The difference between the Bonds and Clemens trials

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The New York Times has an article up this morning in which various legal experts talk about the differences between the Barry Bonds trial and the upcoming Roger Clemens trial. Both are for perjury and both are about steroids, but the folks the Times spoke with believe that the fact that Clemens is accused of lying to Congress might make things harder for the prosecutors. The harm — lying to an oddly politically-motivated Congress as opposed to a grand jury in the course of a criminal investigation — may seem more dubious to jurors, they say.

And then there’s the question of, well, the questions:

Michael N. Levy, another former prosecutor, said Clemens might have an advantage because members of Congress were not as skilled as federal prosecutors at questioning witnesses about criminal matters. As a result, his lawyers may be able to raise questions about whether Clemens really lied in response to imprecise questions.

That part seems nuts to me. The entire problem with the Bonds prosecution were the vague and rambling questions. Congress was awful at this when it came to the Sammy Sosa/Mark McGwire/Jose Canseco stuff — in my mind it’s Congress’ awful questioning which allowed Sosa to skate — but when Clemens was under oath he was asked multiple straight forward questions about his steroid use. And he gave multiple straight forward answers. Answers which were directly contradicted by Brian McNamee.

And while, yes, Brian McNamee has his own credibility issues — he’s primed for the always-wonderful “well, were you lying then or are you lying now, Mr. McNamee?” question — the fact that someone will take the stand and call Roger Clemens a liar when no one could do that to Bonds makes all the difference in the world.  Enough difference to where I think Clemens is in way, way more trouble than Bonds, regardless of the identity of the people he lied to.

Rougned Odor didn’t technically steal home, but he basically did

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Just saw this from last night’s Tigers-Rangers game. It was pretty wild.

Rougned Odor walked in the seventh inning. He broke for second on a steal and was safe due to the throw going wild, allowing him to reach third base. The Tigers called on reliever Daniel Stumpf and he was effective in retiring the next two batters, leaving Odor on third with two out.

Stumpf, a lefty, was paying no attention whatsoever to Odor, so Odor just took off for home, attempting a straight steal. Stumpf was so surprised that he tried to throw home to nail Odor, and in so doing, he balked. That technically means that Odor scored on the balk, but I think it’s safe to say he would’ve scored on the strait steal regardless. Watch:

 

He definitely gets points for style.

 

Aroldis Chapman is pitching himself out of a job

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Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman looked shaky again last night, coming in to the game with a three-run lead before allowing a two-run homer to the Mets’ Amed Rosario. He would nail down the save eventually, giving Sonny Gray his first win as a Yankee, but Chapman’s struggles were the talk of the game afterward.

It was the third appearance in a row in which Chapman has given up at least one run, allowing five runs on three hits — two of them homers — and walking four in his last three and a third innings pitched. He’s also hit a batter. That’s just the most acute portion of a long slide, however. He posted a 0.79 ERA in his first 12 appearances this year, before getting shelled twice and then going on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, missing over a month. Since returning he’s allowed 12 runs — ten earned — in 23 appearances, breaking out to a 4.09 ERA. He’s also walked ten batters in that time. At present, his strikeout rate is the worst he’s featured since 2010. His walk rate is up and he’s allowing more hits per nine innings than he ever has.

It’s possible that he’s still suffering from shoulder problems. Whether or not that’s an issue, he looks to have a new health concern as he appeared to tweak his hamstring on the game’s final play last night when he ran over to cover first base. Chapman told reporters after the game that “it’s nothing to worry about,” and Joe Girardi said that Chapman would not undergo an MRI or anything, but he was clearly grimacing as he came off the mound and it’s something worth watching.

Also worth watching: Dellin Betances and David Robertson, Chapman’s setup men who have each shined as Yankees closers in the past and who may very soon find themselves closing once again if Chapman can’t figure it out. And Chapman seems to know it. He was asked if he still deserves to be the closer after the game. His answer:

“My job is to be ready to pitch everyday. As far as where I pitch, that’s not up to me. If at some point they need to remove me from the closer’s position, I’m always going to be ready to pitch.”

That’s a team-first answer, and for that Chapman should be lauded. But it’s also one that suggests Chapman himself knows he’s going to be out of a closer’s job soon if he doesn’t turn things around.