Will Bonds be convicted or just embarrassed?
Tuesday, March 22, 2011; 7:45 PM
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Barry Bonds trial was barely an hour old, and already jurors were working overtime. Notebooks in hand, they scribbled words like testicular atrophy, heard about female fertility drugs, and were told a bitter ex-mistress and equally bitter former childhood friend of Bonds would soon be taking the stand to help explain it all.
Hopefully, one other thing will be explained along the way: After spending more than seven years and millions of dollars chasing Bonds, just what is it the government hopes to gain by convicting him of some relatively minor charges of lying to a grand jury?
Judging from opening day of testimony at the federal courthouse not far from the ballpark Bonds built it's this: If they don't convict Bonds, they sure intend to embarrass the heck out of him.
Not a bad idea, actually, if you consider how Bonds embarrassed the game of baseball with superhero-like feats every time he spread some "cream" or "clear" on himself. And Bonds should be embarrassed for not being man enough to tell Greg Anderson to take the stand already and avoid being locked up again as he was Tuesday while Bonds watched impassively from a few feet away.
For those keeping score, it's the fourth stint behind bars for Anderson, the trainer the government alleges helped supply Bonds with steroids and human growth hormone. His loyalty to Bonds may be misguided, but he steadfastly refused to testify despite the urging of the judge to take the stand "so that the whole truth can come out in this trial."
That may save Bonds from prison, judging from the cast of characters the government now must pin its hopes on in the absence of Anderson. They range from former mistress Kimberly Bell to Steve Hoskins, the childhood friend and one-time business partner of Bonds, and it didn't take long for the lead defense attorney to paint them as unworthy of belief.
Still, they will tell tales that would make anyone squirm, even Bonds. Unlike Anderson, they will talk about his allegedly shrinking body parts, his business dealings and what they believe was his steroid use.
They will certainly provide baseball writers a transcript of transgressions they can use to deny Bonds entry in the Hall of Fame when he is eligible on next year's ballot. And it will further tarnish the reputation of the surly slugger, who treated fans with such disdain over his long career.
But after Bonds' all-star team of lawyers get through with them, they may have so little credibility left that jurors will let him walk. In a case built largely on circumstantial evidence, these are not the people you want explaining the circumstances.
Indeed, if Bonds was worried about possibly going to prison for lying about his steroid use, the opening statements should calm those fears. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Parrella did a workmanlike job in laying out the prosecution's case, but defense attorney Allen Ruby seemed to captivate the jury when he launched into a folksy defense of his client.
"They've tried to create a caricature. Barry Bonds as a terrible guy, always bad and mean," Ruby said. "Barry's not a caricature. He's a man."
He's also a wealthy man, earning $192.8 million in his career, so he certainly has money to buy legal talent and lots of it. It's money well spent on a legal dream team of 13 attorneys - one that prosecutors can't hope to match with either talent or firepower.