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:

source:

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.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.