The baseball kerfuffle of the moment centers on the question of whether or not Barry Bonds should be added to the All-Star team if the fans do not vote him onto the team. I am not a Barry Bonds fan; I’ve said more than a few times that I believe that he has been a steroid user. Nevertheless, there is a huge tradition in baseball that to put aging stars onto All Star teams even if only for cameo appearances long after their skills cease to command their presence in the game. Hell, if you are a loved and respected aging star like Cal Ripken, you can even have a pitcher groove a fastball for you. Barry Bonds is a first magnitude star; he was a star long before he began to “bulk up”; he may not be able to play the outfield any better than Babe Ruth at the moment – and the Bambino has been dead for more than 50 years now – but he is still a good hitter. He belongs in the game whether or not the fans vote him in. Period. Look, the game is in SF where the local fans actually love him. Exclamation point! Case closed.
Absent Divine intervention to the contrary, Barry Bonds will be the all time home run leader in baseball sometime very soon. As has been reported hundreds of times, Bonds is a less-than-loveable character on his best days. It would seem that would make him well qualified to be one of baseball’s all time statistical leaders. Consider:
Pete Rose is the all time hits leader. I shouldn’t need to take up much space here to convince you that he has some personality/character flaws.
Ty Cobb is the guy Rose replaced. Cobb was hardly a warm and fuzzy character full of the milk of human kindness.
Ricky Henderson is the time stolen base leader. Henderson does not have an evil or devious reputation, but he is a world-class flake.
Let’s see, Cy Young is the all time leading pitcher in terms of wins. I wonder what skeletons exist in his closet or if he was a churlish man?
There is another baseball issue at the moment that appears to have great significance for society. Troy Ellerman is the gentleman who pleaded guilty to allowing those two SF Chronicle reporters to have access to the grand jury testimony of some of the athletes involved in the government’s investigation of BALCO and steroids and all that stuff. He and prosecutors reached a plea agreement but the judge in that case has refused to go along with the deal because he thinks Ellerman – a lawyer himself – is getting off too easy. The judge had some unusually blunt things to say to the lawyers on both sides of this matter; it’s pretty clear that he thinks 15-24 months in jail for Ellerman isn’t even close to sufficient in terms of sentencing – - and that was the plea arrangement.
That’s not the important part of this matter for society. The important part is the role and the participation of the two SF Chronicle reporters. Their journalistic brethren have lionized them for their steadfast position on protecting their source in this matter. Some even used them as poster-children for why a”Federal Shield Law” might be necessary to protect reporters from a rampaging prosecutor and/or a curmudgeonly judge. I wrote earlier that these guys might not be the best example to use if you supported such a Shield Law. Here’s why.
One of the many things that Ellerman did that was wrong was that he allowed Mark Fainaru-Wada to read the transcripts of grand jury testimony given by the players. That’s wrong for Ellerman to do; unless Fainaru-Wada never knew what he was reading until after he had written about it, it was wrong for him to read it. If the sanctity of “journalistic sources” is to be taken as a given, then the sanctity of “grand jury proceedings” has to exist at an even higher level of holiness. Fainaru-Wada had to know he was doing something wrong when he was reading the testimony; he probably took notes on what he read – on the assumption that he does not have an eidetic memory – and he had to know that was also wrong; and when he reported on what was contained in that testimony, he surely knew that he was publishing something that was not supposed to be published.
What seems to have happened here is that the SF Chronicle reporters acted in concert with Ellerman to circumvent the processes by which justice “happens” in our system. The system is not perfect, but it is the way this society administers justice to the citizenry. Ellerman – representing some defendant in the BALCO miasma – obviously thought that getting the word out that athletes told the grand jury they did not knowingly take steroids would be to his and his clients’ benefit; the Chronicle reporter(s) surely had a beneficial interest in this situation too. So, everyone involved in this convenient cabal looked to benefit from a pollution of the judicial processes as all of this leaking was happening. Bottom Line: The reporters assert great public good comes from their investigative reporting; but if in fact this is how the original leak happened, it was their actions that did harm to the public good by poking a hole in the administration of justice.
But it might get even worse. I don’t know if these allegations have been corroborated and entered as part of the evidentiary background in this case, but some folks have alleged that the Chronicle reporters took verbatim notes on the testimony on at least two different occasions. I do not know that for a fact but for the moment assume that the allegation is correct. Folks also have alleged that at least one of the “note-taking events” came after Ellerman had moved for a mistrial on the basis of the leaked testimony. Now if those allegations are true, Ellerman is a first-class scoundrel; he created the leak and then used the existence of the leak he created as the basis for a motion to end the trial of his clients. At the same time, it would be equally true that the Chronicle reporters were accessories to this first-class scoundrel’s attempts to pervert the justice system. And it is even more true that if they went back for a “second helping” of testimony they should not have seen in the first place, then they are second-class scoundrels for abetting the actions of that first-class scoundrel to pervert the system of justice. But we don’t know all of the actions of Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams because they assert a privilege of confidentiality here. Interestingly, the public may not have a right to know what these reporters actually did because their disclosure of same might be protected by the Fifth Amendment. Channeling Arte Johnson here – - Verrry Interesting !!
In any case, these guys need not be lionized any more. The public has a right to know “stuff”; that’s the mantra of investigative reporters. In this case, the public has a right to know just how involved in the perversion of the justice system these Chronicle reporters may have been unless of course their involvement crossed the line into criminal behavior at which point the public has no right to demand their explanation. They do not deserve a “Shield Law”. Maybe other reporters do; these guys don’t.
Finally, in keeping with today’s baseball focus, here is a comment from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle about something new in LA:
“The Dodgers have turned their ballpark’s right-field pavilion into an all-you-can-eat section. Ticket price includes unlimited dogs, nachos, sodas, peanuts, popcorn. It’s Lasordaville. Even the tickets are edible. Look for it by mid-season: The left-field pavilion will be converted into the Liposuction Section.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…