Not long after dozens of business executives departed the Florida resort, fat and happy, having toasted their immense financial gains, a man upon whom much of their wealth was built started smelling a lot like toast.
Minutes after Commissioner Bud Selig concluded a two-day owners meeting Thursday by bragging about the robust state of Major League Baseball – which in 2007 broke the $6 billion barrier – a grunt-level employee named Barry Bonds was crossing a major intersection on his path down Scapegoat Road.
Please, don’t get it twisted. I’m not saying Bonds is innocent; I don’t believe he is. The journey before him is steep and treacherous, but Bonds, in the grip of ambition, intoxicated by the possibilities, was all too eager to hop in for the ride.
On Thursday, the feds indicted Bonds on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. This bombshell comes six years after the former San Francisco Giants superstar reportedly hooked up with the infamous drug lab, BALCO, four years after he testified before the grand jury, three years after his first random drug test, 16 months after the probe went to a second grand jury, 15 months after one of Bonds’ trainers, Greg Anderson, was jailed for contempt, and three months after Bonds become baseball’s home run king.
It likely ends Bonds’ career after he spent six seasons as baseball’s biggest name and most scrutinized figure, magnetic and polarizing, captivating and repellent. Even as age and competitive mileage ravaged his body, reducing him to a statue in left field, Barry was a must-see at bat.
Bonds, who now faces up to 30 years in prison, is getting no more trouble than he invited.
But it’s no less disappointing that our societal script so rarely changes. The upper class thrives, others pay disproportionately. It’s predictable, whether it’s corrupt politicians deploying soldiers, bonus-minded CEOs downsizing hourly workers, drug kingpins exploiting drug users, or aristocracy getting more impartial justice than the guy who punches a clock.
Why is it that when so many hands are unclean, including those at the top, “justice” often ends at the face of the problem rather than the heart?
Incredibly, the indictment was announced about three hours after Bud and his pals indulged in their state-of-our-wallets orgy.
“As I told the clubs today, we’re on a high here,” Selig told the Associated Press upon after trumpeting MLB’s $6.075 billion in revenue.
“We started at $1.2 billion and I can remember waking up in ‘93 and ‘94 and ‘95 and thinking, ‘How are we going ever going to get to $2 billion?’ So here we are at 6 billion, 75 million. And if we just keep doing our work, stay out of controversies, keep the focus on the field, we’ll get to numbers someday that will be stunning. And these are stunning.”
Uh-huh. What’s stunning is the level of gall within Bud’s thin frame. What’s stunning is the public’s willingness to separate Bonds (black hat) from his employers (white hats), when it’s clear they were partners in any crimes that might have taken place.
Understand, both sides were enriched during the Steroids Era. Bonds got his in salary, his bosses in San Francisco and beyond divided billions in revenue.
Still, Bonds was an employee of the business. He had considerable clout, yes, but his paycheck bore the same signature as those of his teammates.
So he alone ends up in a fix. I’m obligated here to note the bedrock principle of the American justice system, at least for some: All those charged, regardless of the crime, are considered innocent unless proven guilty.
That said, Bonds, whose guilt and innocence have been debated for years, finds himself in for a tour of the legal system, while his enablers skate.
While there is enough filth for everyone, one can argue which is dirtier: Bonds’ record home run total, or the money lining the pockets of the fat cats who left that coastal Florida resort and returned to their respective estates?
Viewing the big picture, we can conclude dirt can provide a far more positive outcome for some than for others.