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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.

Dee Gordon reinstated from PED suspension

Miami Marlins' Dee Gordon celebrates after hitting a double against the Detroit Tigers in the ninth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Miami. Derek Dietrich scored on the double. The Tigers won 8-7. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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The Miami Marlins have reinstated second baseman Dee Gordon from his suspension.

Gordon, of course, has missed the last 80 games while serving his drug suspension. He’s coming off a minor league rehab assignment and will be the everyday second baseman for the contending Marlins. He was hitting .266/.289/.340 with three doubles, two triples, five RBI, 13 runs scored, and six stolen bases in 97 plate appearances when he was popped. He was replaced by Derek Dietrich, who hit a nice .275/.366/.398 with 22 extra-base hits, 30 RBI, and 26 runs scored in 314 PA in Gordon’s absence, so don’t expect a tremendous upgrade at second down the stretch, even if they get a nice upgrade in the utility and depth department.

To make room for Gordon, the Marlins designated utilityman and sometimes hero Don Kelly for assignment. Sad jams.

Chris Sale called “a competitor” for stuff that gets most guys called “head cases”

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox reacts during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Chris Sale has had an eventful week.

On Saturday he was scratched from his start and subsequently suspended for five games for cutting up the 1976 throwback uniforms the team was scheduled to wear, making them unusable. That cost the team over $12,000 and cost the Sox their best pitcher hours before game time.

On Monday Sale gave an interview to Scott Merkin in which he apologized to fans and teammates and explained his rationale for the uniform shredding. Even if his act was over the top, there was a core of understandable motivation at least: Sale said he voiced his displeasure with the untucked jersey months ago and asked to not pitch on a night they’d have to wear them because he believed it would mess with his mechanics and/or mental state. The Sox didn’t heed his request and Sale took issue, as many probably would, with what he felt was the business of throwback jerseys taking precedence over on-the-field stuff.

Of course, there are still some pretty big problems here. Mostly having to do with the facts that (a) the Sox have people on staff who could’ve optimized his jersey any way he needed it to be optimized if he had asked; (b) ballplayers have been wearing throwbacks for a long time now and, even if they don’t like them, they tend to endure them; and (c) he’s a ballplayer who needs to suck things up sometimes like every single ballplayer ever has done. There are a ton of things ballplayers are expected to do which are insisted upon by the business folks. It’s part of the gig.

A little more seriously than that is the fact that Sale pretty publicly threw his manager, Robin Ventura, under the bus :

“Robin is the one who has to fight for us in that department,” Sale said. “If the players don’t feel comfortable 100 percent about what we are doing to win the game, and we have an easy fix — it was as easy as hanging up another jersey and everyone was fine. For them to put business first over winning, that’s when I lost it.”

An undercurrent to all of this is Sale being fairly obvious in voicing his desire to be traded.

Today Bob Nightengale of USA Today has a story about Sale’s week. It’s sourced largely by Sale’s friend Adam Eaton who defends Sale as a passionate competitor who just wants to win and how all of this stuff of the past week was about his desire to do so. The headline of the story buys in to all of that:

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We heard much the same along these lines when Sale blasted Sox brass following the Drake LaRoche stuff during spring training, going on an expletive-filled rant in a meeting behind closed doors but then bringing the same noise, albeit cleaned up, in front of reporters after it all became public.

Chris Sale is who he is, of course, and I’m not going to too harshly judge who he is. He’s an amazing pitcher and, as most athletes will tell you, the mental part of the game is almost as important or, maybe, even more important than the physical part. Asking Sale to be who he isn’t would probably be counterproductive in the long term.

But I am fascinated with the way in which someone who has behaved like Sale has behaved is described. He’s a “competitor” whose objectively disruptive and literally destructive behavior is explained away as merely a function of his desire to win. His friends on the team, like Eaton, are sought out for damage control and spin and his detractors, which there are likely some, aren’t quoted, even anonymously. He has publicly called out his manager as not wanting to win as much as he wants to please his bosses and he has likewise called out his manager’s bosses and has welcomed a trade, yet we aren’t seeing stories about how that’s a bad thing for the Sox’ clubhouse.

I don’t much care for that sort of stuff, actually, as I suspect most clubhouse controversy stories are somewhat overblown and overly dramatized. But those stories have been go-to tropes of sports writers for decades, and I am trying to imagine this sort of story about players who aren’t Chris Sale. Players who don’t have as friendly a relationship with the media as he has or who don’t have clubhouse allies who do. I feel like, most of the time, a story about a guy who who has done the odd things Sale has done both this week and last March would play a hell of a lot differently.

How does this all play of it’s Yordano Ventura? Or Yasiel Puig? Or Jose Fernandez? How does this play if it took place in the NBA and it was Kevin Durant who shredded up a bunch of short-shorts on 80s throwback night? How does it play if it’s Cam Newton?

I bet it plays differently.