Barry Bonds, defendant

For the third time in his career, Barry Bonds stood before a judge yesterday and pleaded not guilty. He walked past a pack of reporters on the way into the court room, many undoubtedly carrying copies of the newly-released documents, hundreds of pages purporting to prove the opposite. Bonds did not care. Bonds soldiers on.

He is ruined, despite the snazzy suit. He has to know it in his heart. We all tell ourselves little lies sometimes just to get through the day -- you know, like when you read over the godawful column the next morning and tell yourself it wasn’t so bad after all -- but this wouldn’t be a little lie. This would be a big lie. This would be bigger than Bonds’ head.
Forget reputation, forget vindication -- he is trying to stay out of jail now, nothing more. That he took the steroids is a foregone conclusion and pretty much has been for years. Whether or not he committed perjury during the BALCO investigation is less clear because perjury is a technical thing, more than the simple telling of an untruth.

The trial on that question is scheduled to begin in March. Before that, the judge in the case will have to decide if the hundreds of papers of stuff she just released to the public will be admissible in court. She will have to figure out if the steroid dosage calendar with the initials “BB” on top should be seen by the jury. She will have to figure out if the taped conversation between between Bonds’ former friend and his former trainer, the conversation where trainer Greg Anderson suggested he was injecting Bonds with turkey basters full of undetectable enhancers, should be heard by the jurors. And then there are the copies of the failed drug tests, at least four of them.

There are hearsay issues. There are chain-of-custody issues regarding the urine samples. It is complicated. The judge, Susan Illotson, will go a long way toward fixing the outcome of the case with these pre-trial evidence rulings. If she lets most of it in, Bonds is going down. In court yesterday, she spoke of her initial inclination to disallow the drug tests and the calendar but maybe to allow the taped conversation.

To repeat: how she ultimately decides could bury Barry. Then he can write a book from jail, which might help sales but which also would truncate the publicity tour just a tad.

A tiny part of me feels sorry for Bonds as he walks from the black SUV into the courthouse, a gauntlet of video cameras and flashing still cameras and reporters all there to record this relentless descent of a superstar. That he is taking a bullet here for dozens of others, probably hundreds of others in baseball, is obvious.

Like Roger Clemens before him -- the bigger they are, the more arrogant they are, it seems -- Bonds got drunk on the benefits of historical stardom and now is enduring the concomitant hangover. There isn’t enough Advil-and-Gatorade to make this one go away, either, although Bonds is paying attorneys hundreds of dollars an hour in that very attempt.

They might very well keep him out of jail; who knows? After that, you wonder if it would be possible to rehabilitate his image, or if he really cares.