BALCO probe fallout is downright baffling

February 18, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The news that a Colorado attorney could get two years in prison for leaking grand jury testimony in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative investigation might be the final proof that we now live in the sports version of Bizarro World.

Troy Ellerman also might be subject to a $250,000 fine for obstruction of justice for providing information to reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, while the main culprits in the case have so far been sentenced to a total of seven months in prison.

The BALCO prosecutors spent millions to break up the infamous steroid ring run by Victor Conte, who got four months in prison and four months' house arrest in a plea agreement. You would think the guys who actually produced the chemicals and tried to corrupt just about every major sporting entity in the United States would get a little more time than the guy who outed Barry Bonds and his flaxseed oil alibi. And you would be wrong.

The strange focus of the investigation has to be particularly frustrating for former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who is trying to conduct a parallel probe without the benefit of subpoena power. He's not going to be able to recommend to commissioner Bud Selig that Major League Baseball jail a couple of reporters and indict a renegade lawyer after the ill-advised MLB investigation fails to produce enough hard evidence to punish anyone who actually did anything.

I didn't bring this up because I can't let go of the whole steroid thing (though I can't). It's just one of several news items from the past week or so that make me wonder if common sense has gone on permanent holiday.

Ambivalence now

Maybe Selig is hoping that Mitchell can come up with some secret testimony of his own to create a pretext for an official snub of Bonds' pursuit of Hank Aaron's all-time major league home run record.

The Commish was noncommittal when asked recently whether he would be on hand when and if Bonds hits his 756th home run, leaving open the possibility that he'll just make a congratulatory phone call to Bad News Barry on that historic date.

No one should be surprised that Bud is conflicted about this, considering his long-standing relationship with Aaron and Bonds' apparent link to the BALCO scandal, but I think Bud has to go all in on this - one way or the other.

If he feels that Bonds is not worthy by virtue of some affront to the best interests of baseball, he should decisively to make sure that historic day never comes. If that can't be justified by the evidence, then he should hold his nose and give Bonds and the record the respect it would be due under more normal circumstances.

Partner in crime?

If New York Yankees general partner Steve Swindal is the designated successor to father-in-law/owner George Steinbrenner, wouldn't you think he'd have the good judgment to call a limo rather than risk embarrassing the organization with a 4 a.m. dash for home after a night of partying?

Apparently not. Swindal was arrested by sheriff's deputies in St. Petersburg on a charge of driving under the influence

I don't know. Maybe Alex Rodriguez's giant contract really has had an effect on the organizational budget.

Unclear resolution

Roger Clemens told a Houston television station that it's "80-20" he won't play for anyone in 2007, which means there is a 100 percent chance he'll be the subject of constant speculation in New York until after the Aug. 31 deadline to remain eligible for the postseason.

The Rocket is a great pitcher and anyone who is a true baseball fan has enjoyed his terrific career, but enough already. If he's not all in, it's time to get out for good.

$126 million surprise

Judging from the mammoth seven-year contract that the San Francisco Giants gave Barry Zito, they probably liked him just the way he was the last time their scouts watched him pitch. So, it's no wonder team officials were taken aback when he came to camp significantly heavier and broke out a brand-new set of pitching mechanics.

Pitching coach Dave Righetti immediately cautioned that the change might put his great curveball and his physical well-being at risk, but Zito insisted that he is just going back to what he was doing at an earlier point in his career. Even if that's true, you'd think he'd involve the team that just gave him $18 million per year in the decision?

Headline humor

This week's funny headline comes from TheBrushback.com, a sports satire site on the Web: NBA adds most ghastly tattoo contest to All-Star Game festivities

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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