By Evan Brunell, CBS Sports Eye on Baseball
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS Sports) — Barry Bonds was found guilty of obstruction of justice on Wednesday, but the jury in Bonds’ case could not come to an accord on the perjury charge which cracks the door open for his Hall of Fame chances.
While the government could still re-try Bonds on the three counts of perjury for telling the grand jury charged with making some sense of the whole steroid mess in 2003 that he did not knowingly use steroids or human growth hormone, the main takeaway from Wednesday is that the steroid era is most definitively not over.
Everyone thought that once Bonds was strung up on guilty counts or found innocent, that it would help to bring the steroid era to a close. But as has happened time and time again, somehow the one solution that ends up continuing the saga popped up again.
Bonds’ obstruction of justice charge essentially means that Bonds made the grand jury’s job investigating the steroids scandal back in 2003 that much more difficult. The government had contended that Bonds was evasive and misleading, which spurred the charge, and the jury has agreed. However, it’s a rather odd charge to come back guilty on — if Bonds wasn’t found guilty of lying, how exactly did he obstruct justice?
The vagaries therein are perplexing. Can you really ding Bonds and consider the fact he lied based solely on the obstruction of justice charge? No — if you assume he was telling the truth, he still could be found guilty of obstruction of justice just by being an overall uncooperative witness and/or the circumstances demanding that he essentially obstruct justice by parroting a skeptical claim that he took steroids, but did not knowingly do so.
Unfortunately — or fortunately if you’re happy the government effectively flushed millions of dollars down the drain and may want a Round 2 — the jury’s indecision on Bonds’ perjury counts means we simply can’t rule out the possibility Bonds was telling the truth. Hey, everyone knows that Bonds took steroids, that’s not the issue. The issue is Bonds’ claim he had no idea what he was taking even though his home run output doubled, his hat size exploded and… um, well, there was “shrinkage” in a certain area of his body as his ex-mistress testified.
As long as it’s possible Bonds was telling the truth, his Hall of Fame case still stands — and could even be bolstered by the news out of court. On one hand, you will have voters believing Bonds was a Hall of Famer even without steroids. On the other hand, you can add in those who feel that it’s impossible to discern who juiced, so why not treat the era as a whole and vote for whoever belongs, period? (Hey — who knows who took amphetamines or not in the ’70s or drugs in the ’80s?)
And on this mysterious third hand humans don’t have, should Bonds be penalized his chance at immortality because he didn’t know he was taking steroids? That’s the can of worms that we’ve opened here, and you can bet that there will be voters who vote for Bonds based on his effective acquittal of these charges. Even if the federal government decides to hold another trial, between the indecisiveness of the first jury and the bangup job that Bonds’ defense lawyers did, nothing can be assumed anymore. And for that reason, you can bet Bonds will linger on the Hall of Fame ballot for a long time, and with enough time, it’s completely feasible to see Bonds enter the Hall, especially as voter turnover happens and moves to the younger contingent, a group that appears more willing to consider the case of tainted stars.
Yes, it’s bordering on ludicrous to assume that Bonds didn’t know what he was ingesting. If trainer Greg Anderson wasn’t so adamant about refusing to testify, he would likely provide all the evidence needed to put Bonds behind bars. And yet… since he does not, we can’t assume that such evidence exists. Remember words like “innocent until proven guilty” and “preponderance of doubt” that you may have learned way back in junior high? Yeah, well, that still applies. And right now, Bonds continues to stand innocent of the charges that could have slammed the door rather emphatically on the steroid era. (Well, until Roger Clemens’ own perjury case comes along in the summer, but that would have just been a sordid epilogue.)
Instead, we’re left to sift through the mess. Again.
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