Guilty or innocent: Bonds remains baseball's scapegoat

OPINION - The Gestapo that is Major League Baseball needed Bonds to go down to prove that it had no fear of punishing one of its own...

Alonzo Harris, the filthy, dirty cop portrayed so convincingly by Denzel Washington that he ultimately snagged an Oscar for his portrayal in Training Day, sums up perfectly the government’s multi-million dollar failure to bring down Barry Bonds.

“It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove”, the nefarious Harris uttered at crucial junctures in the movie.

The government prosecution proved, well, nothing. Bonds, who was facing perjury charges, was found guilty of obstruction of justice (a nothing charge, which is why Bonds appeared on the courthouse steps post trial with his lawyers flashing a grin and a raising his index and middle fingers to passers-by) in a San Francisco courtroom. However, he is walking on the three other charges, the real meat that accused him of lying to a grand jury about taking steroids, Human Growth Hormone and receiving injections.

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On May 20th, Bonds and his lawyers will meet with a judge to see if they can have the guilty verdict thrown out, something legal experts believe will be the case. Bonds, who has no prior criminal record, almost certainly will get no jail time, most experts agree.

Game, set and match.

Eight years of investigations and millions of dollars (your tax dollars) down the drain. Wasted. That’s just what a broke country that was facing a government shut down a week ago at this time needs. There used to be a time when the government built its case against you incarceration was a certainty, but not anymore.

So, just who is the biggest loser here?

Nobody needed this conviction more than the organization that grinned and looked the other way while baseball players injected Human Growth Hormone and steroids, and swallowed the type of pills that make the bodies of race horses incomprehensibly muscular and sleek — Major League Baseball.

And it couldn’t happen to a more deserving organization.

In the history of sports in North America, no professional sports league has knowingly looked the other way like baseball did while its very best players — Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens and Bonds — came under scrutiny for their alleged use of performance enhancing drugs. Ken Caminiti, who died of a sudden heart attack in 2004, admitted that he was as juiced as Secretariat when he won the Most Valuable Player award in 1996.Just a few days ago Manny Ramirez, once viewed as a lock to reach the Hall of Fame, abruptly retired so that he would not have to face the possibility of a 100-game suspension for his second positive drug test.

This flouting of the rules by the biggest players makes the statement of commissioner Bud Selig following the Bonds’ verdict seems as if baseball is still dwelling in the world of make believe.

“This trial is a stark illustration of how far this sport has come,” Selig said. “In contrast to allegations about the conduct of former players and the environment of past years, 2011 marks the eighth season of drug testing in the Major Leagues and our 11th season in the Minors. With increased testing, cutting-edge research, proactive security efforts, and extensive education and awareness programs, we have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to keeping illegal substances out of the game.”

Sounds almost as if he thinks Bonds is going to the clink.

Baseball was completely complicit in bowing to its powerful union during the 1990s, writing into its collective bargaining agreement rules that basically made it legal to flood one’s body with body-altering chemicals without fear of reprisal.

The Gestapo that is MLB needed Bonds, 46 and retired, to go down to prove that it had no fear of punishing one of its own. If Bonds were to have gotten jail time, the powers that be could have pointed to him and said, ‘look, we are sending the greatest slugger in the history of our sport to jail, a sure sign that we are cleaning up our game.’

But now there will be nothing more than gnashing of teeth as Bonds walks away, a grin across a face that many of those who covered baseball for years say has grown because of his abuse of performance enhancers.

But here’s the kicker. You got nothing.

The failed prosecution of Bonds is a big loss for baseball, another setback while trying to act repentant for all the money it made with its juiced up players smashing balls out of the park at such an unnatural pace. And it is a huge embarrassment for the government in a space — chasing down star athletes — that many struggling Americans increasingly view as a waste of time as more important things, such as the price of a gallon of gasoline sprinting toward the $5-per-gallon mark, grow more burdensome every day.

Just as Bonds’ lawyer Allen Ruby made it perfectly clear when it was over, the only thing Bonds was found guilty of was telling the grand jury that he was a ‘celebrity child’, which he said while delivering grand jury testimony in 2003. That’s how he obstructed justice.

I’m sure he’ll take that every time