The Barry Bonds indictment doesn't figure to change much -- except for Bonds, for whom it might change his address.
The free-agent slugger could face prison time if he's convicted of the four charges of perjury and one charge of obstructing justice unsealed by federal prosecutors in San Francisco Thursday. Bonds is accused of lying in grand jury testimony in the BALCO case when he said he never knowingly took steroids.
His lawyer says he'll fight the charges.
If the trial stretches into the season, or if he's convicted, it'll obviously affect his chances of signing with a team to play in 2008, though I'm not buying the speculation that the indictment means his career is over. If he's free to play, someone will pay him to play.
If you can put up a .400 on-base percentage with power, some team's going to sign you unless you're actually standing over a dead body with a smoking gun in your hand. And even then, four or five teams will ask if it's your gun. One or two will ask if anybody else knows about the body.
What I mean by the indictment not changing much is that even a conviction won't alter either the current public perception of him or history's view of him. Nor will it do much to accomplish that thing we're all rooting for, cleaning up the game.
The view of Bonds will certainly change if he spends the next few decades behind bars. At some point we'll start to think of him as a prisoner. But that's highly unlikely. Sentencing guidelines say he could get up to 30 years, but the San Francisco Chronicle reports that legal experts say he could realistically face about 30 months.
Bonds has his supporters, and the creativity required to believe he never did steroids is easily sufficient to explain away a perjury conviction. For those of us who don't require the same standard of proof a federal criminal court does to believe something, an acquittal isn't going to convince us that Bonds was clean as both he and his power numbers ballooned.
The last baseball player of Bonds' fame to be indicted for a major crime was Pete Rose, who served five months on a tax-evasion rap starting in August 1990. Did you even remember that? Before he was indicted, Rose was thought of as a sleazeball who bet on baseball games. Now, he's thought of as a sleazeball who bet on baseball games. A conviction and prison term on a related charge didn't do a thing to his reputation.
Bonds' reputation is what matters to those of us out here in the regular world because we don't much care about him as a person -- he's made sure of that over the years -- but we like to argue about whether he'll make the Hall of Fame, and this off-season it's become interesting to speculate what team, if any, will sign him.
That speculation's on hold while we all become experts on perjury and obstruction of justice, the way we became experts on chain of evidence when O.J. Simpson was on trial a dozen years ago. With former Sen. George Mitchell expected to release his report on steroids in baseball before the end of the year, this is shaping up as a cracking good off-season for steroid revelations.
We might learn a lot. But it seems unlikely that, beyond details, we'll learn much about Barry Bonds that we didn't already know.
NFL Week 11 [PERMALINK]
Here are the Week 11 picks, with the prognostications of my son Buster and daughter Daisy, respectively the game-pickinest 4-year-old and coin-flippinest 2-year-old who ever picked a game, flipped a coin or got turned into a tiresome column shtick by some hack who claims to be their father.
Sunday early games
N.Y. GIANTS (6-3) at Detroit (6-3)
Big sort-'em-out game in the NFC. Both teams are coming off losses that might be tone-setters for disappointing second halves. But while the Giants got beat by the elite Cowboys, the Lions lost to the Cardinals. The New York pass rush should exploit the weak Detroit pass protection, and if the Giants can avoid too many of the turnovers the Lions feast on, they should find themselves in the wild-card driver's seat. Or dealer's chair, or whatever the wild card has. A loss would drop the Lions to 6-4 and add some desperation to their Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Packers.
Daisy: New York
TAMPA BAY (5-4) at Atlanta (3-6)
Don't look now -- really, don't look -- but the Falcons have won two in a row, and if they win this one, they'll be one game out of first place. Joey Harrington's reward for guiding the team to two victories: the bench, if Byron Leftwich is sufficiently recovered from his ankle surgery, which is expected. Either way, the rested Bucs and their methodical offense should keep the Falcons in the cellar.
Arizona (4-5) at CINCINNATI (3-6)
Carson Palmer and his pals should be able to carve up an ailing Arizona pass defense.
CLEVELAND (5-4) at Baltimore (4-5)
The Browns gave the Ravens a good pounding at home in Week 4. That was the game that gave us Braylon Edwards noting sagely, "Cleveland is in Ohio." There's no arguing with that. It wasn't at all clear at that time that the Browns are a pretty decent team and the Ravens aren't as good as a lot of people thought they'd be. Only 16 percent of Yahoo users thought the Browns would win that home game in Week 4. As of Thursday afternoon, 76 percent thought they'd win this road game. Daisy and I agree, she because of her quarter and me because the Ravens defense isn't good enough anymore to stop an offense as good as Cleveland's.
Miami (0-9) at PHILADELPHIA (4-5)
I know what you're thinking, but you have to keep scrolling down for the What the Heck Pick of the Week.
Kids: Philadelphia (10.5-point favorite)
Oakland (2-7) at MINNESOTA (3-6)
The injury to Adrian Peterson reduces the number of reasons for people who aren't Raiders or Vikings fans to watch this game from one to zero. As a Raiders fan, I'd say it does about the same for the rest of us.
Kids: Minnesota (6-point favorite)
San Diego (5-4) at JACKSONVILLE (6-3)
The Chargers are mercurial, sometimes terrific, sometimes awful, but lately they haven't been able to move the ball, and the Jaguars are no the team to solve that little problem against. Which is why the Chargers will probably win this game 63-6, but I'm going with Jax. See what I did there?
Daisy: San Diego
Kansas City (4-5) at INDIANAPOLIS (7-2)
The Colts are dropping like flies, with Dwight Freeney the latest to go down, but remember the Chiefs are starting Brodie Coyle at quarterback and Elroy Hirsch at running back. Priest Holmes. Didn't I say Priest Holmes? What did I say?
Kids: Indianapolis (14.5-point favorite)
NEW ORLEANS (4-5) at Houston (4-5)
The Saints lost to the Rams last week, so, obviously, anything's possible. But the Texans defense, which a few weeks ago gave up 75 points to the offensively challenged Jaguars and Titans in back-to-back games, will have big problems stopping the Saints. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson return for Houston on offense. Look for points.
Buster: New Orleans
Carolina (4-5) at GREEN BAY (8-1)
Remember that great story a few weeks ago when the Panthers went out and signed 43-year-old quarterback Vinny Testaverde? Now they've done themselves one better. This week's starting quarterback: 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde.
Kids: Green Bay (10-point favorite)
Sunday late games
Pittsburgh (7-2) at N.Y. JETS (1-8)
What the Heck Pick of the week. I know, Miami's playing on the road, but I think the Jets might be every bit as bad, and they've got a tougher opponent.
Kids: Pittsburgh (9-point favorite)
Washington (5-4) at DALLAS (8-1)
This was looking like a big showdown game in September, but Washington's been a disappointment. That 34-3 win over Detroit in Week 5, its only win over an opponent with a winning record, is starting to be a distant memory, and Washington is looking lost. The Cowboys win this one easily unless they're looking ahead to their Thanksgiving Day trap game against the Jets.
Kids: Dallas (15-point favorite)
Chicago (4-5) at SEATTLE (5-4)
The Seahawks can win their division with an 8-8 record, while the Bears, who are the defending NFC champs don't forget, have to gain some ground to snag a wild-card spot. Ordinarily I'd take Chicago as a more-desperate-team pick, but then I think about Rex Grossman, back in the starting lineup, against that Seahawks pass rush.
ST. LOUIS (1-8) at San Francisco (2-7)
The Rams haven't lost in three weeks. You have to go with the hot team here.
Buster: San Francisco
Daisy: St. Louis
Sunday night game
NEW ENGLAND (9-0) at Buffalo (5-4)
Now that the Colts have lost twice, the Patriots would clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs by going 13-0. That means they'd have to win three otherwise meaningless games to go undefeated, and teams that have clinched their playoff spot tend not to win those games while they rest the first string and generally goof off and try not to get hurt.
That's the good news for the 1972 Miami Dolphins and their famous champagne bottles. The bad news is that the first two of those last three are against the Jets and Dolphins, who even the Pats second string would have to make some effort to lose to, and the third is the Giants, who have a fair chance of also having clinched their postseason position, or lack of same, by then and would thus have less to play for than the Patriots.
More bad news for the Dolphins geezers: The Patriots don't goof off. But more good news: Maybe the Patriots will look past one of their next three opponents -- at Buffalo, Philadelphia, at Baltimore -- before the Week 14 showdown with Pittsburgh that I'm hoping to be the first to call Super Bowl XLI.5 II. You know, kind of like the way I'm ignoring the Bills here.
Kids: New England (15.5-point favorite)
Monday night game
TENNESSEE (6-3) at Denver (4-5)
Albert Haynesworth returns from injury in the middle of the Titans defense, which will make things tough on the run-happy, and thoroughly confusing, Broncos.
Season record: 87-57
Last week: 8-6
What the Heck Picks: 1-8
Record in Broncos games: 3-6 (includes one WTH Pick)
Previous column: Barry Bonds, Wild Thing
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