ESPN needs to get a better legal expert

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I have no personal quarrel with ESPN’s Lester Munson. I don’t know his background or his specific area of expertise. I know that when he is asked to explain to lay people the general gist of any legal issue that touches sports he tends to do an OK job.  He’s good at the “OK, what happens next” part of things, which is probably the thing sports fans want to know.  I’ve dabbled in legal expertise business before, and that’s about 95% of the gig.

I do know, however, that he is most visibly promoted by ESPN when it comes to steroids in baseball stories, and I know that whenever he has been called to go beyond the “what happens next” aspect of that business, he has often gotten things pretty wrong.

The most notable instance I can remember of him stone cold whiffing was when the Barry Bonds prosecutors lost some preliminary evidentiary rulings a couple of years ago and took an appeal.  I won’t bore you with the details, but the basis of the prosecution’s argument was an evidence concept called “the residual exception.”  The important thing to know about the residual exception is that if you have to argue that your evidence is admissible on that basis, you’re screwed, dude. Almost every single person with a legal background knew that the prosecutors were screwed there too. But not Munson, who claimed “their chances are good” and otherwise gave them a tongue-bathing while slamming Judge Illston.  He was wrong.

So color me unsurprised this morning when Munson’s column analyzing the Bonds verdict came out and it was filled with praise for the prosecution on a “major triumph,” and said that the defense “went 0 for 4” despite getting three hung juries, including one involving Bonds lying about steroids.  I suppose reasonable people can disagree about whether the prosecution can declare a victory of some kind, but Munson’s hyperbole and reasoning is so far removed from common sense and reality that I almost got an attack of vertigo trying to wrap my brain around it.

Thankfully some others took it down:  Wendy, at the Hanging Sliders blog, simply eviscerates Munson’s arguments.  The point-by-point takedown is what you should really read, but the conclusion pretty much covers it:

I don’t know Munson nor do I know anything about his law practice. But I suggest that if you are suspected of committing a crime, you should hire an attorney who understands criminal, evidentiary and constitutional law better than Lester Munson apparently does.

Elie Mystal at the inimitable Above the Law blog goes after Munson too, and suffers from the same sort of vertigo that struck me, only with more F-words.

I don’t know what Munson’s deal is. At some point several years ago he fell in love with the prosecution’s case and hasn’t been able to see it objectively for some time.  Or maybe he’s  just out of his depth with this stuff.  All I know for sure is that, given how often sports and law intersect these days, the self-proclaimed World Wide Leader in Sports should find someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about with this stuff.

Blue Jays sign Michael Saunders

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The Blue Jays have signed outfielder Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal, per a club announcement.

Saunders, of course, played for the Blue Jays in 2015 and 2016, putting up a line of .250/.336/.461 in 594 plate appearances. It was his good play in the first half of 2016, in fact, which earned him an All-Star spot and, presumably, made the Phillies think he was worth the $9 million deal they gave him over the offseason. That didn’t work out, as he hit .205/.257/.360 over 61 games and was released last week.

The Phillies will pay the rest of that $9 million. The Jays will see if he has anything in the tank to help them out.

Giants closer Mark Melancon is heading to the disabled list once again

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The Giants have placed closer Mark Melancon on the 10-day disabled list with a right pronator strain.

This is the same injury that sent him to the disabled list last month. He came back from that quickly, but it can’t be great that this is happening again. You have to assume he’ll miss more time given the recurrence of trouble. He’s going to get an MRI too. Sam Dyson is expected to serve as the Giants’ closer while Melancon is sidelined.

Melancon has a 4.35 ERA and 11 saves in 22 appearances this year. He signed a four-year, $62 million deal with San Francisco last December.