Closing Arguments Delivered In Barry Bonds Trial

Bonds Trial Update: It’s now in the jury’s hands


Closing statements were made at the Barry Bonds trial yesterday. And while closings aren’t evidence — and while in my view they aren’t nearly as important as openings — they always feel like a high point.  The final opportunity to pound the theme of the case home. But they also serve as something of a tell in which the lawyers reveal, whether they intend to or not, what the weakest parts of their case are.

I’ve been in a courtroom (as an observer) for one perjury case in my life and in that one, like Bonds’, the first words out of the prosecutor’s mouth were exactly the same: “All he had to do was tell the truth.”  Maybe there’s a trial advocacy book that talks about using that one, but it’s pretty effective even if it’s common. The jury, especially in this case, can get pretty bogged down in some of the details that formed the basis for the alleged lie, but it’s pretty helpful to remind them that at the end of the day they really are deciding something simple and understandable. Something with which every person has experience and a firm set of moral convictions: lying. In putting it this way, the prosecutors are helping them remove doubt from their heads because we all think — or at least like to think — that we know when we’ve been lied to.

At the same time, the prosecution’s closing underscored the fact that, with the exception of the single charge relating to injections, there was no one who got on the stand who could themselves say “Barry lied, and here’s why.” The prosecutor started a lot of questions with “ask yourself …” making it clear that the jury needs to make inferences based on circumstantial evidence in order to conclude that the grand jury had been lied to. Maybe that makes things easier for them. Maybe, however, it makes them wonder why, if Barry Bonds was a rampant steroids user, no one came into court and said it in plain terms.

I can’t say that I was particularly impressed with what I can gather from reports about the defense’s theme. Bonds’ lawyers argued that the prosecution was a vendetta against Bonds by a government that was angry with him for not being intimidated and subservient in front of the grand jury. Because Bonds refused to say, “Yes, sir,” which irked the government. They said that the main witnesses against him were friends or lovers scorned and that, armed with immunity themselves, were out to get Bonds.  As a proponent of Occam’s Razor, any conspiracy theory is dubious to me, and I wonder if the jury feels the same way. I mean, yes, I think Bonds was singled out, but I don’t think it was a personal thing. It was more about careerism and perpetuating a big investigation that served a lot of purposes, be they legitimate and righteous or not (mostly not). But spite? Eh, tough sell for me.

The defense was on firmer ground when they argued — for really the first time in the case — that even if there were lies told by Barry Bonds, they are not worthy of a guilty verdict because they were not, to use the legal term, material. They did not negatively impact the grand jury as it tried to do its job back in 2003, Bonds’ lawyers argued, nor could they have given how inconsequential and ultimately silly his alleged lies were. The defense noted that the prosecution put no one on the stand who said otherwise. This is not quite true — agent Novitzky said the grand jury was negatively impacted — but Novitzky’s own success in going after BALCO may work against him here. They got convictions of everyone they targeted, most without a trial. If Bonds was truly screwing the legal system with his testimony, the jury may very well wonder why there was no seeming injustice done as a result. No criminals who went free.

The defense likewise did a good job highlighting where the government’s evidence was light and where the witnesses testimony was specifically deficient or contradicted. Their toughest task was to poke holes in Kathy Hoskins’ story about seeing Bonds injected. They tried, but observers in the courtroom thought her credible when she testified and weren’t particularly impressed with the defense’s handling of her testimony in closing arguments.  Unless the jury decides that Bonds’ lie about injections was immaterial — and given how small and silly it seems compared to the other charges which themselves seem rather minor in the grand scheme, it’s entirely possible they could decide that — there’s a good chance Bonds gets nailed on that charge. If he doesn’t, it will be because of the jury’s disdain for the prosecution’s case as a whole, not because of the actual evidence at trial.

And with that, it’s in the jury’s hands. They will deliberate today. We’ll certainly have a reaction when they reach a verdict.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.