Yes, Barry Bonds could very well be convicted

26 Comments

I probably need to clarify a point regarding my assessment of the prosecution’s case in the whole Barry Bonds.  I’ve said many times that I think it’s a weak case. Recently my comments to this effect have been picked up by various blogs and have been characterized as me saying that Bonds is going to skate and the prosecution is doomed. That’s not exactly what I believe.

  • I believe that, as far as perjury prosecutions go, there is way less evidence here than you usually see and that the lies normally turned into perjury prosecutions are typically far more stark and unequivocal than the ones Barry Bonds is accused of telling. I believe that, in most instances this is case that would never have been brought by responsible prosecutors.
  • Some time ago, when it went up on appeal and the court excluded all of the doping calendars and everyone realized that Anderson wouldn’t testify I believed that the prosecution would drop the case and that Bonds would, at that point skate.  That obviously didn’t happen and I’m still surprised that it didn’t.
  • I still believe that the case to is light on evidence, wasteful, misguided and sets a dangerous precedent that actually harms the grand jury process far more than Bonds’ alleged perjury did.

But I also acknowledge that, once you get a jury in the box anything can happen.  My criticisms of the prosecution’s approach aside, the fact is that Bonds is telling a story that’s hard to believe and it’s not at all a stretch to think that the prosecution could get a jury to rule against him.

That doesn’t justify the prosecution because I don’t believe that the government should be casually bringing “yeah, I bet we can convince some people of this” kind of cases. The standard for pulling the trigger on a prosecution should be way higher simply because (a) as the old saying goes, you can indict a ham sandwich; (b) despite their charge to be impartial, juries tend to believe that if someone was indicted that they probably did it; and (c) because of that conviction rates are really damn high for cases that last this long.

The prosecutor has way more power than most people think in the criminal justice system. Good ones decline to go after ticky-tack cases for a lot of good reasons and this is a ticky tack case.  You can say that “well, if he lied he should be convicted” but prosecutors are given a ton of discretion for a reason.  They typically and responsibly decline to prosecute cases when the costs — not merely financial costs but costs to the justice system — outweigh the benefits of the prosecution.  I believe this is one of those cases where that discretion should have been exercised and the prosecution not pursued.

But given that hasn’t happened here it certainly means that, yeah, the jury that is seated next month could convict Bonds. And I’m not making any predictions that they won’t.

Please trade Manny Machado already, will ya?

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manny Machado has been on the trading block for some time now, and he’s obviously a highly sought-after player who will command a nice haul for the Orioles if and when they deal him. Until they do that, however, let us talk for a moment about how to read a given trade rumor that gets tweeted or reported out into the ether.

Let’s look at the latest one, shall we? It goes like this:

At the outset, let me be clear about something: I do not doubt this reporting. Heyman is well-sourced, and I’m sure he’s hearing this exact thing. But so too are other reporters reporting other things, such as a rumor that floated around yesterday that the Phillies were in the lead. And so too are the guys who, several days ago, reported that a Machado trade was “on the 10 yard line.” Yesterday some random person on Twitter, claiming they had inside info, reached out to me to tell me that the O’s and the Phillies had a “handshake deal” in place (which sounded totally bogus, BTW). It’s all so imminent and urgent-sounding.

It’s urgent-sounding not because fast-paced and urgent activity is happening. Some GMs are texting one another, just like they always do. Some are making offers and waiting to hear from the Orioles, some are getting counters from the Orioles and are considering them. The GMs of two teams competing for Machado are not, themselves, in communication. In that respect it is decidedly not like a horse race or a football game.

The Orioles want it to be one, though, and make no mistake, that’s where these rumors are coming from.

The Orioles have a vested interest in the Dodgers, Brewers and Phillies upping their bids to beat out the other suitors, and it’s hard not to see all of these reports as stuff the Orioles are telling reporters in order to get the other clubs to think they’re going to miss out. It’s the Orioles and the Orioles alone who have a vested interest in this appearing more like a horse race — or a football game — and thus are cultivating horse race coverage. Whether it’s coordinated or whether it’s just random people in Baltimore telling what they know to reporters I have no idea, but that’s what this is.

That’s interesting to me as a media guy, and I guess it’s interesting to fans of the teams involved, but it’s probably good to remember that it’s less baseball news, proper, than it is a team using the media to get leverage.