Barry Bonds Convicted Of One Count Of Obstruction Of Justice

Barry Bonds loses his appeal, faces 30 days home confinement

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The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Barry Bonds’ criminal conviction for obstruction of justice today. While he could potentially appeal again to the Supreme Court such appeals are rarely if ever granted. This is probably it for him, and he’ll likely soon have to serve his 30 day home confinement sentence.

In denying the appeal, the court ruled that the statement Bonds gave to grand jurors in response to a question about whether he was ever given injections of any kind by Greg Anderson “served to divert the grand jury’s attention away from the relevant inquiry of the investigation, which was Anderson and BALCO’s distribution of steroids and PEDs. The statement was therefore evasive.”

As I’ve noted several times, however, the verdict on this question, and now this ruling from the appeals court, is bizarre. Bonds was asked a yes or no question. He went off on a tangent for a bit, but then the prosecutor led Bonds back to the subject at hand. Here was his answer:

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Did he evade? He tried to, sure. For a few seconds. And then he answered “no.” How this misled anyone or how this was any different than thousands of question/answer exchanges in grand jury testimony is beyond me.

It’s beyond the jurors too, as four of them said after the trial that they felt compelled to give this verdict despite the fact that Bonds answered the question and that they were deeply uncomfortable with that. So why did they do it? Because the prosecutor’s jury instruction adopted by the judge prohibited them from looking at the part of the testimony where Bonds answered the question. Which is just dumb. A man was convicted of evading a question that he did not, in fact, evade. And the jurors were prevented from considering the fact that he answered the question in determining his guilt. They were directed to only look at the small part of his testimony where he did, for a moment, go off-topic.

Bonds probably lied elsewhere in his testimony, but those lies weren’t the subject of the count on which he was convicted or this appeal. Indeed, he was acquitted of lying in those instances. It was only about this bit. And in this bit, Bonds answered the question asked. Now he’s got a criminal record for it.

You may like that if you don’t like Barry Bonds. Or if you think that, since he likely skated free on charges he was likely guilty of, it’s OK to get him on a charge he isn’t guilty of. But it’s not justice and it’s not right.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.

White Sox reportedly considering Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond
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Many have speculated on a potential match between the White Sox and Ian Desmond this winter, but we haven’t heard much in the way of legitimate interest. That could be changing with spring training right around the corner, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Chicago is among the teams considering the free agent shortstop.

After turning the page on Alexei Ramirez this offseason, the White Sox currently have Tyler Saladino in line to serve as their starting shortstop in 2016. The 26-year-old is considered a strong defender, but he batted .225/.267/.335 with four homers over 254 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Desmond is coming off a nightmare of a walk year and has seen his strikeout rate climb by 8.5 percent since 2012, but he possesses more offensive upside and it’s not hard to imagine a bounceback campaign while calling U.S. Cellular Field home.

Similar to fellow free agents Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, Desmond is attached to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. It’s a big reason why a potential deal with the Rays is reported to be a “long shot.” Chicago’s No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft is protected, so they would give up their No. 28 overall pick if they sign a qualifying offer free agent like Desmond.

Pirates sign reliever Eric O’Flaherty

Eric O'Flaherty
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Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to spring training.

O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in the league for the Braves from 2009-2013, posting a combined 1.99 ERA in 249 innings, but Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career and he struggled for the A’s and Mets in 2015 while dealing with shoulder problems.

It’s tough to know if O’Flaherty is healthy at this point, but the 31-year-old southpaw certainly has a chance to be a nice reclamation project for the Pirates on a no-risk contract.