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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.

Nationals acquire Derek Norris from Padres

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 01:  Derek Norris #3 of the San Diego Padres prepares to bat against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the sixth inning of a MLB game at Chase Field on October 1, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
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According to an official team announcement, the Nationals have acquired catcher Derek Norris from the Padres in exchange for right-hander Pedro Avila.

Norris, 27, batted a career-low .186/.225/.328 in 458 PA with the Padres in 2016. He hit career highs with 14 home runs and nine stolen bases, but his dismal production rate through the second half of the season spelled the end of his time in a starting role in San Diego. Norris’ departure from the Padres also confirms 24-year-old Austin Hedges‘ spot on the roster, as reported by MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell:

Heading to San Diego is 19-year-old right-handed starter Pedro Avila, who was acquired by the Nationals as an international free agent in 2014. The 19-year-old spent his first season in Single-A Hagerstown and went 7-7 with a 3.48 ERA and 2.42 K/BB rate in 93 innings.

Breaking Down the Today’s Game Hall of Fame ballot: Bud Selig

Bud Selig
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On Monday, December 5, the Today’s Game committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame — the replacement for the Veterans Committee which covers the years 1988-2016 — will vote on candidates for the 2017 induction class. This week we are looking at the ten candidates, one-by-one, to assess their Hall worthiness. The final candidate: Bud Selig. 

The case for his induction:

Let’s get this out of the way: Yes, in January 2015, as Bud Selig was stepping down after 20+ years as baseball’s commissioner, I wrote a column claiming that he was “The Greatest Commissioner in Baseball History.” I stand by that assessment.

Which is not to say that he was perfect or that he was, in an absolute sense, good. He was simply better than all of the other commissioners, most of whom weren’t worth a tinker’s damn.

More important to that analysis than his historical comps, however, was that when people talk about how good or bad a commissioner was, they’re usually judging him by their own, subjective terms, not the terms of the commissioner’s employment. Contrary to popular belief, the commissioner is not a president, governor or mayor of baseball. He is not elected by nor answerable to the fans or the public. He may play up all of the trappings of political leadership because it makes him seem important and noble and serves to justify the power he wields, but in reality the commissioner of baseball is merely the Chairman of the Board for Baseball, Inc., answerable to anywhere between 16 and 30 owners depending on what time in baseball history he happend to serve.

People hate being reminded of that. They want to say Bud Selig was a failure because he did things they did not like, but that’s beside the point. He did things his employers liked and did them better than most others who preceded him. In the process he made a lot of people very rich, including all of the other owners, broadcast executives, players, agents and just about anyone else who holds a stake in baseball. His transgressions — discussed below — were real, but they were not considered deal breakers for anyone to whom Selig actually owed a duty. He may have betrayed you or me and he may have done things that harmed our love of baseball, but it was never his job to make us happy. Sorry I had to tell you that so bluntly, but it’s better you heard it from a friend.

So, the case for Bud: he did his job the way he was supposed to and he grew the game and made his employers rich. That’s not an inspiring case, but it’s the case we have.

The case against his induction:

Personally, I don’t think any commissioner should be in the Hall of Fame, but as we noted with the other executives, that ship has sailed. Bowie Kuhn is in the Hall of Fame for Pete’s sake and he bungled just about everything that came his way. Hall of Fame induction for a commissioner is a gold watch. A lifetime achievement award.

It may also be worth noting that he’s on the Hall of Fame board for crying out loud, so he has a blatant conflict of interest here, what with having been part of selecting or approving the very people who will vote for him on Monday. Based on what we’re seeing in other arenas, however, I suppose we’re over things like conflicts of interest in late 2016 America, so that gets us nowhere.

Still, let’s not pretend that Bud Selig was not an accomplice and, according to many, a ringleader of a literal criminal conspiracy that harmed people’s livelihoods and, in turn, compromised the product on the field. Let us not pretend he did not launch a disastrous, cynical and greed-inspired labor war that cost us the 1994 season and World Series. Let us not pretend that he did not turn the ownership ranks into a secret society open only to those who know the secret knock, rewarding those inside the club, however incompetent, and destroying entire franchises. Let us not pretend that he did not willfully turn a blind eye to steroid and performance enhancing drug use in the game, knowing that the resulting dingers helped boost fan interest and revenue, only to then turn around and vilify and scapegoat the players who used those drugs in a comically grandstanding and self-serving manner.

Should all of that be held against him? Absolutely. Will they be? I seriously, seriously doubt it.

Would I vote for him?

We hear from BBWAA voters so very often that to withhold a Hall of Fame vote from someone is not a “punishment” as much as it is a mere denial of the highest honor. We hear that withholding a vote does not deny a player’s greatness, just a place in the Hall. If that’s the case I see no problem withholding a vote from Selig, even if he was the greatest commissioner. Yes, he was great, but he also did a lot of stuff which brought ignominy to the game and which actively harmed people. Many, many players have been effectively barred from entering the Hall of Fame for far lesser transgressions. Bud Selig is not, in my view, worthy of baseball’s highest honor.

Will the Committee vote for him?

It’s a mortal lock. Baseball loves nothing more than patting Bud Selig on the back. He made everyone involved with it quite wealthy. I’d place the odds of him making it in on Monday’s vote at 100%.