I had a nice column prepared to send out this morning about what moves the Phillies should make to improve their team. Knowing that Phils GM Pat Gillick isn't sitting at his computer waiting for my advice, I decided to hold that one and go with Barry Bonds.

The front page story about the charges filed against Bonds brought back memories to the summer when I sat just 10 rows from the field off home plate and watched him bat. First, his bulkiness looked odd, like he needed to diet. He looked puffy, quite unlike someone his age who was overweight. Sure, you see lots of overweight folks around today; most are flat-out fat. But Bonds looked as if someone stuck a bicycle pump needle in his butt and...pumped him up!

His stroke was compact; like a signal in his brain set off a short, powerful and vicious swing that transformed the baseball into a bullet. I thought he had a hitting zone quite unlike most major league hitters. An area maybe the size of the strike zone or even smaller. If the pitcher made the mistake of putting the ball in his zone, the signal would ignite the swing, the same one that unleashed 762 home runs over the course of his career.

Now, there may not be a 763.

Barry Bonds is not in trouble because he used steroids. He's in trouble because a grand jury in 2003 asked him if he used steroids and he said he did not. He said that he never used anabolic steroids or human growth hormone.

Because of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the federal legal system has to--at least for certain cases--use a grand jury to bring about charges through what is called an indictment,  which is a formal  accusation of having committed a serious criminal offense or felony. By issuing subpoenas a grand jury studies information or evidence and decides whether or not a crime has been committed.

Grand juries go back to the American Revolution, where colonial grand juries ran local government. Most grand jury duties back then was to decide on what roads to build or bridges to repair. But over the years grand juries stopped deciding on federal public projects and focused on federal crimes. A federal grand jury today--an impartial panel of ordinary citizens--is a  form of checks and balances which prohibits a case going to trial on a single prosecutor's word.

A little more than three months after Bonds broke Hank Aaron's home run record, this indictment came as a result of a four year grand jury study of steroid use not only by Bonds, but all top athletes, although Bonds was high on the study list.

The Bonds' indictment says that the federal government can prove with a blood test that Bonds used steroids. If this is true, it is the first real evidence between Bonds and steroids. Because of this evidence, Bonds is being charged not for using steroids, but on five felony charges--four for perjury and one for obstruction of justice--for testifying before the grand jury in 2003.

Thumbnail image for terriblecat.gifThe Bond's indictment is ten pages long and says it has evidence that Bonds did indeed use steroids. Many other athletes who were asked under oath by the 2003 grand jury, such as the Yankees' Jason Giambi, admitted steroid use and therefore have not been indicted. Olympic sprinter Marion Jones recently plead guilty to lying to the federal investigation.

The thing is, Bonds should have admitted it. Giambi did and he's still playing. If Bonds would have come clean in 2003, I doubt if he would have received any more or less heat and criticism he has already received from baseball fans and non fans alike. Using steroids was not illegal in 2003.

But lying to a grand jury is, was, and always will be. Anyone knows that, even the South Philly alley cats. Isn't that right, Buttermilk?

See, I told you.


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