ESPN needs to get a better legal expert

43 Comments

I have no personal quarrel with ESPN’s Lester Munson. I don’t know his background or his specific area of expertise. I know that when he is asked to explain to lay people the general gist of any legal issue that touches sports he tends to do an OK job.  He’s good at the “OK, what happens next” part of things, which is probably the thing sports fans want to know.  I’ve dabbled in legal expertise business before, and that’s about 95% of the gig.

I do know, however, that he is most visibly promoted by ESPN when it comes to steroids in baseball stories, and I know that whenever he has been called to go beyond the “what happens next” aspect of that business, he has often gotten things pretty wrong.

The most notable instance I can remember of him stone cold whiffing was when the Barry Bonds prosecutors lost some preliminary evidentiary rulings a couple of years ago and took an appeal.  I won’t bore you with the details, but the basis of the prosecution’s argument was an evidence concept called “the residual exception.”  The important thing to know about the residual exception is that if you have to argue that your evidence is admissible on that basis, you’re screwed, dude. Almost every single person with a legal background knew that the prosecutors were screwed there too. But not Munson, who claimed “their chances are good” and otherwise gave them a tongue-bathing while slamming Judge Illston.  He was wrong.

So color me unsurprised this morning when Munson’s column analyzing the Bonds verdict came out and it was filled with praise for the prosecution on a “major triumph,” and said that the defense “went 0 for 4” despite getting three hung juries, including one involving Bonds lying about steroids.  I suppose reasonable people can disagree about whether the prosecution can declare a victory of some kind, but Munson’s hyperbole and reasoning is so far removed from common sense and reality that I almost got an attack of vertigo trying to wrap my brain around it.

Thankfully some others took it down:  Wendy, at the Hanging Sliders blog, simply eviscerates Munson’s arguments.  The point-by-point takedown is what you should really read, but the conclusion pretty much covers it:

I don’t know Munson nor do I know anything about his law practice. But I suggest that if you are suspected of committing a crime, you should hire an attorney who understands criminal, evidentiary and constitutional law better than Lester Munson apparently does.

Elie Mystal at the inimitable Above the Law blog goes after Munson too, and suffers from the same sort of vertigo that struck me, only with more F-words.

I don’t know what Munson’s deal is. At some point several years ago he fell in love with the prosecution’s case and hasn’t been able to see it objectively for some time.  Or maybe he’s  just out of his depth with this stuff.  All I know for sure is that, given how often sports and law intersect these days, the self-proclaimed World Wide Leader in Sports should find someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about with this stuff.

Report: Orioles to name Brandon Hyde new manager

Jason Miller/Getty Images
1 Comment

Update (8:23 PM ET): MASN’s Roch Kubatko talked to new GM Mike Elias, who said there has been no offer made to Hyde for the position. Elias called the report “premature.”

*

The Orioles are expected to name Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde as the new manager, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. Nothing is official yet.

Hyde, 45, spent four seasons in the minors with the White Sox from 1997-2000, then played in the independent Western League in 2001 before calling it quits. He was a coach with the Marlins from 2010-12 and has been with the Cubs since 2013.

Other candidates for the Orioles’ open managerial position have included Pedro Grifol, Chip Hale, Mike Redmond, Mike Bell, and Manny Acta.

Hyde is taking over for Buck Showalter, who was at the helm of the Orioles from 2010-18. Last season, however, the Orioles finished 47-115, the worst record in team history. Hyde will be taking over a team that is rebuilding, so the expectations will be relatively low in his first couple of seasons.