The coming year promises to be as exciting as an extra inning playoff game for 500 Home Run Club® LLC members, enthusiasts, and baseball pundits around the globe.
On the positive side, Gary Sheffield – who finished the 2008 season with the tantalizing total of 499 career home runs – looks to become the 25th member of The 500 Home Run Club…and he couldn’t be more excited about the prospects represented by the coming of the 2009 baseball season.
"I would've loved to have done it [last season]," Sheffield said after going homerless in the last series of 2008, including an 0-for-3 appearance in the season finale against the White Sox. Sheffield, who had hit two home runs in a single game just days earlier, said “But I’m looking forward to doing it [hitting his 500th career home run] at home…in front of our Detroit fans."
On the other hand, Barry Bonds is faced with the prospect of never playing another game and is scheduled to stand trial on March 2, 2009 on charges of lying to a grand jury about his performance-enhancing drug use. The spectacle and implications of Bonds’ trial is bound to re-open the issue of performance enhancing supplements, and their role in what has been labeled the “Steroid Era.”
Bonds pleaded not guilty of the charges back in June, just as he had pleaded not guilty to similar accusations in December of 2007, but a judge ordered prosecutors to rewrite the slugger's indictment to fix legal infirmities in the document. The new indictment includes new allegations, specifically: 15 felony counts of lying under oath when he told a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) that he never knowingly took steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs.
Foreshadowing Bonds’ 2009 trial was the recent conviction of former U.S. Olympic cyclist Tammy Thomas who, like Bonds, was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to a federal grand jury investigating a steroid ring that spanned the world of professional sports. While Thomas' case may hinder Bonds' chance of proving himself innocent, the two cases differ in several important ways.
Thomas was proven to have worked directly with Patrick Arnold, inventor of Tetrahydrogestinone (better known as THG or "The Clear") -- a steroid designed to avoid detection. Bonds, on the other hand, interacted with BALCO through his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, who in turn interacted with BALCO's founder and president, Victor Conte. And Bonds has repeatedly insisted that he simply took whatever Anderson gave him, assuming it to be benign supplements.
The "knowing" is a key point in a perjury trial. To prove that a defendant committed perjury, the prosecution must establish he or she knowingly and unequivocally lied under oath about a material matter, and in response to a clearly worded question. In other words, a lie based on a misunderstanding or faculty recollection would not comprise perjury.
So it is with no small amount of anticipation that MLB players, officials and fans around the globe await 2009.
One thing’s for sure – it should be an interesting year!