO system was modified by the newest collective bargaining agreement. The compensatory pick for a team losing a player who declined a QO used to be a first-round pick. That was a penalty to both teams and players, which is why it was changed. Via MLB’s website pertaining to the QO:

A team that exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season will lose its second- and fifth-highest selections after the first round in the following year’s Draft as well $1 million from its international bonus pool. If such a team signs multiple qualifying offer free agents, it will forfeit its third- and sixth-highest remaining picks as well.

A team that receives revenue sharing will lose its third-highest selection after the first round in the following year’s Draft. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its fourth-highest remaining pick.

A team that neither exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season nor receives revenue sharing will lose its second-highest selection after the first round in the following year’s Draft as well as $500,000 from its international bonus pool. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its third-highest remaining pick.

Additionally, if a player who rejected a QO signs a guaranteed contract worth at least $50 million and came from a team that receives revenue sharing, that previous team will receive a compensatory pick immediately following the first round in the ensuing draft. If the contract is less than $50 million, that team will get a compensatory pick after Competitive Balance Round B. If the player’s team is over the luxury tax threshold, that team will receive a compensation pick following the fourth round. If that team neither exceeded the luxury tax nor receives revenue sharing, the compensation pick will come after Competitive Balance Round B.

Yeah, it’s a bit convoluted, but you do the best you can with a flawed system.

The Astros’ pursuit of Sonny Gray is “heating up”

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Jon Morosi of MLB Networks reports that talks are “heating up” between the Astros and Athletics on a Sonny Gray trade. Gray, obviously, would represent a big upgrade for the Astros’ rotation. He has a 3.66 ERA and has struck out 85 batters while walking 28 in 91 innings.

Morosi adds that Gray is not the only option for the Astros, as they are also talking to the Tigers about a potential acquisition of Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson. That would obviously be a much tougher deal to negotiate given Verlander’s 10/5 rights giving him veto power over any trade, not to mention the massive amount of money he’s still owed on his contract.

Also: I’m pretty sure that it’s in the MLB rules that any trade between the Tigers and the Astros has to involve Brad Ausmus, C.J. Nitkowski and Jose Lima, and that’s not possible given their current occupations and/or their deaths in 2010.