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Posts Tagged ‘Barry Bonds’

As a pitcher, no one was more intimidating than Roger Clemens. The Rocket’s red glare and intense demeanor on the mound made him one of the most feared and hated opponents in all of baseball. At some points during his career, the hard throwing right hander had such a commanding presence that the at bats of opposing hitters seemed to be over before they even started. This afternoon, federal prosecutors found out that Clemens is just as formidable an adversary in the courtroom as on the field

Clemens and lawyer Rusty Hardin leave court after mistrial was declared.

No sooner than it started, Roger Clemens’ perjury trial came to an abrupt end when U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial after the prosecution revealed inadmissible evidence to the jury. Like a nervous rookie stepping into the box against the seven-time Cy Young award winner, the prosecution’s first crack at Clemens ended up a disaster. However, it wasn’t the Rocket who fired the brush backs. That role was left to Judge Walton, who chided the government’s lawyers for making such a careless mistake.

I think a first-year law student would know you can’t bolster the credibility of a witness with clearly inadmissible evidence.” – Judge Reggie Walton, quoted by Les Carpenter, Yahoo Sports!, July 14, 2011

According to Yahoo! Sports reporter Les Carpenter (@Lescarpneter), who has been covering the trial on Twitter, in addition to the mistrial, Judge Walton stated that a hearing would be held to determine if Clemens could be prosecuted again. If he rules that doing so would subject Clemens to double jeopardy, the legendary pitcher will walk away scot-free.

After falling to convict Barry Bonds on perjury charges back in April, the government’s latest strike out is particularly embarrassing. Considering all the money spent, and questionable tactics used, federal prosecutors have managed to come out looking even worse than the alleged cheaters they have doggedly pursued. Sometimes justice really is blind.

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The U.S.government was finally able to pin a felony on Barry Bonds (assuming the verdict isn’t set aside by the judge), and it only took six years and about $10 million to do it. Considering that the original indictment included 11 counts, the lone guilty verdict doesn’t seem like much of a victory for the prosecutors. Even in baseball’s generous salary structure, eight figures is a lot to pay for a batting average below .100.

Barry Bonds leaves court after being found guilty on one count of obstruction of justice (Photo: AP).

Perhaps the ultimate irony in the Bonds’ trial was that the slugger’s only conviction came on an obstruction of justice charge that wasn’t directly related to his alleged use of performance enhancing drugs. Essentially, Bonds was found guilty of making bizarre statements to the grand jury. Although some of the comments do seem evasive, one wonders if the jury ever witnessed one of the homerun king’s past press conferences? If so, they might have viewed Bonds’ rambling, defensive responses in a different light.

Regardless of how you feel about Bonds, or the government’s conduct in its dogged pursuit of him, it’s hard to draw any meaningful conclusion from the outcome of the trial. In fact, much like most of the attempts to delve into the root causes of steroid era, nothing was really accomplished. Like the many sanctimonious media exposes, the commissioner’s Mitchell Report, and Congress’ investigative committee hearings, the Bonds’ trial was a charade…a way to shift blame and justify a false sense of moral superiority.

Not surprisingly, many in the media have used the conviction as either a vehicle of vindication or a means to overstate the ramifications of the steroid era. Howard Bryant’s ESPN column is a perfect example. Incredibly, he tries to argue that the use of steroids was as shameful a stain on the game as the era of segregation. According to Bryant, segregation was a “societal issue”, which somehow mollifies the blight. This is exactly the twisted logic that has elevated the personal use of chemical substances to the heights of immorality.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

Collateral damage is the “unintended or incidental” consequence of an action. Although unfortunate, collateral damage is usually considered to be a necessary evil required to achieve an objective. Almost 600 years ago, an Italian scholar named Machiavelli articulated a philosophy centered on this phenomenon. In a nutshell, “the end justifies the means”.

Three years after being indicted, Barry Bonds finally has his day in court (Photo: AP).

This morning, Barry Bonds walked into a federal courthouse in San Francisco to answer charges that he lied during testimony to a grand jury investigating the BALCO scandal that uncovered systemic use of performance enhancing drugs throughout the world of sports. In the seven-plus years since Bonds first testified that he did not knowingly take steroids, the U.S. government has pushed the limits of Machiavelli’s axiom in an attempt to prove their case. Meanwhile, the mainstream media, acting as a self appointed custodian of the game’s morality, has engaged in similar tactics, convicting countless players of a variety of transgressions without anything more than the slightest circumstantial evidence.

The merits of the government’s case against Bonds are open to debate, but the amount of money spent and tactics used to compile evidence make it hard to believe the ultimate goal is justice. And, if it is, what price is being paid to attain it?

There’s no arguing against the importance of upholding the sanctity of the criminal justice system by prosecuting cases of perjury, but that doesn’t mean the end justifies the means. The hypocrisy employed by the government is best illustrated by the many leaks that have emanated from the federal prosecutor’s office. Just as witnesses have an obligation to tell the truth, the government has an obligation to protect the privacy of testimony. To date, there have been no charges filed to uphold that sanctity of that confidentiality.

As shameful as the government’s conduct has been, the sports media’s actions have been even worse. For them, Bonds hasn’t been a means. He has been the end, and the damage done to countless others has been the collateral damage.

From little-league teams all the way up to college and professional ranks, the breakfast of champions these days is likely to be some drug: upper, downer, painkiller, muscle-builder. The genie of the pill bottle threatens both athletes and athletics.” – Jack Scott, director of the Institute of for the Study of Sport and Society, The New York Times, October 17, 1971

Contrary to what many would like to believe, steroids are not a modern creation. The documented usage of performance enhancing substances predates Barry Bonds’ prolific homerun spree by decades. Only after Bonds name surfaced amid allegations, however, did moral outrage ensue.

Since early in his career, Bonds’ mistrust of the media has caused him to look over his shoulder.

Most other sports have handled steroid issues without much fanfare. The NFL, for example, had a rampant problem in the 1970s that it eventually (allegedly) brought under control without the fire and brimstone that baseball has had to endure. Of course, if not for Bonds, it may have also been possible for baseball to escape without the level of scrutiny it eventually received.

When Thomas Boswell wrote about suspected steroid use by Jose Canseco before the 1988 World Series, it was largely dismissed. When a bottle of Andro was discovered in Mark McGwire’s locker, the reporter who broke the story was vilified. Even after Tom Verducci blew the cover off the pervasive use and tacit acceptance of performance enhancing drugs in baseball, there was very little groundswell for a moral crusade. However, once the rumors that began to swirl around Bonds were seemingly confirmed by the initial findings in the BALCO investigation, the pitchforks came out in full force. It wasn’t steroid use that was so abhorrent. It was Barry Bonds.

Bonds was never a popular player among the media. To say that the slugger distrusted the press would be an understatement. Throughout his career, he refused to pay deference to those holding tape recorders, so a natural level of mutual contempt arose between the two parties. As long as he was hitting homeruns and establishing his legacy as one of the greatest players in the game, Bonds could get away with treating the media with disdain. When the steroid allegations arose, however, the media finally had the ammunition needed to go on the offensive. The result was a relentless onslaught that sought to destroy Bonds’ reputation and anyone else’s who got in the way.

Getting Barry Bonds spawned a cottage industry of “gotcha journalism” disguised as investigative reporting. Meanwhile, major league baseball, under pressure from the U.S. Congress, created its own collateral damage with the misguided creation of Mitchell Report. Now, after essentially being blacklisted from the game and having various indictments hang over his head for three years, Bonds finally gets the chance to defend himself. Ironically, however, no one seems to carry anymore. And, why should they? Bonds’ reputation has already been destroyed. The mission has been accomplished. The end justifies the means.

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