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.

Derek Jeter calls Bryant Gumbel “mentally weak”

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Derek Jeter has not covered himself in glory since taking over the Miami Marlins. His reign atop the team’s baseball operations department has been characterized by the slashing of payroll in order to help his new ownership group make more money amid some pretty crushing debt service by virtue of what was, in effect, the leveraged buyout of the club. A club which is now 5-16 and seems destined for five months more and change of some pretty miserable baseball.

Jeter has nonetheless cast the moves the Marlins have made as good for fans in the long run. And, yes, I suppose it’s likely that things will be better in the long run, if for no other reason than they cannot be much worse. Still, such reasoning, while often accepted when a lesser light like, say, White Sox GM Rick Hahn employs it, isn’t accepted as easily when a guy who has been defined by his hand full of championship rings offers it. How can Derek Jeter, of all people, accept losing?

That’s the question HBO’s Bryant Gumbel asked of Jeter in an interview that aired over the weekend (see the video at the end of the post). How can he accept — and why should fans accept — a subpar baseball product which is not intended to win? Jeter’s response? To claim that the 2018 Marlins are totally expected to win and that Gumbel himself is “mentally weak” for not understanding it:

JETER: “We’re trying to win ball games every day.”

GUMBEL: “If you trade your best players in exchange for prospects it’s unlikely you’re going to win more games in the immediate future–”

JETER: “When you take the field, you have an opportunity to win each and every day. Each and every day. You never tell your team that they’re expected to lose. Never.”

GUMBEL: “Not in so–”

JETER: “Now, you can think — now– now, I can’t tell you how you think. Like, I see your mind. I see that’s how you think. I don’t think like that. That’s your mind working like that.”

. . .

DEREK JETER: “You don’t. We have two different mi– I can’t wait to get you on the golf course, man. We got– I mean, I can’t wait for this one.”

BRYANT GUMBEL: “No, I mean–”

DEREK JETER: “You’re mentally weak.”

I sort of get what Jeter was trying to do here. He was trying to take this out the realm of second guessing among people who know some stuff about sports and subtly make it an appeal to authority, implying that he was an athlete and that only he, unlike Gumbel, can understand that mindset and competitiveness of the athlete. That’s what the “get you on the golf course” jazz was about. Probably worth noting at this point that that tack has never worked for Michael Jordan as a basketball executive, even if his singular competitiveness made him the legend he was on the court. An executive makes decisions which can and should be second-guessed, and it seems Jeter cannot handle that.

That being said, Gumbel did sort of open the door for Jeter to do that. Suggesting that baseball players on the 2018 Marlins don’t expect to win is not the best angle for him here because, I am certain, if you ask those players, they would say much the same thing Jeter said. That’s what makes them athletes.

No, what Gumbel should have asked Jeter was “of COURSE you tell your players to win and of COURSE they try their hardest and think they can win every night. My question to you is this: did YOU try YOUR hardest to get the BEST players? And if not, why not?”

Question him like you’d question Rick Hahn. Not like you’d question Future Hall of Fame Shortstop, Derek Jeter.