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Saturday, February 28, 2009
On Thursday evening I sat down for an audio interview with Rob Zeida of The Card Podcast. We talked about Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, obscure Atlanta Braves of the 1980s, blogging, herpes, Gaylord Perry and a lot of other fun stuff. The podcast can be found here (I'm episode 23). I'll warn you, however: I was enjoying a tasty Maker's Mark during the interview, so I got a bit loquacious. As a result, the interview is like an hour and a half long.
Friday, February 27, 2009
ESPN's legal expert Lester Munson comes down on the Bonds' appeal quite differently than I do. Regarding the prosecution's chances on appeal:
Their chances are good. Many legal experts were surprised at Illston's rulings. The prosecutors offered clever and creative arguments for the use of their evidence. The major obstacle, of course, was personal trainer Greg Anderson's refusal to testify against Bonds. If he had agreed to testify, the use of the evidence would have been simple and routine. But without Anderson's testimony, the prosecution had problems in meeting the requirements of the rules that govern evidence in federal courts. Relying on a series of rules that allow evidence to be presented even though it is hearsay, the prosecutors seemed to have met the legal requirement for use of the evidence. Illston, however, disagreed. Was she correct? The higher court will decide, but it looks good for the prosecutors.
I have no idea why Munson thinks this and I wish he would have taken the time to explain why he does. The prosecutors' arguments for admitting the test results and other BALCO records were that they were business records, that they fell under the co-conspirator exception to the hearsay rule, or, most forcefully, that they were subject to the residual hearsay exception. I won't bore the non-lawyers with a full analysis of this, but I've read the briefs, and none of those arguments, especially the residual exception argument, were remotely convincing. Basically, they argued that the records, though hearsay, should be admitted because, well gosh darn it, they're really good evidence that we want in this case. In light of these weak arguments, and in light of no one who can authenticate and speak about these documents with first hand knowledge, no, I do not agree that "it looks good for the prosecutors." And that's before we get into the political/philosophical predispositions of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which favor Mr. Bonds.
Is this a significant development in the BALCO saga?
I'm not necessarily buying this either. Yes, it's possible that the Obama administration is going to keep things going just the way they've been going, but this appeal shouldn't be taken as evidence of that. With no time left before what looked like a doomed trial, and with the judge barking at them, the prosecution did the only thing it could do to avoid an embarrassing loss at a time when steroids, thanks to A-Rod and a government leaker, are all over the news. No matter how Eric Holder feels about PED prosecutions, he'd be crazy to not want to avoid such a thing. Likewise, even if Holder was adamantly against PED prosecutions, he would not have simply pulled this case from his prosecutors in an abrupt fashion, because to do so really jerks around the people who have been working on the case so long, and those are people Holder needs to keep happy to run his department. Ultimately, we won't know Holder's approach to these cases until he's given a chance to advance or sit on a new one.
Having had a few hours to think about it now, I still can't imagine a different outcome on appeal, and if there is no different outcome on appeal, I can't feature this prosecution going forward.
No makeup date scheduled:
And so the Barry Bonds saga rages on. With little end in sight.
My prediction: this never goes to trial. There's no way the feds win this appeal, and if they don't think they can win the trial now, nothing is going to change later. The appeal will be briefed and argued, Bonds will win, and the feds will drop this case.
We knew this would happen, but now we know what Illston is going to do about it:
Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds' former personal trainer and the government's most coveted witness in the perjury case against baseball's home run king, still refuses to testify under oath.
And, notwithstanding her comments last week about it being "unprecedented" for someone to be jailed mutiple times for refusing to testify, jailing Anderson is certainly within her power. Indeed, I'd argue that she's all but obligated to do it. After all, the stated purpose for this whole prosecution is to make the public point that a witness cannot lie to a grand jury. An equally important point, in my mind anyway, is that a potential witness cannot ignore a lawfully-served and enfocreable subpoena. True, Anderson has already served time and true, the feds have gone beyond decency in trying to compel his testimony, but those are separate tracks. When presented with a witness who will not testify like Anderson is not testifying, Illston has to use every tool at her disposal to make him change his mind lest the public get the impression that you can clam up and walk with zero consequences.
This is fun too:
Anderson's move immediately triggered the possibility of a delay in the trial. Federal prosecutors told the judge that they will let her know by 3 p.m. if they will appeal her recent order excluding a host of key evidence from the trial, including what they say are three positive steroid tests by Bonds; Illston based that decision largely on the fact that the evidence is hearsay without Anderson's supporting testimony.
If I were the judge, I would be profoundly pissed at the prosecution for waiting until just before close of business on the last day before trial to make this decision. If they do appeal the test result evidence, and if they lose that appeal as I think they should, they should probably just end the case, because in addition to having close to zero evidence, they're going to have one profoundly angry judge.
George Vecsey writes today about "the incredibly shrinking ballplayer." There's a lot of fun stuff in this article, but there's a lot I'm skeptical about as well. So rather than sharpen some single point about it, I thought I'd change tack and just riff a little bit. Hey, it's casual day:
Out of the roughly 1,000 major leaguers in spring training camps, a couple of dozen appear to have lost significant weight in the off-season, all in the name of health and agility.
Is this like how Prince Fielder went vegetarian last year and every other player is reported to be "in the best shape of his life?" Pics or it didn't happen.
Among the biggest losers are Brett Myers and Ryan Howard of the championship Phillies, who lost 30 and 20 pounds.
If weight loss allows Howard to suddenly hit lefties, great. Otherwise, I wonder if this will be a negative for him somehow. Maybe not, because 20 pounds on him is like five on everyone else, but I have always subscribed to the adage "if it ain't broke . . ." Performance aside, how much of Howard's MVP support is based on the fact that he's a fat guy in a muscle-bound world? I'm guessing a lot. If he truly is getting thin, similar numbers in the future will probably bring him less love from the BBWAA.
“You have to be a little skeptical, given the context of watching bodies change,” Dr. Gary Wadler, an internist and member of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said Thursday. “The explanation then was that they were eating more and working out more. Now if you hear players say, ‘We changed our ways,’ all you can do is be suspicious.”
Point taken, but it's worth noting that suspicion of PED use = job security when you're Dr. Gary Wadler of the WADA.
The model for clean living and technique over brute size is Derek Jeter of the Yankees, whose physique and hitting style have never fluctuated since he came up in 1995. Jeter seemed to be quietly seething last week when having to discuss revelations of steroid use by Alex Rodriguez. Not all of us did it, Jeter veritably hissed. That is an important fact to remember as players assert their inner athlete.
Just the latest entry in the "we must be suspicious of every single player -- except Cap'n Jetes!" line of reasoning. If you put a gun to my head I'd say Jeter didn't roid up, but we really can't know that. If people insist on placing an umbrella of suspicion over everything that's gone down in the past 20 years, he has to be included, doesn't he? No more demonizing of individuals who are dirty, but no more extra-credit for those we perceive, but don't know, to be clean, right?
Something else worth thinking about, Vecsey reminds us, is that all of the bulk players have put on over the years may not have been necessary:
“A lot of baseball is about something called weight transfer,” Dr. Joyner added. “In this context, there have been many superb javelin throwers who are pretty small and at least some shot-putters and discus throwers have been relatively small. “Think about the rotation in Tiger Woods’s hips, or the classic shot of Koufax with his arm essentially being used like a sling shot and trailing his body.”
Exactly. And it was just that sort of technique over brute force that allowed Koufax to retire as the all time strikeout king after leading the Dodgers to victory in the 1977 World Series.
“Remember Mickey Lolich?” he said, referring to the chubby lefty who helped Detroit win the 1968 World Series. “The more weight he gained, the better he pitched."
Except that he didn't. Lolich was never skinny, but he truly ballooned up after leaving Detroit, and that's when he really fell off a cliff. That said, I suspect it was his sadistic early-70s workload that did him in, not his donut-gut.
Of course, players have always been trying to lose weight. I can remember Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard and Johnny Blanchard running laps — well, maybe one lap — early in spring training, all of them wearing rubber shirts and calling one another Whale Belly as they staggered from foul pole to foul pole.
Man, George Vecsey is old.
Nowadays, players can afford trainers and nutritionists, and they do not have to supplement their income as bartenders or by selling cars. But it’s hard to forget the first vague impressions of the mid- to-late ’90s, when some players showed up for spring training with enlarged teeth, larger cap sizes, acne on their backs and shoulders rising to meet their ears.
Enlarged teeth? Really? Do we have to take Elway's Super Bowl rings away?
Yes, I'm just messin' around here. Vecsey's sources have a lot of intersting things to say about weight and bulk and technique and everything, and it is fun and worthy subject to consider. But it strikes me that you can't write an article with a premise of ballplayers being smaller without checking to see if, in fact, ballplayers truly are smaller. We here about guys shedding pounds over the winter every year, and with few exceptions, they all look the same come April. Even if the most obvious muscle heads from the 90s are gone, players still seem a heck of a lot bigger than they were in the 80s and before.
I'm not sure what to make of it. Unfortunately, we don't have anything approaching accurate player weight data so this subject, like everything else related to PEDs, will have to reside in the land of anecdote for the foreseeable future.
I'm an occasional source for Newsday writer John Jeansonne, so I take an occasional, ego-driven interest in what goes on at that paper. What goes on now? Probably the end of my reading of Newsday:
Cablevision Systems Corp plans to charge online readers of its Newsday newspaper, a move that would make it one of the first large U.S. papers to reverse a trend toward free Web readership.
I hate to be so cavalier about saying "smell ya later Newsday, but I ain't readin' ya anymore!" but that's just how it is. I am sympathetic to the plight of newspapers and I truly do want to see them succeed and continue in some form, but as things currently sit, there's no way I can bring myself to pay for any one paper's content. If this blog is evidence of anything, it's evidence that it takes the consumption of dozens if not scores of news sources to get anything approaching a comprehensive view of a subject in which you have a real interest, and my budget simply isn't set up to subscribe to dozens or scores of pay-for-content sites.
I'm not sure what the solution is, but the piecemeal conversion to pay-for-content certainly ain't it.
Pete has been agitating about this for a while, but now it's official:
The New York Yankees and Bank of America ended months of negotiations on a long-term, high-profile sponsorship agreement, fallout from the financial industry's decision to accept aid from the federal government.
It's tough out there.
Here's a partial answer to a question raised by commenters in the Barney Frank thread yesterday:
"We recognize that our decision not to pursue a long-term partnership with the Yankees reflects a lost revenue opportunity for our company, however these are unprecedented times that perhaps call for some very difficult decisions," Goode said.
I won't hold my breath for the worksheet Goode used to come up with those figures, such as they are, but in the meantime I'm not buying it.
Manny has amazingly rejected the Dodgers' latest offer, and now it seems that the Dodgers have had it with Boras:
At 8:30 p.m. tonight, the Dodgers made the rather unusual move of issuing a statement that shows their exasperation with Manny Ramirez's agent, Scott Boras:
Every time I've doubted Boras he has proven me wrong to do so. This time? Man, I'm having trouble picturing this turning out well for Manny.
There would have another article today, but after 16 hours of feverish research, I realized that once you control for the 1970s, there is no causal relationship between mustache size and MVP voting.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
As of Friday, Tracy Ringolsby will drive 100 miles down from his Wyoming ranch and cover the Rockies for food.