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Meanwhile, in an alternate universe where the Barry Bonds prosecution was “a triumph” for the prosecution

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ESPN’s legal expert Lester Munson has been in love with the Barry Bonds prosecution for several years now. Specifically, the Barry Bonds prosecutors as well as the feds behind the BALCO investigation. And it has led to some pretty wacky analysis of that case on his part.

He was wildly incorrect about earlier evidentiary rulings. And he wasn’t merely mistaken about them. He was so awfully mistaken about them that it was clear to anyone who understood the issues that, the moment he wrote what he wrote, his take was simply incoherent. He likewise responded to the Bonds verdict in a manner that was so far outside of the mainstream that multiple legal experts thought he was smokin’ banana peels.  It’s one thing to simply have a different opinion about a case and its dynamics, but Munson’s takes have been the stuff of an alternate universe.

That trend continued late Friday night when Munson did a Q&A about the Barry Bonds sentence.  I don’t know what your take is on the prosecutors and the federal agents who spent nearly a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars going after a tiny drug operation with a tiny client list, but here’s Munson’s take:

… the prosecutors — who occasionally stumbled — rallied brilliantly at the conclusion of the Bonds trial and obtained the conviction for obstruction of justice and were one vote shy of a conviction for perjury. This outcome, even with the light sentence, is a triumph for investigative agent Jeff Novitzky and prosecutors Jeff Nedrow and Matt Parrella.

A triumph? Rallied brilliantly? It was originally an indictment of more than a dozen counts. They got whittled down to four. They whiffed on the three biggest of those and the fourth one stands an excellent chance of being overturned on appeal because it was clearly counter to the evidence. And what’s that stuff about “one vote shy of a conviction for perjury?”  A jury’s verdict is a pass/fail test. The prosecutors failed it. Close counts for nothing.

Of course, Munson doesn’t think this is an unmitigated triumph. He acknowledges that it didn’t all go perfectly. Why?

The problem that led to the conviction on only one count and a deadlocked jury on three counts of perjury was not the quality of the work of the agents and prosecutors. The problem was the refusal of Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson, to testify against him. For reasons that are not yet known, Anderson went to jail twice instead of offering evidence against Bonds. Anderson’s refusal to testify prevented the prosecutors from connecting Bonds to positive drug tests and other compelling evidence of Bonds’ use of steroids.

No, Anderson wasn’t there and, yes, things would have been totally different if he had been, I’m sure. But the unavailability of that evidence was a known fact for years before trial. Yet the prosecutors pushed on anyway. They pushed on knowing that they could not make an essential part of their case. This was awful tactical and legal judgment, yet Munson absolves the prosecutors totally. He makes it sound like they got blindsided.

All of that makes Munson sound like an apologist for the prosecution. But don’t worry, he’s not just an apologist. He is a cheap-shot artist, at least when it comes to the judge:

Q: The jury concluded that Bonds obstructed the investigation of the grand jury. Why wouldn’t the judge support the crime-fighting efforts of the grand jury by sentencing Bonds to the penitentiary?

A: The federal judge who presided over the Bonds trial is Susan Illston. She is a San Francisco Democrat and a bit of an enigma … It was one of many decisions made in the course of the BALCO prosecutions that indicated Judge Illston just didn’t get it … It was clear throughout the Bonds trial that Illston would rather be doing something else. The federal sentencing guidelines suggest a term of 15 months in prison. Illston ignored the guidelines and told Bonds he would be confined for a month in his mansion.

In other words, Munson is saying that Ilston was politically-motivated, dumb or simply didn’t care about her job. If one of the prosecutors in this case said these things they’d be in front of Judge Ilston on contempt charges. I don’t know if Munson still has an active legal license (UPDATE: He doesn’t, and for good reason), but lawyers are held to higher standards than others when it comes to criticizing judges and no officer of the court should ever be heard to say such things about a federal freaking District Court judge.

And decorum aside, on the merits, he’s just wrong. Lawyers who have practiced before Judge Ilston have a wildly different opinion of her.  And “sentencing guidelines?”  They are just that: guidelines. An important part of the judge’s job is to, you know, judge. Munson neglects to mention that Ilston followed the report and recommendation of the probation office to the letter. She took all information at her disposal into account before she sentenced Bonds. Munson would have her do something … less.

He then goes on to slam Ilston’s overall sentencing practices, wondering why so many of the BALCO figures got light sentences, and why the attorney who leaked the grand jury testimony to the “Game of Shadows” authors got two years. I suppose it’s possible Munson just doesn’t realize that perjury and obstruction are far less serious crimes than the leaking of grand jury testimony by an attorney in a case. But that interpretation — that he’s simply ignorant of the law — doesn’t exactly flatter Munson any more than one in which his take on this was a product of him being an anti-steroid zealot.

But that’s pretty par for the course with Munson. His take on this case has, from the beginning, been colored by his views on PEDs and the personalities involved. And that’s fine for anyone else who wants to opine on all of this. But Munson is supposed to be providing legal analysis of this stuff, and that analysis has been way, way off the mark as a result.

The only possible explanation for it is either rank incompetence (which I do not believe, because I’ve admired his handling of other sports-related cases in the past) or that his judgment is seriously clouded by his views of steroids in sports. He doesn’t like Barry Bonds. Great. No one really does. But the difference is that Munson has allowed that view to paint such a wildly misleading picture of the legal landscape in which that case resides, and in doing so, he has done a disservice to his readers.

The names and teams to watch between now and Monday’s trade deadline

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 3: Jonathan Lucroy #20 of the Milwaukee Brewers looks to the dugout during a game against the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth inning at Busch Stadium on July 3, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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We already saw a big deal go down today, with the Padres trading Andrew Cashner to the Marlins. Between now and Monday afternoon, however, there will be many, many more. Keeping track of them is not always easy, but we can contain the chaos a little bit by ticking off the big names with the most heat around them.

Here, as of this morning, are the most significant players with rumors attached:

Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers

Linked to: Mets, Red Sox, Indians and Rangers
Likelihood of being traded: Seems highly likely. We’ve seen no reports saying the Brewers truly plan on keeping him.
Most likely destination: Beats us, though the Red Sox have the most to trade from and the GM with the history of the boldest moves. The Indians may be the most desperate for catching, however.

Chris Sale, White Sox

Linked to: Dodgers, Yankees and Braves. Rangers could certainly use him. Obviously, tons of teams would love to have him.
Likelihood of being traded: Less than 50-50, but certainly not zero. Sale’s recent uniform shredding antics and his clashes with the front office are frequently cited, but the real calculus here is whether the White Sox honestly think they can contend while Sale is still under team control (he has club options which keep in Chicago through 2019). Even if he was a model citizen, there are just as many good arguments for dealing him as there are for keeping him, mostly surrounding his undeniable status as one of the game’s top starters and his team-friendly deal for that ace performance. That combination equals a heavy package of prospects in return. If we ran the Sox we’d probably deal him, with the recent controversies as a cover for what is really an admission that, nope, we’re just not a good enough team to compete and, yep, we could get a king’s ransom for him.
Most likely destination: The Dodgers make all kinds of sense. They have young pitching which can help the White Sox win later and can deal it to get Sale who can help them win now.

Andrew Miller, Yankees

Linked to: Rangers, Nationals and Indians, all of whom need bullpen help.
Likelihood of being traded: Low to moderate. He’s under team control through next year and The Yankees like to talk about they don’t rebuild, they just reload. After seeing the haul they got for a rental of Arolids Chapman, however, it may be hard to say no to the sort of package a club may offer for Miller.
Most likely destination: The Nationals have had several scares late in games lately. If they can get over their tendency to hoard prospects rather than truly go for it, they could probably get a deal done.

Jay Bruce, Reds

Linked to: Mariners more than anyone. Indians and Rangers have been mentioned.
Likelihood of being traded:  Almost certain. The Reds are gonna be bad for a while and the often uneven Bruce is enjoying his best year. Time to strike while the iron is hot.
Most likely destination: The rumors about Bruce fall into two categories: legitimate stuff about the Mariners’ interest and general noise which sounds a lot like the Reds trying to pretend there are more teams interested in Bruce than there really are in order to get the Mariners to raise their price. Anything can happen, of course, and one should not bluff unless one is willing to carry through with what one is threatening, but I still think Bruce is a Mariner by Monday evening.

Chris Archer, Rays

Linked to: Dodgers, but no one else super seriously.
Likelihood of being traded:  Seems low. The Rays will certainly entertain offers, but Archer’s value is lower than expected during this subpar year for him and he’s under team control for a really long time. If you overwhelm the Rays they’ll deal him, but it will take a big, big offer.
Most likely destination: We think it’s more likely that he’s still a Ray next week, but if he goes anyplace it’ll likely be Los Angeles if they cannot pry Sale loose from the White Sox.

Wade Davis, Royals

Linked to: Dodgers
Likelihood of being traded:  Less than 50% in our view. The Royals may have been intrigued by the Chapman deal with the Cubs, but they are rumored to want to package Davis with teammate Ian Kennedy in a salary dump situation, suggesting that they’re less interested in maximizing the return for Davis than they are in dumping Kennedy’s salary. It’s hard to see why someone like the Dodgers, who are apparently enamored with Davis, would want to do that. It suggests that the Royals are just sort of messin’ around.
Most likely destination: He’ll probably still be a Royal unless the Dodgers make a strong take-it-or-leave-it offer for a standalone Davis deal.

Jeremy Hellickson, Phillies

Linked to: No one specifically yet, but obviously tons of teams want starting pitching. The Rangers, Orioles and maybe the Giants are all teams which have been mentioned in passing.
Likelihood of being traded:  50/50, driven by the Phillies allegedly high asking price — Jayson Stark has reported that they want a top, top prospect for a Hellickson rental — and driven by the fact that the Phillies could just wait until November, give him a qualifying offer and take a pick for him.
Most likely destination: Hard to say, but he’s going to look a lot more attractive to teams like the Rangers the harder it is for them to get one of the top line guys.

Rich Hill, Athletics

Linked to: Same suspects as Hellicskson and the other starters.
Likelihood of being traded: High. It’s the A’s, they make deals.
Most likely destination: No clue. He’s no one’s top choice, but everyone is going to get more desperate between now and Monday afternoon.

OTHERS:

  • Edinson Volquez of the Royals, Matt Shoemaker of the Angels and Julio Teheran of the Braves are mentioned as pitching targets, though it’s not at all certain those clubs are inclined to make a deal. This is especially true of the Braves who did quite well trading starting pitching last winter and may wish to wait until the offseason once again;
  • Carlos Gonzalez, Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran are the top non-Lucroy/Bruce bats which have been mentioned. The Cubs and Orioles have been mentioned as possible suitors for Reddick. Gonzalez hasn’t been linked to any specific teams strongly, though he has reportedly asked to be traded. The Rockies winning more lately may make them hesitant to deal him, however. The Yankees still haven’t signaled that they’re waving the white flag. Trading Beltran means they’re waving the white flag.
  • Any reliever not pitching for a contending team is fair game. More relievers will likely change teams than anyone. So many that we’ll lose track of ’em.

We’d love to be more specific than that, but this is our eighth year of tracking the trade deadline at HardballTalk. That experience has taught us to expect the unexpected.

You can do a Jose Bautista bat flip in the new “NHL ’17” video game

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista flips his bat after hitting a three-run homer during seventh inning game 5 American League Division Series baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Associated Press
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Jose Bautista‘s bat flip from the 2015 playoffs has crossed sporting lines. Now, in addition to it angering old school killjoys and “play the game the right way” lame-os, you can use the bat flip to taunt your opponents in video game hockey.

That’s because the new “NHL ’17” game allows you to pick your own goal celebration. And one of them is the Bautista bat flip. It was discovered by a guy beta testing the game:

Why you’d pick any of the other celebrations is beyond me, but I suppose you can do what you’d like.