May 12, 2015

So Barry Bonds wants to sue baseball?

Barry Bonds
That's what Hardball Talk says Scott Boras mouthpiece Jon Heyman is reporting — former Giants slugger and steroid-aided home run king Barry Bonds is planning some sort of legal action over nobody offering him a contract after his 2007 season. (Note: It's not clear whether Bonds is eyeballing a full lawsuit, or some sort of grievance; Heyman's amended his post to indicate grievance is the first route.)

First, as for facts on the ground? The Major League Baseball Players' Union had said it had found evidence of collusion against Bonds, but had reached agreement with MLB not to pursue that in 2008. Bonds, presumably, was waiting until his criminal situation played out to take action himself.

With that, let's look at Bonds' two possible legal routes

Briefly, on that, the grievance angle?

I don’t know that he ever “officially retired.” That said, Wiki says that he withdrew from the MLBPA’s licensing agreement back in 2003. Even if he’s not “officially retired,” MLB might use that as an argument that the union shouldn’t be representing him in a grievance. It would surely also challenge "de facto" vs "de jure" retirement issues. And, yes, given his actions on both Alex Rodriguez (although just an MLB VP then) and Josh Hamilton, Rob Manfred, aka Commissioner Corleone, would have no problem with scorched-earth tactics on this. And, I think this is an angle a lot of people are missing. Especially with Tony Clark still relatively new as MLBPA exec, he'll "push" as much as he can.

As for a full legal case? I doubt he’d win that.

First, MLB in its defense might be allowed to “prowl around the edges” more than in a criminal case on people like Bonds’ former trainer Greg Anderson, or Victor Conte.

As for a defense? Owners would have a couple of other angles.

One, especially in light of Manny Ramirez, might be, “We didn’t think he’d pass a test.” That’s how Anderson’s relevant. And, were I an owner, that might be a better starting point than the personality angle.

Or an owner might say: We didn’t know if legal proceedings would interrupt his baseball playing time.

1. Yes, the burden of proof is lower in a civil case. But, it’s now Bonds’ burden, not MLB’s as the equivalent of the government in the criminal cases.

2. Assuming that this is a federal case, given it would be against MLB and/or multiple individual teams, the feds require a unanimous jury vote in civil as well as criminal. I don’t see Bonds winning that.

Beyond that, why? Is Bonds broke? I doubt that; beyond his massive contracts, I’m betting he was a pretty smart investor.

Is this a “revenge factor” thing? In that case, it undercuts the “new Bonds” image he’s trying to make, and if there’s an actual trial, especially, “old Bonds” gets put on the stand.

Barry? Join Manny, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and others, and just walk away. Along with your anti-Ruth comments and other baggage. (Oh, speaking of, this will likely only hurt your case for the Hall of Fame with BBWAA voters.) Even A-Rod has learned — for now at least — to take his lumps.

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