It's a bad thing for Bonds, not for MLB
Home run king's arraignment hardly a black eye on the game
Let's get off this "a bad day for baseball" kick. This was a bad day for Barry Bonds.
Bonds entered a plea of not guilty on Friday to charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, charges that stemmed from his testimony before a federal grand jury investigating steroid usage by elite athletes.
The federal indictment alleges that Bonds committed perjury 19 times during that testimony. And this is baseball's fault?
Yes, Bonds, by virtue of American citizenship, is due the presumption of innocence. His guilt or innocence will be determined through the process of law. But baseball's leading all-time home run hitter spent his Friday morning being arraigned on criminal charges; is an entire sport going to be tarred with that brush?
You can draw that conclusion if you believe that baseball management knew but did nothing about the abuse of performance-enhancing substances. But there is a truly difficult burden of proof involved in that one. You can draw that conclusion if you fault the players' association for dragging its feet on the issue of testing for these substances. But that doesn't necessarily make baseball labor guilty, either.
But in the end with steroid abuse, what you have is a series of individual decisions -- whether to cheat or not to cheat. That would be true of Barry Bonds, or anybody else who has been charged with using steroids, whether in court, or, more commonly, in the media.
No, Bonds' arraignment was not a great day for baseball. But what was positive about it, was that it was part of a process that will discover, one hopes, the truth.
In that sense, it is progress. You have the same hope for the Mitchell Report, the broader investigation of the history of steroid abuse in baseball. The speculation, the conjecture, the rumors, the innuendo are all in one category. The facts would be in another.
If Barry Bonds is convicted, is thus all of baseball guilty? Is every owner culpable? Is the union an accomplice? Is every player in the game who never took anything stronger than Extra-Strength Tylenol guilty by association?
I believe that the correct answers there are no, no, no, and you've got to be kidding.
Yes, one of the most prominent players of all time has now been paraded into court on a charge that stems from alleged steroid use. Obviously, this is not particularly good for the game, but it was Bonds who was indicted, not baseball. There was no crowd of people, in either labor or management, urging him on, forcing those nasty steroids upon him. If he took these substances, it was an elective, not a requirement.
The arraignment came four months after Bonds broke Henry Aaron's home run record. In a better world, the arraignment would have occurred at any time before Aug. 7, 2007. But in this one it comes now, on the 66th anniversary of Japan's attack upon Pearl Harbor. Choose your own point of irony and go with it.
Bonds' agent has let it be known that his client wants to play in 2008. With these charges hanging over his head, who would hire him again as a professional athlete, apart from the professional wrestling tour? And if no baseball team offers him employment, listen for the screams of "Collusion!" from the Bonds camp. And that, of course, will be baseball's fault, too.
Now, at least, the process of determining the guilt or innocence of Barry Bonds is under way. The full weight of the legal process is being brought to bear. At the end of the process, ideally, will be truth.
The appropriate response to this development is not really: "Oh, this is a terrible day for baseball." The appropriate response is: "Finally."
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.