The Barry Bonds trial just concluded its first week of testimony after eight years of buildup, and honestly, nobody should care.
Bonds is not facing trial because of any crime that caused physical harm to another person; he did not perpetrate some great social injustice. No, Barry Bonds is on trial because he took steroids to elevate his game in his quest to rewrite the baseball record books and then lied about it.
Do I personally believe that Bonds took steroids? Yes, absolutely, without a single doubt. In fact, nobody should have any second thoughts as to whether or not Bonds accomplished his feats naturally or via chemical aide. The trial is not about whether or not Bonds took steroids; it is about whether or not he knowingly took steroids.
The question as to whether or not he took steroids went out the window during his original testimony when he admitted to putting a clear liquid under his tongue and a cream on his body. We already know those substances are the designer steroids "the cream and the clear."
That admission, along with public speculation that Bonds was on steroids before he became a BALCO client, was enough to convict Bonds in the court of public opinion instantly. So what was the harm of his lying in his testimony?
I am not condoning perjury, not for a second, but that was his only crime. Bonds is also being charged with obstruction of justice, but did he really obstruct justice by refusing to admit he knew he cheated?
No, that's simple. Victor Conte was still sentenced for distributing steroids; all the people that needed to go to jail, ended up in jail and have long since served their sentences. Bonds did not help justice be served, but thanks to the testimony of the other players at the hearings, he also did not obstruct justice.
No, this trial has nothing to do with the actual charges being placed on Barry. This trial is about setting an example, at any cost. This trial is to prove that federal prosecutors do not like being lied to and shown up in court. The example must be set that no one is above the law, and what better way to do it than to bring down an already polarizing public figure who also happens to be baseball's all-time homerun leader? What bigger target exists?
Let's assume that the court does find Barry Bonds guilty, which he is, who wins?
Not the tax payers who are paying for this trial—reportedly the government has already spent between $10 to $50 million on their case against Bonds.
Not Major League Baseball—this trial just prolongs the embarrassment caused by the steroid era and baseball's attempts to sweep the problem under the rug until Congress stepped in and forced the issue.
Certainly not the fans. We've all moved on. We understand the record books are tainted, and we all have our opinion as to where Bonds' accomplishments truly place him in the history of the game compared to those he surpassed to reach his career totals.
There is no winner, regardless of the outcome.
What punishment will be placed on Bonds with a guilty verdict? It can't exceed the four-month sentence that was handed to Victor Conte, the kingpin of the whole BALCO steroid distribution operation. Bonds will likely walk away with a slap on the wrist and probation. A light punishment, though, only brings the question, what was this all for?
If Bonds somehow receives a sentence that exceeds that given to Conte, there will be outcry that the punishment does not fit the crime (at least in the minds of rational sports fans that don't have an axe to grind with Bonds). In a way, Bonds may become a sympathetic figure—victim of government bullying.
There isn't an outcome possible that justifies the time and money spent leading up to this trial or seeing it through to completion. So why bother?
The real punishment Barry will face comes in 2013 in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame. The baseball writers have the privilege of determining his fate in that trial. If the eligibility of Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire are any indication of how the voters feel about steroid users, then Bonds stands little chance of induction.
The likelihood though is that the Feds won't be able to find Bonds guilty. Don't believe me? Ask the most notorious steroid user of them all:
"It's ridiculous. They're not going to find him guilty," Jose Canseco said Thursday. "There's so many other major issues in this world that need more attention. Meanwhile, they're creating this million-dollar trial on perjury charges? Not the fact that he used steroids, that's more important. But the fact that he perjured himself under oath? I mean, hundreds of thousands of people do that daily and get away with that."
It pains me that I find myself agreeing with Canseco, but he's right, this is ridiculous.
And that is exactly why I want Bonds to be acquitted of the charges. It is not that I believe Bonds is innocent, I know he is not, I want two messages sent here:
1) I want a message sent to the Feds that there is no benefit to society to chase down steroid users or those who lie about steroid use (no need for a Clemens trial as a sequel). This was a monstrous waste of time and money that could have been better used solving any number of the issues facing our country at this very moment.
2) I want the true punishment inflicted on Bonds to be at the hands of the Hall of Fame voters and the fans that have been forced to endure this pointless witch hunt. His crimes were against the sport of baseball, and the sport of baseball should be free to police him how they see fit. Exclusion from Cooperstown, or at least a prolonged eligibility process seem fitting, if that is their choice. If the voters decide the playing field was level and give him entrance on the first ballot, then that is baseball's right also.
Barry Bonds had one of the greatest careers in baseball history. He was a great player before he made the decision to take steroids to elevate his game. Arguably, he was already a Hall of Fame-caliber player. His later years were other-worldly, as we know because of the use of chemical enhancement.
There is nothing this trial will tell us about Bonds' playing career that we don't already know. There is no benefit that will come from the past eight years of prosecution. And there is certainly no benefit to society to place Bonds behind bars for any length of time.
For the first time since it became obvious that Bonds was no longer playing the game clean, I find myself rooting for him. I don't root for him because I like him. No, I root for him because the only thing more ridiculous to me than the notion that he did not know what he was taking, is the notion that this trial serves any purpose at all.
Brandon McClintock covers Major League Baseball for BleacherReport.com. You can follow Brandon on twitter @BMcClintock_BR.
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