Monday, November 19, 2007

Bonds indictment an exercise in hypocrisy

Baseball's all-time home run king Barry Bonds was charged last week with perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying when he said he did not use performance-enhancing drugs. If convicted on all counts, Bonds could face 30 years in prison.

By Scott Cavanagh
For years, Major League Baseball made millions and millions of dollars off the exploits of steroid users. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, players whose bodies and statistics literally exploded before our very eyes, were held up as paragons of virtue and hard work, while former singles hitters like Brady Anderson and Rafael Palmeiro became home run bashers -- assaulting the record books like Ruth and Gehrig.
While all of this was going on, those in charge of our national pastime did nothing. Former MVP and current cemetery resident Ken Caminiti claimed in 2002 that at least 50% of all major leaguers were on the juice. He was laughed at and ignored.
Years later, fellow former MVP Jose Canseco published his memoir Juiced, in which he identified the users by name -- Palmeiro, McGwire, Sosa, Pudge Rodriguez -- a virtual who’s who of power-hitting stars. Baseball ignored him as well, until a public outcry led to 2005’s congressional hearings, where Palmeiro, Sosa, McGwire and others either denied ever taking the stuff (Palmeiro), refused to answer (McGwire), or suddenly forgot how to speak English (Sosa).
Within months of his testimony -- in front of Congress no less -- Palmeiro tested positive for steroids. Sosa quickly became a pathetic player who was out of baseball within a year, while McGwire left the public stage so quickly and efficiently he has been harder to find than D.B. Cooper.
Two years ago, slugger Gary Sheffield testified to the same investigators as Bonds that “if” he did any steroids, it was without his knowledge. He also admitted that trainer Greg Anderson -- the same guy that trained Bonds and spent over a year in jail for failing to testify against him -- rubbed some cream (known as “The Clear” for it’s difficulty to detect on tests) on him, but if it was a steroid cream, he was unaware of it.
In just the past couple of months, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel and Cleveland Indians pitcher Paul Byrd have been caught ordering years worth of illegal performance enhancing drugs.
Sheffield has received no punishment whatsoever, nor has Palmeiro, McGwire, Sosa or any of the other group of cheating liars. Victor Conte, the founder of the infamous Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) and man behind the entire case against Bonds, copped a plea in 2005 and served a total of four months in jail.
Now Barry Bonds deserves 30 years? Why? Because he's a surly guy that never kissed-up to the media like Sosa and McGwire? Because he's called this witch-hunt for what it is from the beginning?
The hypocrisy runs all the way to the top. President Bush issued a statement last week expressing deep sadness and disappointment over the Bonds situation. What team did Canseco, Sosa, Rodriguez and Palmeiro all play for during the days described in Canseco's book? The Texas Rangers. Their owner at the time -- George W. Bush.
Either everyone is guilty or nobody is. Either every player and provider that has knowingly lied to investigators and the public about steroids deserves investigation and possible jail time, or no one does. Singling out one player because he happens to be the best one is unfair and unjustified.


Carter McCoy said...

Bonds is a cheater and a liar. He has desecrated so many precious records that were held by true heroes like Hank Aaron and his own godfather, Willie Mays. And don't give me the crap about thirty years. If he does any real jail time, it will be minimal.

John T. in Columbus said...

He (Bonds) happened to have the bad luck of being associated with BALCO, which was run by a very imprudent guy who was reckless and got caught. Every other person you mention got their drugs from...we have no idea. That's the difference. And who's supposedly being hypocritical? Bonds has been indicted by a grand jury, and will be prosecuted by the feds. Major League baseball hasn't condemned him, and won't unless he's actually convicted. I think that's ridiculous, but at least it's consistent.
If Maguire or Sosa or Palmeiro could be linked to a supplier, you can bet the feds would be after him. And you can bet the MLB would be the gutless idiots with them too, and not condemn players for cheating unless they were convicted in a court of law.
The real study in hypocrisy is how they handled Pete Rose. Don't get me wrong, I don't disagree with banning Pete...but why did they only go after Pete? What Bonds did was much worse than what Pete did.

Scott Cavanagh said...

Sheffield was a BALCO guy, and he even admitted to using the Clear, much in the way Bonds did (with the flaxseed oil bit). Both Byrd and Ankiel were caught through records of deliveries from suppliers and baseball is simply saying "we didn't have a policy against it then". Are the feds planning to chase down those suppliers? Making Bonds the fall guy for BALCO is like giving the drug addict a life sentence and giving the dealer probation.

Yes, the key is that Bonds (like Sheffield) lied to a grand jury. But lying to Congress is also a felony (see Alberto Gonzalez) and no one seems to be pursuing charges against Palmeiro (although the main charges should be against McGwire for wearing those little lawyer glasses and Schilling for -- being Curt Schilling).

Is what Bonds did really worse than what Pete did? I think so, but you can certainly make a case that having a major league manager betting on games and being in debt hundreds of thousands of dollars to gamblers is worse than a player taking performance enhancers. Hell, Gaylord Perry openly cheated for 25 years and he's in the Hall.

The hypocrisy lies in the fact that MLB has feigned concern about this subject only since the publication of Canseco's book, but every baseball fan without his head up his ass knew these guys had been juicing for years. I had friends calling Sosa "Sammy Steroid" before he even had the chase with McGwire. Canseco was being serenaded with steroid catcalls in '88. MLB had no problem raking in the cash that Bonds' HR chase generated last season, yet they did nothing. What year did they actually institute the steroid policy, like three years ago?

Bonds, like Pete (without the hustle, charm or championships) is being made an example of, and that's okay by me. But the level of punishment they are seeking is over the top. Obstruction of Justice? How? They did not need Bonds to nail BALCO -- that case was open and shut, due, as you mentioned, to Conte's recklessness and ego. Thank God the president will step in and commute his sentence.

John T. in Columbus said...

The thing I disagree with is you keep saying "they" when it's really two different responses to Bonds: the feds, and MLB. MLB is still giving Bonds a pass. The feds, on the other hand, are doing what they usually do, i.e. prosecute public figures when they get the chance. If they had the goods on Palmiero, they would definitely prosecute him, but they can't prove that he lied to Congress.
And as far as Sheffield goes, my understanding is he answered truthfully. So no crime committed.