Get ready, kids: Barry Bonds’ trial is right around the corner

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It seems like years ago that Barry Bonds was indicted for perjury. Oh, wait, it was years ago. Three-and-a-half to be exact.  But though the wheels of justice grind slowly, boy do they grind, and they’ve almost delivered us to Barry Bonds’ trial, which gets underway on March 21st.

But first, some preliminary rulings, a few of which came today:  the prosecution will — over Bonds’ objections — be able to call other ballplayers who trained with Greg Anderson, including Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi, Marvin Benard and Bobby Estalella.  They will not, however, be able to introduce a boatload of documentary evidence they claim proves that Barry Bonds knowlingly used PEDs.  The reason: as has long been the case, Greg Anderson is still not testifying, therefore the documents — which he created — cannot be authenticated, and are thus inadmissible hearsay.

I’ll obviously be following the trial as closely as the Internet will allow — oh, please don’t send me on an all-expenses-paid trip to San Francisco, my NBC overlords! Don’t throw me into that brier patch — but for now I’ll refresh you on my overall take of things so as to avoid confusion going forward:

Barry Bonds took the Cream and the Clear. It’s been painstakingly researched and written about. He admitted under oath that, yeah, there was probably stuff that he took that he subsequently learned were something other than flaxseed oil. There isn’t a truly reasonable debate to be had along the lines of “did he take PEDs,” and that question really has no bearing on this trial whatsoever, so don’t take my criticism of the current prosecution as a denial of the bleedin’ obvious;

Steroids or not, I don’t think the prosecution had a good perjury case from the moment Bonds was indicted.  As I’ve written before, the relevant question is whether Barry Bonds knew he was taking steroids prior to December 4, 2003. Or, more to the point, a case about whether the government can prove that he knew he was taking steroids prior to December 4, 2003.  On that point, I think it’s a weak case because the government’s questions during the grand jury proceedings were terribly vague, Bonds’ answers were boringly circuitous, and the government didn’t do much to try to nail him down. I explained all of that here a couple of years ago.

Do I think Bonds lied under oath?  Having read the entirety of his testimony I think he was probably trying to do his best to avoid having to. And I think that, because of the sloppy questioning, he avoided the sorts of unequivocal falsehoods that are usually the subject of perjury prosecutions.  Most of the time a case with these broad, compound  questions and these circular answers doesn’t get charged. It’s too borderline.  But this is a celebrity here, and this was a Novitzky investigation, so they’re going for broke. And they’re doing it without the one witness — Greg Anderson — who can make their case.

Overall I think this is a wasteful prosecution, and it was made wasteful because of government sloppiness and the lack of a true law enforcement imperative at work, which led to prosecutors handling the grand jury proceedings as if there were unimportant. All of the BALCO people who were the targets of that grand jury have been tried, convicted and have served their time and are going on with their lives. This is a seven-year-old hangover, and such things are a recipe for a misuse of the justice system and bad justice issuing therefrom.

Under those circumstances, I don’t think Bonds should be prosecuted. Even as it is, I don’t think it’s anywhere close to certain that the prosecution can get a conviction.  But hey, that’s why they play the game!

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Athletics 10, Angels 0: Brett Anderson — the pitcher, not the lead singer for seminal 1990s Britpop band Suede — tossed shutout ball into the seventh while Stephen Piscotty brought The Power, homering and driving in five runs to lead an Oakland hit parade that beat the Angels Black and Blue. It wasn’t a Wild One, but I’m sure A’s fans Can’t Get Enough of their team winning.

Dodgers 5, Rockies 2: Yasiel Puig is having a heck of a month of September. I mean, yeah, his house has been robbed a couple of times lately, but it’s not distracting him on the field. He got the day off to start the day yesterday but then he came on to hit a three-run pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning to break a 2-2 tie and to give the Dodgers a three-game sweep of the Rockies. Puig is hitting .400 with seven homers and 14 RBI in the month of September. Matt Kemp homered too and Walker Buehler struck out 12. The Dodgers, meanwhile, boosted their lead in the NL West to two and a half games with nine games to play. Ten for the Rockies.

Indians 4, White Sox 1: The White Sox carried a 1-0 lead all the way to the ninth inning, backed by a strong performance from Dylan Covey (6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER). In the ninth, three different White Sox relievers each allowed a batter to reach to load the bases. The third one of them, Ian Hamilton, then faced Jason Kipnis. On his sixth pitch, Kipnis launched it over the fence in right for a walkoff grand slam that doubled a his 1,000th career hit:

Braves 7, Cardinals 3: Freddie Freeman hit a two-run homer and knocked in three on his 3-for-3 day as the Braves snapped their four-game losing streak. They now start a four-game series against the Phillies, over whom they hold a five and a half game lead in the NL East and hold a magic number of six. St. Louis falls and is now three behind Milwaukee for the top NL wild card but holds its one and a half game lead over the Rockies for the second spot thanks to the Rockies loss in Los Angeles.

Twins 8, Tigers 2: Stephen Gonsalves pitched six scoreless innings of one-hit ball as the Twins second pitcher of the day, striking out four and picking up his first major league win. Twins catcher Willians Astudillo doubled and singled in a run on his three-RBI day as the Twins sweep the Tigers.

Rays 9, Rangers 3: Tommy Pham homered twice to give the Rays a three-game sweep. Ryan Yarbrough picked up his 15th win on the year despite the fact that he has only started six games. The “opener” concept at work. I don’t know if that will become a new part of baseball going forward or if it’ll just be a fad. I don’t think anyone knows that yet. If it is he latter, people in 20-25 years are gonna be looking at baseball stats and wondering why “relievers” had such high win totals.

Phillies 4, Mets 0: Zach Eflin and five relievers combine for a six hit shutout, backed by homers from Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera. It’s now on to Atlanta, who Philly trails by five and a half. Seven of Philadelphia’s final 11 games are against the Braves, in fact, so this thing isn’t over.

Yankees 10, Red Sox 1: The AL East race isn’t over yet either. It will be — the Sox only need one more win and one more Yankees loss — but New York postponed that for yet another day, thanks to a big offensive day led by Luke Voit‘s two-homer performance. Miguel Andujar also homered and Aaron Hicks drove in three. David Price was knocked around for six runs — four earned — in five and a third. Luis Severino started shaky — his fist six pitches of the game were balls — but ended up allowing only one run in seven innings of work. New York remains two and a half games ahead of Oakland for the top AL Wild Card spot.

Orioles 2, Blue Jays 1: DJ Stewart hit his first major league home run, Jimmy Yacabonis and four relievers allowed only one run on four hits and the O’s avoid the sweep. I’m pretty sure Jimmy Yacabonis was in Season two of “The Wire,” by the way. He was either one of the dock workers or a henchman at the Greek diner, right? I think I’m right about that.

Pirates 2, Royals 1: Chris Archer allowed one run over seven innings, striking out eight, and Adam Frazier hit a tie-breaking solo homer in the fifth to give the Buccos a three-game sweep over Kansas City. The Royals have lost four straight.

Brewers 7, Reds 0: Jesus Aquilar and Manny Pina each hit three-run homers and Aquilar knocked in four in all as the Brewers knocked Matt Harvey around for seven runs in five and a third. Gio Gonzalez tossed six shutout innings tossed six shutout innings on his 33rd birthday. I think I had to file a summary judgment brief on my 33rd birthday, after which I probably changed diapers and fell asleep at 9:16PM. It was a hell of a Friday.

Mariners 9, Astros 0: Seven M’s pitchers combined on a five-hit shutout. Kyle Seager, Mitch Haniger and Guillermo Heredia each homered but Seattle had already built a 5-0 lead by the time those guys started going deep.

Padres 8, Giants 4: San Diego had a five-run second inning led by Wil Myers‘ two-run homer. Freddy Galvis also homered as the Padres avoided a three-game sweep.

Diamondbacks 9, Cubs 0: Robbie Ray tossed six shutout innings allowing only one hit and three Dbacks reliever combined for three no-hit innings to finish it off. The need not have been so dominant given that Cole Hamels was rocked for seven runs on nine hits in his six innings of work. Christian Walker, Chris Owings and Jeff Mathis each homered for Arizona. The Diamondbacks did this despite putting basically an all-backup lineup on the field with only two regular starters, Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte, getting the start.