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What they’re saying about the Barry Bonds verdict

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You’ve heard me go on long enough. But wait! One more quickie: The Barry Bonds “I was the son of a celebrity” non-answer was no different than Mark McGwire saying “I’m not here to talk about the past” before Congress. In fact, McGwire’s was worse, because he never did answer the questions put to him. Bonds did.

No one thought to bring obstruction charges against McGwire. Hurm. And we’re apparently moving on from the Mark McGwire saga. He has a low-key Major League job and isn’t some big pariah. Does Bonds get the same treatment? I bet not!  Anyway:

  • Howard Bryant: “Wednesday’s verdict in the Bonds trial is confusing and in many ways unsatisfying, but it reinforces baseball’s terrible truth: the steroid era is the most discredited period in the history of American professional sports … Perhaps only the segregation era shamed the game as much as performance-enhancing drugs have. But segregation was a societal issue …”
  • Tracy Ringolsby: “They ought to make T-shirts that read: “My government spent three years, five months and $10 million and all they got was a silly little obstruction of justice conviction.’’ What a joke.”
  • Mike Lupica: “All this time after that testimony, you thought nobody could possibly believe that Bonds told the truth in the case against BALCO, that no reasonable person could possibly believe that Bonds didn’t know what he was taking. Obviously some in the jury room did. That is the way the system works.”
  • Kevin Kernan: “Yes, Bonds picked up three more walks yesterday to give him 2,561 for his career, but credit the jury in San Francisco for finding Bonds, the fearsome slugger with the big head, guilty of obstruction of justice. If the cap doesn’t fit, you can’t acquit … In the court of public opinion Bonds is guilty. I will not be a holdout juror. I will not believe any of Bonds’ excuses. Bonds knew what he was doing. He made his choice to cheat. I will make mine.”
  • Ken Rosenthal:  “If I could ask Bonds one question — one question after he ends the “dignified silence” requested by his attorney, Allen Ruby — it would be this: Was your drug use worth all the trouble?”
  • McCovey Chronicles: “And so after a couple of months more of post-trial briefing, the conviction likely will be thrown out by Judge Ilston.  Or at the very least will be the subject of a lengthy appeal to the Ninth Circuit.  And the feds will have to decide if they want to re-try the perjury counts on which the jury hung.  There is no joy in Mudville . . . the justice system has struck out.”
  • Anti-steroids activist Don Hooton: “It’s a great day. It’s a wonderful day. There’s the technicality of what he was guilty of and what the jury couldn’t decide on, but the overall message is that word: guilty. He got caught. He got caught as the cheat that he is.”
  • Bob Costas : “The authentic single season season home run champion is Roger Maris. The authentic career home run king is Hank Aaron. You would have to think the world is flat to believe anything other than that.”
  • George Vecsey: “Even the one count of obstruction implicates the entire industry, for engaging in omertà during the home run frolics of the late 1990s and early in this decade.”
  • Jayson Stark:  “So let’s get this straight. The only thing we’ve learned about Barry Bonds is that he was evasive? The government could have assembled a panel of distinguished baseball writers to convict him on that charge like 15 years ago.”
  • ESPN legal expert Lester Munson: “The unanimous verdict that Bonds was guilty of obstruction of justice is a major triumph for federal agent Jeff Novitzky and prosecutors Jeff Nedrow and Matthew Parrella.”

I’ll let all of those stand on their own except Munson’s. He’s a lawyer and he should know better. The feds charged him with 11 counts which were whittled down to four. They got a conviction on one of the four, and that conviction was outrageously dubious and likely a case of jury nullification.  If that’s a “major triumph,” I’d like to see what failure would have looked like.

Wade Boggs embroiled in non-controversy over his Yankees World Series ring!

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Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox held a ceremony honoring the 1986 team last night and one of the key members of that team, Wade Boggs, was in attendance wearing  his Red Sox jersey. He also wore his Yankees World Series ring.

When I heard about this controversy a few minutes ago I did something that neither I nor most people who are a part of the Internet Industrial Complex usually do: wondered whether this was actually a controversy.

I quickly scanned around and found a good dozen or so articles talking about it and people talking about them talking about it. I noticed people making reference to how, theoretically, this could upset some Red Sox fans or be seen as a sign of disrespect. But I could not find anyone who actually cared. Anyone who was actually upset about it. I can’t say that I read every comment to every article, but you usually don’t have to dig deep to find people mad about something on the Internet and I could not immediately find anyone who was mad about this. Lots of jokes and comments about the idea of being mad, but no one who actually cared. It was like an obligatory ceremonial function the meaning of which everyone has forgotten.

There are a lot of “controversies” like that. They tend to be more common in the entertainment world than the sports world — people referencing a “scandalous” thing some singer or actor did which, in reality, scandalized no one — but it happens in sports too. In sports it’s when a convention or custom is not followed or when someone doesn’t otherwise conform to some set of expectations. A lot of the time no one cares at all. It’s all about the politics of recognizing situations in which someone might, in theory, care. Or once did long, long ago.

Maybe someone is genuinely mad at Wade Boggs over this If so, I’d love to hear from that person and wonder why on Earth they’d care. But I sort of feel like such a beast does not exist. And for that I’m pretty glad.

The Cardinals had a “statement loss” yesterday

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 25: Manager manager Mike Matheny #22 congratulates Matt Adams #32 of the St. Louis Cardinals as he enters the dugout after scoring a run during the fourth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium on May 25, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images)
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I’ve always been critical of the concept of “statement games” in Major League Baseball. Maybe it matters more in football where there are far fewer games and thus each one means much more, but in baseball a win lasts, at best, 48 hours and usually less. Like Earl Weaver said, we do this every day, lady. When you’re constantly talking, as it were, any one statement is pretty unimportant.

I’ll grant that a “statement win” is a thing players use to motivate or validate themselves, of course. We on the outside can roll our eyes at the notion, but we can’t know the minds of a major league player. If they think that they made a statement and it’s important to them, hey, it’s important to them. I’ll admit, however, that a statement loss is a new one to me:

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Kolten Wong provided the basis of that headline. Here is what he said:

“I think we still made a statement. We were down 6-1 right off the bat. The game before, we were kind of in the same situation. We were tired of it,” second baseman Kolten Wong said. “Our pitchers have been our go-to these past few years. It was time for us to step up and I think we all kind of felt that, too. We just wanted to make this a game and show that we have our pitchers’ backs.”

In context it makes sense. A moral victory, as it were. They got to one of the best pitchers in the game after finding themselves down by several runs thanks to their starting pitching betraying them. The hitters didn’t go into a shell when most folks would excuse them for doing so against a guy like Jake Arrieta.

Makes sense and no judgments here. Moral victories matter. Still, it’s hard not to chuckle at the headline. I can’t remember a big leaguer talking quite that way after a loss.

Julio Urias to be called up, make his MLB debut tomorrow

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 20:  Starting pitcher Julio Urias #78 of the Los Angeles Dodgers participates in a spring training workout at Camelback Ranch on February 20, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Dodgers have been mulling this for a long time, but they just announced that they plan on calling up top prospect Julio Urias. He’ll be making his major league debut against the Mets tomorrow evening in New York.

Urias is just 19 years-old, but he’s shown that he’s ready for the bigs. In eight Triple-A games this year — seven starts — he’s 4-1 with a 1.10 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 44/8 in 41 innings. He has tossed 27-straight scoreless innings to boot. While the Dodgers and Urias’ agent are understandably wary of giving the young man too much work too soon, he has nothing left to prove at Oklahoma City.

Urias turns 20 in August. Tomorrow night he will become the first teenager to debut in the majors since 2012 when Dylan Bundy, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Jurickson Profar each made their debuts.

 

Fox asked Vin Scully to work the All-Star Game. Vin said no.

vin scully getty
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Richard Dietsch of Sports Illustrated reports that Fox officials asked Vin Scully if he wanted to work the All-Star Game, be it calling the full game, doing an inning, making a guest appearance or whatever. Scully, though appreciative, said no thanks.

We’ve been over this, but for however much it might make people happy for Scully to make this kind of national appearance, there’s nothing in his history or in his apparent nature that would make such a thing appeal to Scully. For as much as an institution he has become, he still thinks of himself as an employee who calls Dodgers games, goes home and that is that. He has shown considerable discomfort, however politely he has communicated it, at being treated as something different or more special than that. And that’s before you remember that (a) it would be a totally different setup for him which would require a lot of extra work; and (b) the All-Star Break is a time when most baseball people take a couple of days off.

As I said the last time we discussed this, if baseball at large wants to give Scully some sort of national sendoff, the best bet would be for the powers that be to figure out how to get the final Dodgers games of the season nationally televised without blackout restrictions. That way we can all watch him doing his thing, in his element, for a final time without it being gimmicky.