Friday, January 19, 2007

Time to have Barry Bond’s back (again)


Once again the media the self appointed guardians of Major League Baseball are taking Barry Bonds to task. And one has to wonder just when will media pundits finally come to the realization, they can huff, puff and try to blow Barry down, but when all is said and done by the end of the 2007 MLB season Barry Bonds will be the sports new home run king.

"I'm sure I'm going to break the record this year," Bonds, who needs 22 homers to surpass Hank Aaron's mark of 755 told the media during a golfing vacation in the Dominican Republic. "But right now I'm just thinking about golf."

The latest storm involving Bonds surrounds news that Bonds last year tested positive for amphetamines in 2006. As amazing as it seems, of the 3,000 players (major and minor leaguers) tested last year, only Bonds tested positive. That is statistical impossibility. That Barry Bonds was the only player ‘sources’ revealed had tested positive for the use of amphetamines is statistical certainty and one that reeks of the personal and professional vendetta people within baseball and the media have for Barry Bonds.

The rule of MLB’s collective bargaining agreement concerning the use of amphetamines, a first time offense brings counseling and nothing else. The CBA makes it clear names are not to be divulged for first time offenders. You’re also tested a monthly basis for six months after a positive first test. If a player tests positive a second time the player is suspended for 25 games. Lets first clear this up, Bonds hasn’t admitted he tested positive for anything and MLB (as per the CBA) hasn’t confirmed Bonds or any other player tested positively for amphetamines. But where is the moral indignation, where is the baseball investigation for who circumvented MLB’s CBA in revealing Bonds positive test? If in fact Bonds has tested positive then someone who had knowledge of that positive tests took it upon themselves to break the secret nature MLB has placed in the system. Is it someone who has a personal vendetta against Barry Bonds? And how confidential is a system where a name as big as Barry Bonds can’t be assured he’ll be treated properly.

In the midst of what is developing into a perfect storm around Bonds, reports in The New York Times and in The San Francisco Chronicle have emerged in the last 48 hours suggesting the San Francisco Giants are looking for a way to terminate the one-year $15.8 million contract Bonds and the Giants have agreed to. According to at least one media report not only have the Giants not sent a letter to Major League Baseball formally signifying their agreement with Bonds, but Bonds isn’t even on the Giants 40-man roster.

While Barry hasn’t yet signed his name on the dotted line, if the Giants attempt to revoke their agreement with Bonds, Bonds and the MLB Players Association would certainly be well within their rights to file a grievance against MLB and the Giants. The specter of a grievance should scare the Giants straight. And if MLB commissioner Bud Selig decides its in baseball’s best interests for the Giants to not sign Bonds that would raise a major red flag for the MLBPA, the red flag of collusion between MLB and its member teams. At this point the Giants appear to be locked in to their one-year contract with Bonds.

According to The New York Daily News, standard MLB contractual practice now is for the teams to agree initially to a "terms sheet" with an outline of the contract, which is contingent on the player passing a physical.

Brian Sabean, the Giants’ general manager, when contacted by The New York Murray Chass about the status of Bonds contract didn’t make himself available. Bonds agent Jeff Borris spoke to Chass but didn’t have very much to say about his client’s contract with the Giants, “I can’t really comment on that situation right now,” he said when asked about the contract talks. Could the deal blow up? “I can’t comment on that,” he said.

There have been suggestions that if the Giants try and cancel their agreement with Bonds, the Giants will cite what Rod Barajas did with the Toronto Blue Jays. Barajas a free agent agreed to a contact with the Blue Jays, fired his agent, and then claimed his contract with the Blue Jays wasn’t a contract. Barajas then signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. If a player can claim a team can’t go back on a contract offer, how can a player go back on a contract he’s agreed to with a team and sign with another team?

"The union didn't step in and stop that one," said a lawyer who is not part of the Bonds negotiations in a New York Daily News report. "The Giants have to know that. Why would it be OK for the player but not the club?"

"This could be one of the things that could become an industry-changing event," one major league general manager said.

That the media have long had serious issues with Barry Bonds isn’t a surprise. Earlier this week after Kevin V. Ryan, the federal prosecutor (the lawyer responsible for the BALCO case) announced he was leaving his current post, much of the media attention focused on not where the BALCO case was heading but where next for the Bonds BALCO case, a subtle but important distinction.

"I don't know what the future holds for me," Ryan told USA TODAY, "but when I leave, this (investigation) won't just fall off the map. The infrastructure is in place. We have good prosecutors on it. A good review process. Good institutional knowledge. So when I move on, there are those that can carry forward with it without a problem.

"I think we have had a tremendous impact in this case, and I understand there still needs to be open dialogue and debate about it. For those reasons, I'm still interested. If the opportunity presents itself in the future that I can still be involved in it, I'll avail myself to it."

Ryan’s investigation into Bonds was in the news six months ago. Ryan originally had until July 31 to hand down an indictment relating to Federal charges against Bonds in either the BALCO case of alleged charges of tax evasion and perjury. Bonds lawyer Laura Enos told The Associated Press in July, "We are very prepared," Enos said. "We have excellent tax records and we are very comfortable that he has not shortchanged the government at all."

Ryan decided not to indict Bonds by the July 31 deadline, instead requesting an extension. Six months later and now out of a job, Ryan can say whatever he wants, but if Ryan or any federal prosecutor had enough evidence Barry Bonds was guilty of anything they would have long ago filed charges and dropped their ongoing charade.

While it hasn’t been widely suggested, it seems the Justice Department was on a witch hunt out to ‘get’ Barry Bonds. In order to secure an indictment the federal prosecutor needs only 13 of 24 votes. Did Ryan, the now former U.S. attorney in San Francisco, attempt to use Barry Bonds and the media spotlight to create political mileage for his own personal gain? Did Ryan waste tax dollars in pursuing a case against whether or not Barry Bonds may have lied about using performance-enhancing drugs, and if so now that Ryan has resigned will he be held accountable? The real issue isn’t whether or not Barry will be indicted but now much longer is this farce going to continue and how much is it going to cost American taxpayers?

Barry Bonds remains his own worst enemy at the best of times. In June 2005, excerpts of former Chicago White Sox Ron Kittle’s book were leaked to the media. The passage that found its way to various media outlets focused on an encounter Kittle had with Barry Bonds, an alleged tale that painted Bonds in the worst possible light.

The Bonds incident involved Ron Kittle and a meeting Kittle didn’t enjoy with Bonds at Chicago’s Wrigley Field in 1993. Kittle hoped to auction a signed Barry Bonds jersey at a golf event, with the proceeds being given to a children’s charity. Kittle has written a book, “Ron Kittle's Tales from the White Sox Dugout” and included Bonds reaction to being asked to autograph a jersey which would benefit needy children.

"I paid about $110 of my own money for them, so they could be auctioned off at the golf outing. I did that all the time for stars like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens. When I tell them how their autographs help the cause, every player gladly signs — with one exception.

I walked up to Bonds at his locker in the Wrigley Field visitors' clubhouse, introduced myself and said, "Barry, if you sign these, they'll bring in a lot of money for kids who need help."

Bonds stood up, looked me in the eye and said, "I don't sign for white people." If lightning hits me today, I will swear those were his exact words. Matt Williams and other Giants were in the room and they heard what Bonds said.

I stood there for a minute, and the veins in my neck were popping. I've only been that mad a few times in my life. I was going to beat the (heck) out of him, really kick his (butt), but Williams saw what was happening, so he came over and got between us. Matt said, "Ron, that's just the way he is."

I said, "White guys aren't the only ones who get cancer," but Bonds had turned his back on me and walked out of the clubhouse. Somebody must have run in and alerted Dusty Baker, who was the manager of the Giants then.”

Bonds, initially choose to ignore Kittle’s accusations. Bonds spoke with MLB.com’s Rich Draper and fired these words of wisdom in Kittle’s direction.

"Who is Kittle? How long did he play? He played in our league?" asked an incredulous Bonds. "So what did he say? Ha! Do you guys truly believe that? Do you guys truly believe it?"

Bonds says "it's common sense" in denying Kittle's claims.

"Out of fairness to me -- do you guys know my life history a little bit? So why don't you write it's a bunch of [garbage] -- why don't you write that? One, you insult my children, who are half-white; I was married to a woman who was white, so let's get real.

"And I don't even know the guy. And tell him he's an idiot. Tell him that. Somebody said he wanted a piece of me; tell him I'm at 24 Willie Mays -- what's this street called? -- Plaza, and he can come meet me any time he wants to. With pleasure."

Is Barry Bonds a good person – who cares? There have been athletes with terrible personalities who have excelled on the playing field. What should matter is what an athlete does on the playing field not away from the field.

When will people start to give Barry Bonds the respect he’s earned and when will they stop crucifying him? If Barry Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs he did so in an era when the sport didn’t ban those substances and didn’t test for the use of banned drugs.

Was Barry Bonds the only major leaguer who may have used performance-enhancing drugs? The baseball media should stop fooling themselves and accept baseball was in the same place most sports where a few years ago, looking for solutions to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Once and for all let’s stop wasting time, taxpayer dollars in what seems like a media driven vendetta against Barry Bonds. There are far greater and more important causes we can ‘rally the flag around’. Baseball had a steroid era, we’ll never know how many players used performance-enhancing drugs or how it affected their game. Its time for the baseball media to grow up.

And here’s a final thought if Bonds historic home run number 756 lands in the hands of a baseball fan who is disgusted by Bonds accomplishment then let that fan take that baseball and throw it on the field. However you count on anyone lucky enough to catch that baseball they’ll auction it for millions and millions of dollars. The media; ESPN, Fox, Major League Baseball and anyone else who intends to cover the event if they really and honestly do not believe Barry Bonds is a legitimate home run hitter, then treat Barry Bonds as the person you believe he is. At the very least in not speaking to the media and in not suing everyone Barry Bonds is being honest in making it clear how he feels about what is taking place. He really and truly could care less what anyone thinks of him.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider report: The New York Daily News, The New York Times and The San Francisco Chronicle

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