Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Former Major League Baseball player Barry Bonds leaves federal court last week in San Francisco, California. After three and a half days of deliberation, a jury found Barry Bonds guilty on one count of obstruction of justice, though the jury failed to reach a verdict on the three counts that he lied to a grand jury about knowingly taking steroids.
Former Major League Baseball player Barry Bonds leaves federal court last week in San Francisco, California. After three and a half days of deliberation, a jury found Barry Bonds guilty on one count of obstruction of justice, though the jury failed to reach a verdict on the three counts that he lied to a grand jury about knowingly taking steroids. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Deron Snyder, an award-winning journalist who covers sports, politics and pop culture, is a regular contributor to The Root.
To recap, Barry Bonds testified before a federal grand jury for three hours in 2003, which led the government to charge him with 15 felony counts related to lying under oath. Eight years later — with the list of charges slashed to four — a jury deadlocked this week on three charges that Bonds lied but convicted him on one count of obstruction of justice.
As former New Jersey Nets forward Derrick Coleman would say: Whoop-de-damn-do.
The next folks on trial should be the federal prosecutors who spent nearly a decade and millions of dollars in pursuit of baseball's Home Run King because he used steroids. If that isn't a flagrant abuse of power and waste of tax dollars, then Bonds' head didn't grow in 2002 (and we know it did, based on our own eyesight and testimony from a San Francisco Giants equipment manager).
The trial proved nothing we didn't already know. Bonds admitted that he used steroids, but said he did so unwittingly. Virtually no one believes the latter part of the statement, because so many other major leaguers intentionally used the drugs during baseball's so-called Steroid Era, producing glaring changes in performance and physique. Surely the government could have found a better use for its time and resources than proving that Bonds knew he wasn't using "flaxseed oil" and "arthritic cream," as he testified.
The only thing we really learned is the extent of some friendships. Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal trainer and childhood friend, went to prison four different times — for more than a year in total — because he wouldn't testify against the slugger. Otherwise, it's likely that Bonds would have been convicted on more than one charge and would have faced time in prison (which probably won't happen now).
But even that wouldn't have justified the lengths to which prosecutors went. They wouldn't have gone after an obscure, mediocre player in the same fashion, and there was no good reason to hunt Bonds the way they did.
"What bothers me is that you've got a very powerful federal government that has the money and time and resources to ruin someone's reputation," Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia told The Associated Press. Last month Kingston questioned the Food and Drug Administration about its decision to fund parts of the investigation into cyclist Lance Armstrong. "Why did it take eight years to get to this point on Barry Bonds?" Kingston said. "And with all the problems we've got, why are we sitting here at the end of an eight-year investigation?"
It's not because Bonds used "creams" and "clears" and goodness knows what else, like scores of other major leaguers seeking an increase in performance and a boost in pay. It's because of the way he went about it, his supreme arrogance and dismissive attitude as he neared Hank Aaron's home run mark, almost daring the feds to indict him.
Bonds knew that he was baseball's Public Enemy No. 1, the poster child for the generation of bulging muscles and inflated statistics. But — true to his nature — he sneered and sniffed, mocking those who sought his downfall.
He always made life hard for baseball fans. Difficult to root for as a player and like as a person. Difficult to ignore on the field and disregard in the record book. Difficult to disconnect his performance from his personality, to separate the amazing gifts from the appalling gall.
Worst of all, he had the nerve to blaspheme Babe Ruth, an unforgivable sin against baseball's dinosaurus purists. "The only number I care about is 715 [homers]," Bonds told reporters in Chicago during the 2003 All-Star break. "Because as a left-handed hitter, what it means is that I wiped him out. To the baseball world, Babe Ruth is baseball. I got him on slugging percentage, I got him on on-base, I got him on walks. And then I can take his home run record and that's all — you don't have to talk about him no more."
Taking shots at the Babe in baseball is like speaking ill of the pope in Vatican City. It's rude, inappropriate and insensitive. Those attributes fit Bonds anyway, but they were magnified by Ruth's stature in baseball lore.
In light of the feds' overzealous pursuit, Bonds the perpetrator was barely distinguishable from Bonds the victim. Not that he ever had that problem. Bonds always presented himself as an innocent man unfairly persecuted.
Actually, he's only half right: Bonds is a guilty man unfairly persecuted.