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Articles & Opinion
Written by Various Authors   
Tuesday, 27 November 2007 11:02

A Biz of Baseball ExclusiveThere may be no larger lightning rod in Major League Baseball than Barry  Lamar Bonds. He is arguably baseball’s poster child for performance-enhancing drugs. Nevertheless, he has never tested positive for the use of PED.

In 2003, Bonds testified before a grand jury in the BALCO case and stated that he never knowingly used the “clear” and the “cream”. Four years later, he has been indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice charges for telling the BALCO grand jury that he did not knowingly use anabolic steroids. The indictment (read the full searchable PDF here) uses 19 excerpts of his testimony in 2003 as the basis for the indictment.

When you add in that Bonds is now baseball’s all-time homerun leader, his abrasive persona, the “asterisk”, and whether as a free agent, Bonds will be under contract in 2008, we thought it might be interesting to get the thoughts of some of those that cover baseball in the media. Much as we did in our “32 Voices on the State of the Game” we offer up this compilation of commentary on Barry Bonds. - Maury Brown

The list of authors (in alphabetical order) are:

  • John Brattain - Columnist, The Hardball Times, MSN Canada.
  • Maury Brown - President and Founder, Business of Sports Network. Author, Baseball Prospectus
  • Fred Claire - Former VP and GM of the Dodgers, Author, and MLB.com
  • Ken Davidoff - National baseball writer, Newsday
  • Jordan Kobritz - Staff member, Business of Sports Network. Former owner of the Daytona Cubs Baseball Club, and the Maine Guides Baseball Club.
  • Tim Lemke - Sports business reporter for the Washington Times
  • Rob Neyer - Author and Senior baseball writer for ESPN
  • Roger Noll - Author and Sports Economist, Stanford University
  • Jayson Stark - Author and Senior baseball writer for ESPN
  • Paul Swangard - Director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center
  • Andrew Zimbalist - Author, consultant, and Sports Economist, Smith College

Select Read More to read Voices on Barry Bonds 

Zimbalist ANDREW ZIMBALIST - Author of several books, including In the Best Interests of Baseball? The Revolutionary Reign of Bud Selig and The Bottom Line: Observations and Arguments on the Sports Business , sports consultant and Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics at Smith College specializing in sports economics

From what appears in the indictment, my sense is that there is not enough information to convict Bonds.  It will be followed in the media as a personal interest story and felicitously bring more attention to baseball during the offseason.  Most of the bad news is already known or discounted.  I don’t see baseball suffering from this, or, frankly, from the Mitchell report. 

Bonds will fade, but his records will stand, with or without a printed asterisk.  They will always have at least an implied asterisk.  Removing his records entails removing the records of everything Bonds touched, as well as everything touched by the dozens, if not hundreds, of other performance enhancement substance users.  This may take us back to the amphetamine era of the 1950s and 1960s, and earlier. 

(Read interviews with Andrew Zimbalist on The Biz of Baseball from 2004 and 2006)

Jayson Stark

JAYSON STARK - Senior baseball writer for ESPN. Author of The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History

Let me talk about Barry's Hall of Fame prospects.

I never feel comfortable saying definitively how I'll vote on anybody's Hall of Fame candidacy five years or more before the ballot shows up. But since I'm one of the people who voted for Mark McGwire, some people might automatically assume I'd also vote for Barry. Well, if Barry gets convicted in this case, here's why he'd be different.

For one thing, he'd almost certainly wind up doing jail time on a federal felony, and since voters are specifically instructed to factor in "character" and "integrity," he would be off the charts in negative character-and-integrity points.

Second, one of the big reasons I voted for McGwire is that I'm not comfortable with all the assumptions voters have to make on virtually all the players of that generation. We're pretty sure hundreds of players were doing or taking something in that era. So I don't think it's logical to make stands against just a few players, while voting for others, even though I have no definitive evidence on any of them. I would like to be as consistent as possible on the whole generation. So unless or until I have more facts to work with, I'm going to go with the precedent set by voters for years on players who cheated in all sorts of forms: If baseball let them play, I'm going to vote on their credentials as players -- measured against their peers.

But if Barry is convicted, he would separate himself from virtually everyone else because he would be the one player who gave us a chance to connect all the dots. Between the courts and Game of Shadows, we would know exactly what he did, how he did it, when he did it and even why -- specifically to break the greatest records in sports. So the body of evidence against him would put him in a category all his own.

Now if he's acquitted, or the Mitchell Investigation creates a whole different set of circumstances, my point of view may shift and evolve. I always reserve that right. I also respect how great a player Barry was before 1999. So I'm not committing to a vote either way. But if he's convicted, there is no way -- none -- he'll be elected to the Hall of Fame. And if baseball's all-time home run champ and all-time hits leader are both kept out of the Hall of Fame, that's a black mark on this sport that will never fade.

(Read the Biz of Baseball interview with Jayson Stark)

Fred ClaireFRED CLAIRE - Former VP and GM of the Dodgers, Author of My 30 Years in Dodger Blue, and currently with MLB.com

Barry Bonds established himself as a great player before there was any discussion or hint of the use of steroids by Major League players. He was definitely on track to enter the Hall of Fame. Bonds' past and future have now been clouded by the fact the federal government has indicted him for perjury and obstruction of justice, charging him with lying to a grand jury when he said he unknowing used steroids. Bonds deserves to have his day in court but he will be remembered more for his link to steroids than his accomplishments on the baseball diamond. Baseball will move past the era of steroids but Bonds will forever be stuck in that troubling period of time.

(Read the Biz of Baseball interview with Fred Claire)

Ken Davidoff KEN DAVIDOFF - National baseball writer, Newsday.

The indictment impacts Bonds' career in the short term, as it's difficult to envision any team signing an indicted player.

As for the bigger-picture issue of Bonds' legacy, I'm not sure that an indictment, or even a conviction, is going to make much difference. We all know that Bonds cheated to reach the top, but he did so in an era when cheating was rampant, and when the supposed watchdogs (the commissioner, the union, the media) did essentially nothing until it was too late. We all know that this indictment is the result of a witch hunt, the government's effort to prop itself up by bringing down a big name. The indictment reflects as poorly upon our government and our media as it does upon Bonds.

Bonds' legacy will be that he was the best performer at a time when nearly everybody disgraced themselves.

ROGER NOLLProfessor Emeritus of Economics, Stanford University

The indictment of Bonds provides no new information.  Letting an expensive, four-year investigation end without an indictment would have been very costly politically for the already under siege San Francisco U. S. Attorney's office.  The grand juries that actually heard the evidence have long since been dismissed, and all of the evidence that supports the indictment was published years ago.  The biggest surprise is the shoe that did not drop -- the failure to indict over tax evasion.

Getting a jury to convict Bonds faces two big problems.  One is the well-known difficulty of convicting someone of perjury when he says that he did not know something.  Here Bonds was smart to testify that he did not knowingly take steroids.  The other is the difficulty of convicting someone of perjury for lying about something that was not a crime when the alleged act took place.  Moreover, by the time this case is tried, the Mitchell Report will be out, and it will accuse a long list of top players of taking performance-enhancing drugs.  This report will be used by Bonds' lawyers to argue that their client is being singled out and thereby has been denied equal protection.

Despite all of this, the indictment is a convenient excuse to prevent Bonds from playing again, if there was any chance of that before the indictment was handed down.  The press will have a field day with any team that tries to negotiate a deal with him, and even if he is signed, the Commissioner may reject it.

Given all of the above, my expectation is:

(1) Bonds will never play again (although I would have poredicted this even if he had not been indicted);
(2) The charges will be dropped, the case will be dismissed, or he will be acquitted;
(3) Bonds' records will not be expunged and he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame within two years of being eligible, mainly because baseball can not punish every athlete who took these drugs and can not single out Barry Bonds as an exception;  and
(4) Baseball will survive.

Rob NeyerROB NEYER - Author and Senior Writer, ESPN.com

The day the latest news about Barry Bonds broke, I heard something on TV that I found truly offensive. This came from a sort-of colleague of mine, so I hope you'll excuse me for leaving his identity to your detective work, if you're really interested.

Anyway, first he said this about Mark McGwire, and the widespread belief that his exploits, particularly in 1998, were gained with the help of illicit drugs: "We mention it, but it's in passing as he was able to walk away from the game quietly, without any kind of repercussions or ramifications whatsoever to anything outside of his image."

What's so odd about this claim is that not even one year ago, Mark McGwire made his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot. A few weeks later the results were announced; McGwire received 128 votes. But 417 voters did not vote for McGwire, which left him far short of election. Doesn't being denied baseball's greatest honor count as "outside of his image"? What's more, the fact is that nobody -- not the league, not the media, and not the government -- was all that interested in PEDs a decade ago. The enormity of the issue simply hadn't sunk into the public consciousness yet.

But wait, it gets worse. This same commentator said, "Anybody who denies that race doesn't play some role in all of this has their head in the sand, it's on purpose, and they need to just be dismissed and ignored, for their ignorance or their flat-out lying ability."

Got that, everybody? Granted, the significance of "some role" is open to interpretation. But if you choose to take issue with the role of "race" -- which is a pretty squishy concept anyway -- you're either ignorant or you're lying. And you must be dismissed and ignored Lovely way to start a conversation, don't you think?

(Read "5 Questions with Rob Neyer here on The Biz of Baseball)

PAUL SWANGARD - Director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center

The Barry Bonds saga has just cemented the reality that sports is now just another form of entertainment. Any baseball fan, visiting any park, on any given day in the last 10 years has probably witnessed a cheat.

Sadly, the attendance figures just prove that what makes the business most profitable is not those who believe in the tradition or sanctity of the game...rather those who just consume it for its entertainment value. Whether you like him or not, Barry has been entertaining...but he has contributed to a fundamental change in the value proposition of sport. For most fans today, they are dissappointed...but it doesn't matter. To me, that's a little dissapointing. We should expect more from sport.

TIM LEMKE - Sports Business reporter for the Washington Times

I’m not sure Barry Bonds’ indictment for perjury and obstruction of justice means all that much. Sure, it means a lot to Bonds, since he’s facing possible jail time. And I suppose it’s significant that prosecutors plan to present evidence of a positive steroid test.

But there are very few people in baseball, the media or the general public that did not already believe he cheated. Does the indictment mean that Bud Selig will suspend Bonds? Not necessarily. My guess is the Commissioner will wait until there’s some sort of resolution to the case. And even then, he may choose not to act at all if he believes Bonds is done playing.

Selig could impact Bonds’ Hall of Fame candidacy by serving him a lifetime ban. But I am not aware of a single BBWAA member who planned to vote for Bonds anyway.

I’m interested to see how the Bonds’ situation will play out, but I’m more interested in reading the contents of the upcoming Mitchell report, which will hopefully shed some light on not just Bonds, but the multitude of players who’ve been involved with steroids over the years.

Baseball's in good shape. Attendance and revenues are up, and the sport's steroid testing program should give us greater confidence that cheating isn't widespread. Here's to hoping that Bonds indictment, followed by the Mitchell report, will allow us to move on from the issue and enjoy the game on the field.

JORDAN I. KOBRITZ - Staff Member - Business of Sports Network. Former owner of the Daytona Cubs Baseball Club, and the Maine Guides Baseball Club.

Get ready for O.J. redux.  From the media frenzy to the acquittal, the Bonds trial will mirror the O.J. fiasco.  The feds have a weaker case against Bonds than California had against O.J.  So why indict?  Because the feds are convinced that Bonds lied to the grand jury - a no-no in prosecution circles - after he was granted immunity.  And they’re right.  But knowing it and proving it in a courtroom are two different things.

Unfortunately, this case will do nothing to reduce or eliminate the illegal use of PED’s in baseball.  Bonds is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, not illegal use of PED’s.  Besides, he’s effectively “retired” and beyond the jurisdiction of MLB.  And forget about asterisks and rewriting the record books.  Even MLB isn’t foolish enough to go down that endless road.

One thing the feds did get right:  They went after the suppliers, not the users.  That’s why Victor Conte and Greg Anderson went to prison, and Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield were never charged.  If MLB did likewise, the anticipated Mitchell Report would focus on Messrs. Selig and Fehr, rather than individual players.  Unfortunately, the chances of that happening are even less than a Bonds conviction.  

John Brattain JOHN BRATTAIN -John is a weekly columnist for The Hardball Times and MSN Canada

What this is really all about can be summed up thusly: Barry Bonds should have been nicer to people. Bonds was, at one time, a three-time MVP, a potent power/speed mix and,despite an unremarkable throwing arm, a gifted outfielder. Had he never touched performance-enhancing drugs he would not be far off from where he is right now. At the end of 1998, he had hit 411 home runs and nine major league seasons have transpired since. Many factors besides steroids have come into play in the current era and Bonds benefited from them, as did all hitters. To think a player of his calibre could not have averaged at least 35 home runs per season in this environment is asinine. If he hadn’t hit 73 HR in2001 Bonds would have had a lot more opportunities to go yard from 2002 until today.

What people forget is that to discount Bonds’ achievements requires a supposition. That being, if Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz etc, were put on Bonds’ PED and training regimen that they too--during the decline phase of their careers, could top the levels set by the likes of Babe Ruth. Is ‘decline phase + steroids’ a better combination than ‘athletic peak - no steroids’ for an elite level player? It is
beginning to appear that anabolic steroids have been quite prevalent in MLB for quite some time yet only one man has reached the levels of Barry Bonds and that is Bonds himself.

Albert Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. It has been said that you should treat folks nice on the way up since you’ll be seeing them on the way down. Every superstar in every walk of public life have experienced this truism. Those who mistreated people were treated likewise when their stardom no longer offered protection. Bonds felt he was immune from this phenomenon; that he would always be protected by the fact he was “Barry BondsÒ.” He expected different results even though history has taught us otherwise repeatedly. Yes, he used performance-enhancing drugs. Yes, he lied to a Grand Jury. Make no mistake though; this is happening because Barry Bonds lived his professional life reminding almost everybody by word and action that he was one of baseball’s all time greats and they are not.

For all the records, money, and accomplishments, Barry Bonds spent 22 years in the big leagues and now all his hard work has gone for naught. However, the biggest tragedy in all of this is that for such a celebrated life, he never really seemed to enjoy what he was doing. Whether he was trying to erase the records of pre-Jackie Robinson players, avenge the slights inflicted on his father, or be known as the best ever at his chosen profession he never took the time to understand that baseball is supposed to be fun. He was so preoccupied with keeping the rabble at a distance that he never understood that one day the rabble would be the ones trying to keep him away.

Only three people showed up at Ty Cobb’s funeral--if that’s the price of trying to be great at all costs can it really be called greatness?

Maury BrownMAURY BROWN - Founder and President - Business of Sports Network, of which The Biz of Baseball is a member. Author, Baseball Prospectus.

When responses for this compilation on Barry Bonds started to come in, nearly everyone agreed that the topic has grown tiresome. Many felt they had nothing to say that hadn’t already be said. Some were simply tired of the whole story.

It’s a sad tale, if you think about it.

Barry Bonds seems pathetic. And the Federal investigators are much the same. The millions of dollars placed into what can best be described as a trophy hunt is enough to make anyone nauseous. The fact that the indictment came after Bonds broke Aaron’s record speaks volumes. The fallout will be considerably less if the Feds lose this case now, than if they tried to convict before the record was broken. Oh, and the fact that the tax evasion charges aren’t in the mix weakens the case further.

And while I can’t say MLB is "pathetic", there seems to be this prevailing sense that we (the fans, and those that cover baseball) are somehow a merry band of fools -- a group of lemmings willing to accept that the individual players are the ones responsible for the "Juiced Era". We’re somehow lead to believe that neither management nor the union are not somehow culpable for the situation that game is in. I often wonder if Selig washed his hands of the matter before placing them in his pockets the day Bonds hit career home run #755, tying Henry Aaron.

Look, we’re not stupid. Management turned a blind eye, and the union foisted up players’ rights as a way to let the PED culture permeate the game to the levels we are witnessing after the '94 strike. If this isn’t the case, then the whole lot should be canned for being inept.

As for Barry Lamar Bonds, he’s going to go out like a lamb. Unless Bonds is willing to take some offer miles below market value, no team will put the man with the scarlet letter “A” on his chest under contract.

Jayson Stark seems to hit on the one topic that is of most interest to me: How will the HOF react if Bonds is found guilty? The Hall of Fame has never been confronted by a situation like this before, and their actions will be a large part of baseball’s history, if Bonds is guilty.

Barry, and the whole sordid steroid topic in baseball has become a tale of apathy. Wake me when baseball turns inward, looks itself in the mirror and says, “We created the monster.”




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