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What they’re saying about the Barry Bonds verdict

Apr 14, 2011, 9:30 AM EDT


You’ve heard me go on long enough. But wait! One more quickie: The Barry Bonds “I was the son of a celebrity” non-answer was no different than Mark McGwire saying “I’m not here to talk about the past” before Congress. In fact, McGwire’s was worse, because he never did answer the questions put to him. Bonds did.

No one thought to bring obstruction charges against McGwire. Hurm. And we’re apparently moving on from the Mark McGwire saga. He has a low-key Major League job and isn’t some big pariah. Does Bonds get the same treatment? I bet not!  Anyway:

  • Howard Bryant: “Wednesday’s verdict in the Bonds trial is confusing and in many ways unsatisfying, but it reinforces baseball’s terrible truth: the steroid era is the most discredited period in the history of American professional sports … Perhaps only the segregation era shamed the game as much as performance-enhancing drugs have. But segregation was a societal issue …”
  • Tracy Ringolsby: “They ought to make T-shirts that read: “My government spent three years, five months and $10 million and all they got was a silly little obstruction of justice conviction.’’ What a joke.”
  • Mike Lupica: “All this time after that testimony, you thought nobody could possibly believe that Bonds told the truth in the case against BALCO, that no reasonable person could possibly believe that Bonds didn’t know what he was taking. Obviously some in the jury room did. That is the way the system works.”
  • Kevin Kernan: “Yes, Bonds picked up three more walks yesterday to give him 2,561 for his career, but credit the jury in San Francisco for finding Bonds, the fearsome slugger with the big head, guilty of obstruction of justice. If the cap doesn’t fit, you can’t acquit … In the court of public opinion Bonds is guilty. I will not be a holdout juror. I will not believe any of Bonds’ excuses. Bonds knew what he was doing. He made his choice to cheat. I will make mine.”
  • Ken Rosenthal:  “If I could ask Bonds one question — one question after he ends the “dignified silence” requested by his attorney, Allen Ruby — it would be this: Was your drug use worth all the trouble?”
  • McCovey Chronicles: “And so after a couple of months more of post-trial briefing, the conviction likely will be thrown out by Judge Ilston.  Or at the very least will be the subject of a lengthy appeal to the Ninth Circuit.  And the feds will have to decide if they want to re-try the perjury counts on which the jury hung.  There is no joy in Mudville . . . the justice system has struck out.”
  • Anti-steroids activist Don Hooton: “It’s a great day. It’s a wonderful day. There’s the technicality of what he was guilty of and what the jury couldn’t decide on, but the overall message is that word: guilty. He got caught. He got caught as the cheat that he is.”
  • Bob Costas : “The authentic single season season home run champion is Roger Maris. The authentic career home run king is Hank Aaron. You would have to think the world is flat to believe anything other than that.”
  • George Vecsey: “Even the one count of obstruction implicates the entire industry, for engaging in omertà during the home run frolics of the late 1990s and early in this decade.”
  • Jayson Stark:  “So let’s get this straight. The only thing we’ve learned about Barry Bonds is that he was evasive? The government could have assembled a panel of distinguished baseball writers to convict him on that charge like 15 years ago.”
  • ESPN legal expert Lester Munson: “The unanimous verdict that Bonds was guilty of obstruction of justice is a major triumph for federal agent Jeff Novitzky and prosecutors Jeff Nedrow and Matthew Parrella.”

I’ll let all of those stand on their own except Munson’s. He’s a lawyer and he should know better. The feds charged him with 11 counts which were whittled down to four. They got a conviction on one of the four, and that conviction was outrageously dubious and likely a case of jury nullification.  If that’s a “major triumph,” I’d like to see what failure would have looked like.

  1. The Common Man/ - Apr 14, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    God, I hate Bob Costas’s sanctimonious ass right now.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:31 AM

      How can people downvote this, are there people out there who like Bob Costas?

      • Reflex - Apr 14, 2011 at 7:37 PM

        I take every opportunity to hate on Costas. I I’d listen to Joe Morgan before Costas when it comes to announcing a game. He’s terrible.

    • thefalcon123 - Apr 14, 2011 at 11:11 AM

      HA! What a dumbass! Apparently Bob Costas doesn’t even know that Barry Bonds hit 73 homers in 2001 and 762 in his career!

    • tverbis - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:46 PM

      Sure he’s a prick. But he’s a prick who happens to be right about this.

      • paperlions - Apr 14, 2011 at 1:15 PM

        Because Aaron never used illegal drugs without a prescription during his career? He admitted to using amphetamines while playing.

  2. sdelmonte - Apr 14, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    I suppose it’s too much to wish that we could just move on from Bonds instead of rehashing the same things over and over.

    Or better yet, just, I want some sportswriter to admit that he was cheering for Bonds in 2001 even though he had to wonder about who was juicing and who wasn’t. Or to say that the entire game is tainted and he will therefore never write about it again. Or to admit that athletes always look for an edge.

    Nah, that will never happen.

  3. BC - Apr 14, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    My reaction to the trial? WHO CARES??!? AND STOP WASTING TAXPAYER MONEY!!
    And while stopping short of calling Costas a chipwich, he really ought to just shove a sock in it.

  4. Alex K - Apr 14, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    I guess I think the world is flat.

  5. tverbis - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    Costas was right on the money. If you all believe that ‘roids are OK and that it’s not cheating then fine. Let’s establish two leagues: MLB and MLBS. And while we’re at it, we’re going to need two buildings for the Hall of Fame. Because Aaron and Bonds aren’t even in the same ballpark. Barely the same sport.

    • Alex K - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:33 AM

      Maris and Aaron aren’t authentic, either. We have to go back to Babe Ruth, then. But wait, both Maris and Aaron played in a time when “greenies” were used. No way we can count them! Babe Ruth played in a segregated league. He can’t be authentic beacuse his competition was weak! I guess that means there is no “authentic” Homerun Champion!

      • dlevalley - Apr 14, 2011 at 11:09 AM

        And we’ll have to have a separate league for the post-testing days… when guys are only taking the good stuff that can’t be detected. We’ll call it the MLBTGSTCBD!

      • tverbis - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:53 PM

        This story is about taking drugs to enhance a player’s performance (as well as lying about it). MLB rules state this not allowed. Sticking with the issue, Aaron didn’t do drugs to enhance his performance. This makes him the home run king.

      • paperlions - Apr 14, 2011 at 1:18 PM

        Aaron most definitely took drugs to enhance his performance and has stated as much…unless you are saying amphetamines are not drugs

      • Alex K - Apr 14, 2011 at 2:33 PM

        I’ll second what paperlions said. Aaron took drugs to enhance his performance. Simple fact.

    • BC - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:57 AM

      Costas is dead wrong. Speed was prevalent from the 50’s to the 70’s. Heck, they had them in bowls in some clubhouses. There wasn’t any testing back then. These guys could have been on coke (the white kind) for all we know.
      Babe Ruth? I’d think that his version of performance enhancers was alcohol and overwhelming amounts of food and women. But who knows what was around in the 20s? I mean, you didn’t have these biologically engineered things, but coke and other stuff was around.
      Bottom line, it’s all a crapshoot. Put in the best players of a given era and ignore the rest. I’m sick and tired of people trying to strike records, or blackball players or go back and forth on who did what. Just stop it. I’m at the point where I’m just tuning all this garbage out.

      • mjwalsh54 - Apr 14, 2011 at 11:15 AM

        BC, that’s the single dumbest post on this subject I’ve read. You’re the first person to link Babe Ruth and coke, AND call it a performance enhancer. Just sayin’ …

        Ruth was a HOF caliber pitcher who (I think) still holds World Series pitching records. And had he not been a pitcher the first few years of his career, he’d probably have hit 800+ homers.

        Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, McGwire et al will never be in the HOF. Period. Just not gonna’ happen. They should be permanently on the outside looking with their sorry asses condemned to live in their own cheating misery.

      • jwbiii - Apr 14, 2011 at 11:17 AM

        No steroids in the 1920s? The word ‘steroid’ didn’t exist until the 1930s, but they have been around since the 1880s. Babe Ruth is not a good example in this case.

      • BC - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:04 PM

        I’m not linking Babe Ruth and coke. I’m just saying, how do we know? No testing. No Internet. Media coverage was 1/100th of what it is now. We have no idea who took what before they tested for stuff (though steroids have the obvious external appearance effects). When all those guys were stealing 70, 80, 100 bases do we know they weren’t on speed?
        I’m not linking the Babe to anything, I’m just saying you don’t know. No one does. My guess is that linking him to alcohol and women isn’t a reach, though.

      • mjwalsh54 - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:12 PM

        BC, you’re killing me. What does Babe Ruth’s love of alcohol and women have to do with this? Those are not exactly performance enhancers.
        As for base stealers on amphetamines, probably true. But can’t we also assume that the catchers trying to throw them out were amped up?

      • BC - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:31 PM

        Hey, for the Babe maybe booze and women WERE performance enhancers (ha ha). Seriously, all I’m saying is you just don’t know. Not from the 20s, the 50s, the 80s or now – until testing gave you at least some confidence that the truth was known about a certain drug or banned substance. To your other point, just like PEDs, I don’t think every single player took speed in the 50s thru the 70s or so. Some catchers probably did. But it made it an uneven playing field for those who didn’t, again, just like PEDs.
        We’ll never know the full truth about PEDs or anything else. Thats why I say, enough already, put the best players of a given era in the Hall and let’s be done with this and stop wasting time and money.

  6. teambringitstrong - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    Here you have a 5 foot self righteous gnome with a gift for gab, declaring Aaron and Maris the champs. Costas, I’m BETTER educated than you and I’d bet $100k on that but you, need to stick to the LFL and stay out of grown folks business.

  7. Chris Fiorentino - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    Bob Costas ill probably tell you that Babe Ruth is the greatest player in baseball history. Yet what he will leave out is that Babe Ruth didn’t play against minority ball players. How is what Babe Ruth did any different than what steroids era players did? I mean, they played against lesser talent because minorities weren’t allowed in the game. Every single era in baseball history has had its problems. There is NO REASON to leave out the greatest players for what they did ON THE FIELD. None.

    Without guys like Bonds and Clemens in it, the Hall of Fame will be nothing more than a sham.

    • Alex K - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:34 AM

      I could not agree more. Preach it, Brother Fiorentino!

    • amhendrick - Apr 14, 2011 at 11:20 AM

      Why does it have to be Maris? If we’re going to consider context, like PED’s, instead of “number of balls hit over the fence” then maybe George Foster had the greatest ever season for Home Run hitting.

    • tverbis - Apr 14, 2011 at 1:04 PM

      What the hell are you babbling about?! The numbers don’t lie. Bonds and McGwire do, but not the numbers. And those numbers don’t count if you break the rules, period. We have years of examples of that with the Olympics. (A tradition MUCH older than the MLB, mind you.) Break the rules, you don’t win.

  8. bobwsc - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    everyone looks back saying “we were so stupid to not think anything was going on during the steroid era.” we were. are we dumb enough to think that there isn’t a massive HGH problem in the NFL, hence the players “no blood test stance” with regard to the CBA? there is another crapstorm coming.

  9. Chipmaker - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    Vecsey’s pull quote is the truest one here. Everyone was willingly ignorant. The players bear the greatest burden, sure, but the owners and management looked the other way and didn’t want to know, the media looked the other way and really didn’t want to know… there’s no clean hands here.

  10. canadaman54 - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    “But segregation was a societal issue …”

    How is steroids not a societal issue? You give only a handful of people a chance to make millions of dollars and expect them not to do everything it takes to gain the upper hand? If they don’t make it to the top, they spend years wasting away in the minor leagues or have to start life fresh without baseball, and both of those are probably terrifying prospects for a lot of people involved with the sport. Worse yet, this pressure to succeed in athletics is creeping into the high school realm and we have kids with the exact same “whatever it takes” mindset taking steroids in order to achieve maximum success. It might be a subset of a larger issue about pressure to succeed in athletics, but that doesn’t mean this issue of “steroids” is worthless and just full of shame. Don’t get me wrong, segregation was horrible, but just because they don’t make Hollywood films about steroids and most of the media refuses to grant any sympathy towards an athlete who simply tried to succeed doesn’t mean it’s not an issue that impacts society.

  11. joiebonds - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    I’ve never been so tired of listening to people go on so completely convinced that they know the whole story. Even those who KNOW there are parts left out of this proceeding that explain the “evasiveness” are deliberately leaving those facts aside. You’ve lost my respect and until you include everything you know about the situation in your rants, you’ll never get it back. Sports Journalists?? I question that, “paid gossipers”…is a much better and more accurate title.

  12. wurst2first - Apr 14, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    re: Costas – couldn’t one argue that Bonds’ 73 homer season is the MOST authentic? He played in a fully integrated league where both pitchers and position players had access to cutting edge advancements in training, rehab and conditioning and (this is admittedly a bit of a leap) a large majority of the players (both pitchers and hitters) were roided out of their gourds. That’s pretty much the definition of a level playing field, at least within one’s own era, isn’t it?

  13. jnvh - Apr 14, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    Two points:

    1) Costas’ response is interesting to me in that I heard him do an interview a couple (maybe 3-4) years ago where he said the following (paraphrase, not quote): “Baseball is a game of eras, and the steroid era is no different than any other era. Numerical achievements and other accomplishments should be viewed in a context of their era.” Combined with the rest of the interview, he was giving tacit acceptance of all the steroid era players and their numbers. Now he joins in the populist claptrap.

    2) I am always amazed that more people don’t jump on, or even acknowledge wurst2first’s point – juiced hitters were hitting off juiced pitchers, so isn’t that still a level playing field? And as a related point, if so many players were on steroids, why didn’t everyone hit 40 bombs each year? Still took pretty good players to put up pretty good numbers.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Apr 14, 2011 at 11:59 AM

      If Costas said that, it was a big departure from his previous stance. In 2001, when Bonds was chasing 73 homers, Costas wrote a column on in which he argued that baseball is being “ripped from its historical moorings” and that it was impossible to know what’s good, what’s bad, etc. anymore.

      I remember this vividly, because it was my reaction to that article that launched me into writing about baseball and eventually into this job.

      • jnvh - Apr 14, 2011 at 2:04 PM

        Yeah, interesting. I can’t seem to find the interview (report or transcription), but I also vividly remember thinking how reasonable Costas was on all of this at the time, and that his “Eras” view was a good one. But looking around it seems Costas is quite publicly against Bonds and his steroid use, and has been for a while. Costas may have been speaking in the context of the Hall of Fame, and maybe he was saying Bonds could be in the HoF because he was still one of the greatest players of his era (although that also may be less-than-likely, as he supports a smaller hall in general, and steroid users probably would not get into his hall).

        Maybe I was duped by his very measured tone of voice and thoughtful pauses.

      • mjwalsh54 - Apr 14, 2011 at 2:19 PM

        Craig, the difference between what was known about steroid use in MLB in 2001 and what’s known now is substantial. I’d wager that most peoples’ opinions have changed dramatically in that time as we’ve seen Bonds and McGwire blow up like balloons, put up preposterous stats, and had the revelations of the Mitchell Report, the list of 103 dirty players, Clemens, A-Rod, etc etc.
        So my point is simple: You can’t throw Costas under the bus for having a different stance on the issue now vs. 2001. 10 years, tons of new information and revelations, convictions, Senate hearings. COme on. I’ll bet your opinion is different now vs. then.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Apr 14, 2011 at 2:36 PM

        Not making any value judgments. Of course people’s takes change. And FWIW, I’m not actually aware if Costas’ had changed. I was merely telling jnvh what I knew of what Costas has said in the past. The linked video today is actually consistent with what he was saying in 2001. It is his opinion and he is more than entitled to it.

        And yes, my take is totally different. That article I mentioned that Costas inspired me to write? A of it was about sabermetrics and how you can compare eras. But a lot of it was sheer silly and stupid naivety on my part about PEDs. It didn’t even cross my mind that they were a big issue. We all live and learn.

  14. jaypace - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    That’s the funny thing every writer was slurping bonds when he went off for 73. Bob costas is the worst. I have been a fan of baseball all my life and I just don’t care if guys did roids. Why can’t people just accept that since baseball was created people have been trying to find ways to cheat at it. MLB didn’t care to test so why do people care. You know what I want my athletes juiced up hitting the ball 500 ft.

    • tverbis - Apr 14, 2011 at 1:21 PM

      Why do people care? Because it’s not fair, that’s why. It’s not fair to people like Aaron who worked his ass off to be the best. It’s not fair to fans who are kept in the dark about these so-called “short cuts to greatness.” And it’s DEFINITELY not fair to young boys who are raised to believe that if you just work hard and practice consistently, you can have a chance to be as great as your heros. This whole issue really isn’t even about taking performance-enhancing drugs. It’s about a small group of players who think they’re above the rules of the game. McGwire, Bonds, A-rod; all of them who want it all, regardless of how they get it. They need to be held accountable for their actions if we want to maintain the integrity of the sport that’s been dubbed “America’s greatest pastime.”

  15. Lukehart80 - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    Munson’s opinion was the only one that troubled, because of his legal background. The other guys can be somewhat forgiven for not having a better understanding of the trial and its outcome(s), but as Craig said, Munson know better and should have given a more nuanced reaction.

    Oh well, I guess a more nuanced reaction is why I’m at HBT right now instead of ESPN.

  16. tribester - Apr 14, 2011 at 1:09 PM

    I’d wear that shirt.

  17. mcsnide - Apr 14, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    Check out Heyman. I’m not sure what to make of a world where Jon Heyman makes a reasonable argument (even if I don’t agree with all of it) and actually quotes WAR!

  18. iftheshoefits2 - Apr 14, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    The collective sanctimony of the media makes me sick.

    As for the hall of fame, we have no idea who did what in this era, and to pretend we never watched any of these players perform or excel is ridiculous. I will have no interest in taking my kids to the hall of fame that essentially ignores a 20 year period, one where I watched the most baseball in my life.

    Most people of my generation appear to feel the same. Will the HOF change its tune when the general public ignores it? Its going to be interesting to see, when Costas & the 60’s apologists are removed from the public consciousness.

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