Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Bonds Legacy?

Perjury n. pl. per·ju·ries

1. Law. The deliberate, willful giving of false, misleading, or incomplete testimony under oath.
2. The breach of an oath or promise.

I am hardly breaking news here, but Sports Illustrated, under the banner headline "THE TRUTH","BARRY BONDS AND STEROIDS", has decided to publicly have the conversation that would have dominated the 2006 baseball season as Bonds approached 714 and 755. The magazine is running a lengthy excerpt from Game of Shadows, by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, a book to be published in March, that details Bonds alleged use of performance enhancing drugs from as far back as 1998.

While it will take a while to read, and very much longer to absorb, I really do believe that it is time well spent for any baseball fan.

If - and while I may be sitting on a fence here, let's all take a second and stress that small word if - this story is true, Bonds is facing more trouble than I guess he ever believed would be possible - and the decisions that may be taken by MLB concerning an *, or striking his records, or suspending him, will pale compared to any custodial sentence that may be imposed for perjury.

Perversely, a perjury sentence may actually make MLB's decision easier for them - if this evidence never finds its way to court in a case against Bonds by the US Government, or in a case against Fainaru-Wada and Williams, brought by Bonds, I really see no way in which MLB can take action against Bonds. He broke no MLB agreement, he has failed no test that we know of - how can they possibly punish him in good faith?

If he is punished for perjury, they may be able to make the case that while he failed no test, this evidence, backed up by a conviction, is "proof" enough that he conspired to defeat the testing environment in 2004 and 2005, and that any punishment relates to those actions - again though, would that hold up... would Bonds be brave enough to challenge such an MLB ruling from the comfort of his cell? More significantly, would the MLBPA look to defend, not so much Bonds (how many friends does he really have in the MLBPA given his decision to exit the collective marketing arrangements), as the principal that no player can be punished for "no crime"?

On the other side of this argument we will hear from those who believe that Bonds is the victim of a media inspired witch hunt - that envy has turned to jealousy, as a man that people (99.999% of whom have absolutely no knowledge of the man at all) have generally decreed to be unlikable, approaches a hallowed record. 755 really is a special number, held by a special man, who endured an outpouring of hatred as he approached and broke 714 - how dare anyone break such a special mark in baseball fans' hearts? I do think this argument is weak, but again, until there is a conclusion to this, this debate will go back and forward and there will be no satisfaction either way.

As unfair as it may be (and that is particularly the case when someone would appear to have as little baseball time left as Bonds), if Bonds wants to restore his reputation, he has to aggressively pursue a case against these journalists, or accept the fact that this is damning evidence against him which will be discussed as fact. He cannot hide behind 'no comment', he cannot hide behind 'here to talk about the future, not the past' - he has to be aggressive, or accept that his legacy is beyond redemption, regardless of any records* that he holds when he finally retires.

Baseball needs closure on Bonds - one way or another, lets hope that this book flushes out the issue to a definite conclusion.

2 threw a strike:

At 10:24 pm, Blogger Pete J said...

Oh the joys of hearsay, conjecture and assumption.

Rather than look for evidence we merely wait to see if he 'looks' guilty. If only they could have gotten OJ on such 'evidence'.

At 5:24 am, Blogger Neil H said...

I agree Pete - that is why a court case clears this one way or the other.

Perhaps I also should have added that if the US Government doesn't go aggressively against him for perjury that the opposite holds true?


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