Thursday, August 9, 2007

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Mike Lowell is a wise man

Clearly, I'm not the biggest Barry Bonds fan in the world. That said, Gordon Edes transcribes Red Sox third baseman' Mike Lowell's reaction to Barry Bonds breaking the home run record, and it's worth quoting in full:

"I watched it when they put it up on the Jumbotron," he said. "The thing I keep thinking about is the Duke lacrosse thing. If it hadn't turned out the way it did, maybe I'd feel differently. But the media and the whole country thought those lacrosse players were guilty as sin, and they weren't."

The Duke players were accused of raping a young woman in their fraternity house, charges that were later dropped, and the district attorney was later disbarred. "When the coach resigned," Lowell said, "I thought to myself, 'Wow, this thing is going to be something really deep,' and it didn't come close to being true. So they reinstated the eligibility of some of those players, but their whole lives were changed. And the seniors, they can never get that year back.

"That's why I think the best thing is, until we know more, until there are charges or they find pictures or something, that we recognize this as a legitimate record and hold to the belief that in this country, you're innocent until proven guilty.

"Do I believe [performance-enhancing substances] can help someone who is already in the big leagues do better? Yes, I believe that. But do I put Bonds in that category? Everybody has tried to get something on him, and yet he still hasn't been charged with anything. They indicted Michael Vick in 20 minutes because there was something there. But I'm also willing to reserve judgment in the Michael Vick thing."

Lowell said he didn't understand why commissioner Bud Selig raised the steroids controversy when Bonds tied Hank Aaron's record Saturday in San Diego. "We all know how [Selig] feels," Lowell said, "so why not just leave it at baseball? If he's wrong, then he's going to look like an [expletive]. If he's right, he can tell us all, 'I told you so.'

"But the number is unreal. I'm close to 200 home runs, and that's a number I'm not even dreaming about. People say [Bonds] was a great player already; this just takes him to another level."

posted by Dan on 08.09.07 at 11:32 AM


The circumstantial case for Bonds-steroids is extremely strong, but like anyone he deserves the presumption of innocence. I expect in due course of time the smoking gun will come out. Selig's extreme reluctance to get near Bonds hints that Selig knows the end is near.

When and if Bonds is finally, decisively busted, he will still have his records. For what it's worth, he will also be remembered as one of the greatest raw talents to play the game, until his endless envy and anger got the best of him. But there's no way he goes into the Hall of Fame, which is as it should be.

posted by: ZC on 08.09.07 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

What case is there to deny him entry to the Hall of Fame? I mean envy and anger are hardly sufficient nor were 'roids, illegal or not, even against the rules of baseball when he took them (if he did :)) unlike with the Rose-gambling case...Moreover, the pre-roids Bonds was already the sporting news' player of the 90's and hall of fame worthy...

posted by: vik on 08.09.07 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

One of the reasons they haven't found anything on Bonds is the fact that his trainer refuses, in contempt of court, to testify about it.

Mike Vick's, on the other hand, sold him out in a second.

Bad newz indeed.

posted by: Dave on 08.09.07 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

Have you ever read "Game of Shadows"? That book supposedly details a lot of the evidence against Bonds. We have leaked grand jury testimony where Bonds admitted using "the cream" and "the clear". If this were a court case, the circumstantial evidence would be very strong indeed, unlike what Lowell thinks.

posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on 08.09.07 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

That Bonds appears to be one cold jerk doesn't play into the controversy, right?

posted by: Donald Douglas on 08.09.07 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

Joe Klein,
Yeah, that's what I meant. If Bonds's trainer would testify then it would prove that Lowell is an idiot.

posted by: Dave on 08.09.07 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

If envy and anger were enough to keep you out of the Hall, we'd probably have to dump at least 1/5 of the membership. But I at least think steroid use is different. If it's so OK, and it turns out Bonds has used them, then why has he denied it for the past decade?

I agree that Bonds was easily on track to go into HoF even before 1998, which according to "Game of Shadows" is when he really began to juice. He didn't need the drugs to establish himself as one of the finest players ever in the game. Which makes him a legitimately tragic figure (but more in the Macbeth sense than the Hamlet).

posted by: ZC on 08.09.07 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

By instinct I incline to letting legal processes play themselves out, but the Duke case showed us one side of a coin where the justice system is concerned.

On that side, people can be wrongly accused -- sometimes in good faith, sometimes (as in that case) not. But on the other side people with money, control of physical evidence, or both can escape justice, or if they cannot escape it completely can delay it so long so as to amount to almost the same thing. There's never been a time when either side was completely absent in popular sentiment about American criminal law, but at this point in our history it would be naive to think that someone against whom a strong public case had been made could avoid a criminal conviction and be thought innocent.

That's what the rules say, and the rules still apply as far as actual criminal sanctions are concerned. When popular faith in the justice system declines, though, that presumption of innocence isn't something most people will want to honor, even if the government does. Just ask OJ.

posted by: Zathras on 08.09.07 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

Have you ever read "Game of Shadows"? That book supposedly details a lot of the evidence against Bonds. We have leaked grand jury testimony where Bonds admitted using "the cream" and "the clear". If this were a court case, the circumstantial evidence would be very strong indeed, unlike what Lowell thinks.

The problem with that argument is that Bonds simply did not admit using the cream and the clear. Bonds "admitted" using flaxseed oil and arthritis balm. The prosecutor says, "We think that was the cream and the clear." That was how it was correctly reported, originally.

However, we're dealing with journalists here, so "Bonds admitted using substances which prosecutors describe as the cream and the clear" quickly became "Bonds admitted using substances which were the cream and the clear" which quickly became "Bonds admitted using the cream and the clear."

The original statement and the final one are very different. What prosecutors say isn't evidence. Only the witnesses in a case -- that is, people with actual firsthand knowledge -- not the lawyers, get to testify.

posted by: David Nieporent on 08.09.07 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

And to follow up to my previous comment, no witness has testified that they were the cream and the clear.

posted by: David Nieporent on 08.09.07 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Bonds may be a jerk, I don't know. And he may have juiced; again, I don't know. But the biggest problem with the handling of the steroids scandal, it it goes all the way up to Bud Selig, is that people have decided that the steroids scandal begins and ends with Bonds (and a very few select other players like McGwire, Palmeiro and Giambi). I guarantee that if you gave everyone in MLB a lie detector test, we'd all be shocked at the number of people who have, or are using performance enhancing drugs.

But no one wants to do anything about it. We just assume if Bonds goes away the scandal will go away. If we all want to bury our heads in the sand and ignore it, than we have to apply that standard to Bonds as well. But until MLB is willing to institute more frequent and stricter testing, and institute harsher penalties (and until we start calling for such), we have no leg to stand on in criticizing Bonds. How many World Series wins, all-star appearances, less noticeable records, etc were the result of steroids. Until we're willing to recognize that this goes way beyond Bonds, we have no place to put the blame for the entire scandal on Bonds.

And I think it would be criminal if Bonds didn't get into the HoF, but then I also think Pete Rose and Joe Jackson should be in as well - but that's an argument for another time.

posted by: Dan on 08.09.07 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

C'mon David. There were dosing schedules found at BALCO for Bonds that could only realistically be for steroids. They linked similar dosing schedules to steroids use by other athletes. Bonds merely said he was ignorant that what he was taking was steroids but he never denied taking the substances indicated on the schedules. Then we've got witness testimony by some that Bonds admitted to them that he was using steroids. But I think the most telling thing is that Bonds has not lifted a finger to sue these authors for libel and slander. With all his resources and with his reputation for being a cheapskate, don't you think he'd parlay a book he felt was made of lies into a fortune?

If one believes someone would spend thousands of dollars for flaxseed oil and other cheap nutritionals then I've god a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

posted by: Ben on 08.09.07 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

Dan, currently every player in MLB is tested for steroids. Some multiple times during the year. I'm sure there are a few who are still cheating, managing to adjust their juicing to evade the tests ... or maybe there might be some undetectable designer steroid out there. But for the most part since few are being caught, you have to conclude that few are juicing today. At least during the season. Further, before the implementation of strict testing, they had anonymous survey testing. Only about 6% tested positive then, so you can reasonably conclude that even at the height of steroids use it was not widespread -- probably limited to no more than 20% of players and this guess could be on the high side.

If you want to excuse Bonds' cheating that's your choice. But many of us who love baseball and its records cannot. His feat is a big sham. Nothing else. I'm guessing without steroids maybe he gets to 650 HRs max for his career. That's of course HOF worthy. But by cheating he has jeopardized his chances to get into the Hall now. Now it is up to the writers and whatever they decide goes.

By the way, MLB doesn't test for HGH now because no reliable test exists for it. So Bonds could still be using HGH. There is no reason to believe he stopped. Balco and Game of Shadows established that he had been a heavy user of HGH in the past.

posted by: Ben on 08.09.07 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

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