By Scott Miller, CBS Sports Senior Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS Sports) — Verdict, said the court.
No, wait, there is no verdict, said the court.
Then they huddled Wednesday afternoon. Then the jury told U.S. District Judge Susan Illston it had Barry Bonds on obstruction of justice, but it couldn’t reach a conclusion on the three counts of perjury.
The judge listened. If she’s anything like the rest of us, I like to imagine that during this time, she put an index finger to her temple, used her thumb as the hammer and ka-blam!, she tuned out.
What she really did was tell the jury that it was “time to throw in the towel.”
And don’t we wish we could find a judge to tell us the same thing.
Enough. With Bonds. With Manny Ramirez. With the Steroid Era, the Mitchell Report, the cream, the clear, the juice, the needles in the rear.
Baseball’s all-time home run leader* was convicted of obstruction of justice but walks on the three perjury counts.
Which means that it took an unspeakably massive amount of time and money for the government to reach the same place as baseball, Congress, the media, Hall of Fame voters, fans and even your pet dog, for God’s sake, arrived at several years ago.
There is no way out of this maze of fog, smoke, mirrors and lies. It’s Michael Corleone all over again: Just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in. …
With states going broke and working guys and gals out on the street because nobody has any money any more, it is unconscionable that the government nearly shut down last weekend yet could keep feeding this beast. And wait, there’s more: The Roger Clemens trial is expected to begin this summer. Anybody for a Fantasy draft on that one?
I never got any closer to law school than my sister’s degree, but exactly how a guy can be convicted of obstruction of justice but not perjury makes about as much sense as how Bonds’ head grew three sizes that day.
If there was no lying (perjury), then what, exactly, did Bonds obstruct?
A 12-day trial and nearly four days of jury deliberations, and it feels like the dog is still out in the yard chasing its tail.
Whichever side of this thing you’re on — free him or stone him — the worst part continues to be that there is no closure. Nobody can slam the door on Bonds or steroids, not in baseball, not in Congress, not in court. It’s like watching the current White Sox bullpen try and pitch the ninth.
Of course, Bonds’ legal team immediately asked that the guilty obstruction verdict be given the ol’ heave-ho, since there is no perjury. Illston did not rule on that request, setting a May 20 hearing instead.
So you know where this is going, don’t you?
Same place history went to judge Mark McGwire:
To the Hall of Fame voters.
If Illston doesn’t throw out the guilty verdict on obstruction of justice, Bonds is expected to receive probation and a fine, but no jail time. And if there’s no chance Bonds lands on ice, you lose all interest, don’t you?
No, the way things came down Wednesday, this entire thing will remain anticlimactic until Bonds takes his place on the Hall of Fame ballot 2013.
And then what?
Judging by the way voters have snubbed McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro on previous Hall ballots, you have to think that Greg Anderson, the personal trainer who did jail time for Bonds rather than squawk, will come clean and tell his story before Bonds is ever welcomed into the gates of Cooperstown.
Yet there are voters who view Bonds’ career in two acts, pre- and post-1999, the year it’s generally agreed that he got on the juice. And those who see him in this light argue that he already had Hall of Fame numbers through ’99, before he could even spell “BALCO.”
Based on that, they say, they’ll vote for him.
My own feeling is that these voters remain in the minority, and I think Bonds remains exiled somewhere out near Pete Rose. He’s not getting my vote, I can tell you that.
That, though, remains a couple of years away, and who knows what will happen between now and 2013? Manny might even have gotten pregnant by then. Or Congress might have the federal deficit under control.
All I know is, there will be no hung jury for Bonds then. He’ll either be out, as I suspect, or in, as many fear.
And as was the case Wednesday’s verdict, that will not make sense to a whole lot of people, either.
(© 2011 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.)