Breaking: Barry Bonds guilty of obstruction of justice, but not perjury. Which makes no sense at all.

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The jury in the Barry Bonds case has reached a verdict. At least on one count: Barry Bonds is guilty on the charge of obstruction of justice.  The jury has reached a hung verdict on the other three remaining counts. This makes no sense at all.

Bonds was facing four charges in all: three counts of lying to a grand jury — one each about taking steroids, taking HGH and receiving injections of any kind — and one catch-all count. That was the obstruction charge.  I’m not entirely sure how the jury could logically conclude that Bonds obstructed justice but not also conclude that he lied about the three specific topics for which he was accused of perjury.  There were no allegations of any other acts of obstruction beyond his testimony. He didn’t destroy evidence, for example.  If you have him for obstruction, how do you not have him on everything?  What possible act beyond lying — which the jury is saying they can’t agree on — can they convict him of obstruction?

The maximum sentence Bonds can receive for the obstruction count is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. That’s not going to happen, however: others who have been convicted of similar charges in the BALCO prosecutions with similar criminal records (i.e. none), have received probation, short jail sentences and/or home confinement.  Most believe that Bonds would not receive anything greater.  The next hearing in the case — which could be the sentencing, but could be something prior to sentencing — has been set for May 20th.

As for the other three: the government has the option to retry Bonds.  I’d normally say that after all of this they wouldn’t bother. But then again, I thought they wouldn’t bother after most of their perjury evidence was thrown out on appeal, and yet they plowed ahead.

Now they have a conviction. On one count, and it’s a confusing verdict at that which could very well be the subject of a lot of post-trial procedure by the defense due to its logical inconsistency.  If you thought a verdict would bring closure: think again.

UPDATE:  More mystery.  It’s being reported that the basis of the obstruction conviction was the jury finding that Bonds obstructed justice with respect to his “Statement C” as listed in Count 5.  The underlined part of the following is “Statement C”

Q: Did Greg ever give you anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?

A: 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 others’ 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? …

Q: Right.

A: That’s what keeps our friendship. You know, I am sorry, but that – you know, that – I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don’t get into other people’s business because of my father’s situation, you see…

That is the answer that, according to the jury, obstructed justice. This despite the fact that the government lawyers questioning him had every opportunity to follow up, to clarify and to tell Barry Bonds that he wasn’t answering their question. An opportunity that they didn’t take, presumably because at the time they didn’t think that the answer Bonds gave was particularly problematic.

So: Bonds saying that he was a “celebrity child” who didn’t get into anyone’s business obstructed justice and brought down a prosecution over seven years in the making.
You cool with that?

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.