Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Barry Bonds – his heart is in the City by the Bay

The loveliness of Paris
Seems somehow sadly gay
The glory that was Rome
Is of another day
I've been terribly alone
And forgotten in Manhattan
I'm going home to my city by the bay.

I left my heart in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me.
To be where little cable cars
Climb halfway to the stars!
The morning fog may chill the air
I don't care!
My love waits there in San Francisco
Above the blue and windy sea
When I come home to you, San Francisco
(the immortal Tony Bennett)

Barry Bonds went home Tuesday afternoon to the one place on the planet where Barry Bonds remains a beloved figure – San Francisco. Invited along with some of his teammates from the 2002 National League championship team, Bonds received a lengthy standing ovation when he trotted out to the pitchers mound and threw out the ceremonial pitch before the start of game 3 in the National League Championship Series.

Bonds did jumping jacks in the dugout before running onto the field. He raised his arms and tipped his cap to the fans at AT&T Park. He was greeted with loud cheers, with a few boos mixed in. Bonds then sat in the front row with Giants managing partner Bill Neukom.

The 46-year-old Bonds never announced his retirement. The seven-time NL MVP last played in 2007 and hit 762 career home runs.

"That was a tremendous feeling," Bonds, the former Giants left fielder and Major League Baseball's all-time leader with 762 home runs, told MLB.com. "This place has always felt like home to me. My father [Bobby Bonds] and my godfather [Willie Mays] played here. There's no better place in the world. This is home, man."

"The fans have always been great to me," he said. "You just don't know what you're missing until you've been away for a while. It brings chills up and down my spine."

Bonds is among the most reviled figures in sports history. Other than in San Francisco, were he played the last 14 years of his MLB career, Bonds remains one of sports most despised individuals.

At times, as has been well documented, Barry Bonds has been his own worst enemy. Even before Barry Bonds faced allegations of using performance enhancement drugs, even before Barry Bonds faced perjury charges, Barry Bonds aloofness and what appeared to be arrogance bothered the media creating a media firestorm. The tale of troubles linked to Barry Bonds is not a pretty story.

Since 2003, Bonds has been a key figure in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) scandal. He was under investigation by a federal grand jury regarding his testimony in the BALCO case and was indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges on November 15, 2007. The indictment alleges that Bonds lied while under oath about his alleged use of steroids.

In 2003, Bonds became embroiled in a scandal when Greg Anderson of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), Bonds' trainer since 2000, was indicted by a federal grand jury in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California and charged with supplying anabolic steroids to athletes, including a number of baseball players. This led to speculation that Bonds had used performance-enhancing drugs during a time when there was no mandatory testing in Major League Baseball. Bonds declared his innocence, attributing his changed physique and increased power to a strict regimen of bodybuilding, diet and legitimate supplements.

During grand jury testimony on December 4, 2003, Bonds said that he used a clear substance and a cream that he received from his personal strength trainer, Greg Anderson, who told him they were the nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and a rubbing balm for arthritis.

This testimony, as reported by Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, has frequently been misrepresented. Later reports on Bonds' leaked grand-jury testimony contend that he admitted to unknowingly using "the cream" and "the clear" substance.

In July 2005, all four defendants in the BALCO steroid scandal trial, including Anderson, struck deals with federal prosecutors that did not require them to reveal names of athletes who may have used banned drugs.

On November 15, 2007, Bonds was indicted for both four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice as it relates to the government investigation of BALCO.

On February 14, 2008 a typo in court papers filed by Federal prosecutors erroneously alleged that Bonds tested positive for steroids in November, 2001, a month after hitting his record 73rd home run. The reference was meant instead to refer to a November 2000 test that had already been disclosed and previously reported

His trial for obstruction of justice was to have begun on March 2, 2009, but jury selection was postponed due to eleventh-hour appeals by the prosecution. The trial is currently scheduled to begin March 21, 2011.

Federal prosecutors on Friday submitted the lineup of witnesses that they intend to call during the much-delayed Barry Bonds perjury trial. The list includes Rockies first baseman Jason Giambi and Greg Anderson, Bonds’ former personal trainer at the center of the case who has been steadfast in his refusal to testify against Bonds.

The list also includes former baseball players Bobby Estalella, Armando Rios, Marvin Benard, Benito Santiago, Randy Velarde and Jason's brother, Jeremy Giambi. Estalella is expected to testify that Bonds told him he used steroids. The prosecutors will call the other retired players and former football player Larry Izzo to the witness stand to discuss their steroid use and dealings with Anderson.

ESPN’s Lester Munson, a Chicago lawyer and journalist who reports on investigative and legal issues in the sports industry, shared some interesting thoughts on what might take place at Barry’s upcoming trial.

“Although there has never been much doubt that Bonds lied to the grand jury, there is considerable doubt that the prosecutors can succeed in convicting him. The key continues to be Anderson's refusal to testify. If Anderson suddenly and unexpectedly told the prosecutors he is willing to testify, Bonds would be in serious jeopardy and would be looking to negotiate a settlement. But without Anderson and with Illston holding the prosecutors to highly technical and rigorous standards on evidence, their case is problematic.”

And Munson made it clear to ESPN – he doesn’t expect Anderson to say anything against Barry Bonds at the March trial.

“In their trial memorandum filed Friday, the prosecutors stubbornly refuse to accept Anderson's refusal to testify. They tell U.S. District Judge Susan Illston that they will again subpoena Anderson to testify. If, as expected, he again refuses to testify, they are asking Judge Illston to "immediately conduct contempt proceedings and imprison Anderson" until he agrees to testify or, if he persists in his refusal, until the end of the trial. Even though Anderson served more than a year in jail for his previous refusals to testify and was released without testifying, the prosecutors continue to pursue him. Do they have some indication that Anderson has changed his thinking and might testify this time? There is no indication in the papers filed on Friday. Bringing Anderson back before Judge Illston for a second finding of contempt is highly unusual, and could irritate Judge Illston. It seems like a dubious and desperate move by the prosecutors.”

It appeared at times Barry Bonds was all about Barry Bonds caring little about anyone but Barry Bonds. Bonds withdrew from the MLB Players Association's (MLBPA) licensing agreement because he felt independent marketing deals would be more lucrative for him, that did not endear Barry to anyone but for him that was what he believed was the best business decision he could make

Bonds was the first player in the thirty-year history of the licensing program not to sign. Because of this withdrawal, his name and likeness are not usable in any merchandise licensed by the MLBPA. In order to use his name or likeness, a company must deal directly with Bonds. For this reason he does not appear in some baseball video games, forcing game-makers to create generic athletes to replace him. For example, Bonds was replaced by "Jon Dowd" in MVP Baseball 2005.

All of that said – this can be taken to the bank. Barry Bonds remains one of the greatest players to ever wear a baseball uniform. Bonds hit 762 home runs in his career more than any other player ever has. Bonds won seven National League MVP awards. Bonds won eight golden glove awards. Bonds won 12 Silver Slugger Awards and Bonds was an All-Star 14 times.

Did Barry Bonds play in an era when the use of performance enhancement drugs by baseball players’ went unchecked for the most part? Was Barry Bonds the only player who allegedly used performance enhancement drugs? Barry Bonds is not well liked, but that does not mean Barry Bonds was not a great baseball player. Indeed he may have been the greatest baseball player EVER. Tuesday, San Francisco Giants fans thanked Barry for the joy he brought to his hometown.

For SportsBusinessNews.com this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: ESPN, Wikipedia and MLB.com

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