One of the great things about the American justice system is you're presumed innocent until proven guilty. That premise certainly worked to the benefit of O.J. Simpson, who can only hope that his next set of jurors proves as open minded as the first.
For Barry Bonds, it means he will get his day in court, where he can flash his charming smile and hope he never stiffed any of the jurors for an autograph. They can judge the evidence as presented, then decide whether Bonds lied when he told a federal grand jury he never knowingly took steroids.
I don't need to do that. Because one of the great things about being a columnist is I don't need to worry much about judicial protocol or any other legal gobbledygook.
Actually, most of the time I start with a presumption of guilty and then wait for someone to prove me wrong. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, I figure it just might be a duck.
And Barry Bonds is one big duck.
The oversized head and giant-sized home runs weren't a coincidence. Neither were the home runs that came by bunches at an age when, without fail, players historically begin failing.
But you know all of that. We've all known, just as we know the inflated numbers posted by a couple other sluggers in recent times were inflated for all the wrong reasons.
Mark McGwire is out of baseball now and has a fuzzy memory of the past. Sammy Sosa says he never did anything worse than swing a corked bat.
They're lucky. They never had to go before a grand jury and answer the kinds of questions Bonds was asked.
Lie to reporters all you want. No big deal and, besides, they're used to it.
Lie to a grand jury and the next ball you play might be in the prison yard.
Read the indictment and the thinly veiled arrogance of a superstar who never had to answer to anyone about anything is striking. Bonds offers one-word answers, pretends not to know anything about steroids and, when things get tough, tells his interrogator that he couldn't remember much because his dad was dying of cancer at the time.
All McGwire and Sosa had to do was appear before Congress, where obfuscation is a way of life and senators seemed more interested in getting autographs and a few tickets to a game than finding the truth.
Sure, McGwire's reputation was ruined when he said he would only talk about his future plans to help kids stay off drugs. And Sosa raised more questions than he answered while having some trouble expressing himself in his second language.
Contrast that to Bonds, who may soon be getting measured for an extra-large prison uniform. If you don't think so, remember Martha Stewart spent five months in prison for the same crime.
Personally, I couldn't care less if Bonds goes to prison or not because his punishment is just getting under way. Seeing Bonds share a 10-by-8 cell with a prison buddy would merely be a bonus.
Whatever sycophants he still had in his corner are looking for ways to flee, and the odds of a team taking a chance on him next year are about the same as Tampa Bay winning the World Series. The Hall of Fame is pretty much out now, too, unless Bonds can somehow find a way out of this mess.
Worst of all for a guy who is trying to sell hand-signed figurines of himself hitting No. 756 for $300 apiece on his own Web site, the market for Bonds memorabilia has tanked.
I'm more interested in making his records go away, and a conviction would give even baseball's milquetoast commissioner the perfect opportunity to make that happen.
Let's start with the big one, and toss out the career home run record Bonds broke this summer. Restore Hank Aaron to his rightful place on top the home run list with 755 - or at least until Alex Rodriguez threatens it a few years from now.
The ridiculously bloated season record of 73? Trash it, and while you're at it throw out the 70 McGwire hit in 1998 and the 65 he hit the following year.
Sorry Sammy, but your 66 in 1998 and 63 the next year get shredded, too. Both are too suspicious, even from a guy using corked bats.
No, Roger Maris is the single season home run king, and he will be until someone who takes regular drug tests hits more than 61.
There could soon be some precedent here. Not only did Marion Jones have to return her Olympic medals because she also lied to investigators about steroid use, but the second place finisher in the 100 meters was not upgraded to gold because she was caught up in a doping scandal four years later.
Olympic officials are not considering simply amending the books to show there was no winner in the race.
Baseball doesn't have that problem. It can rewrite history without worry.
Because in Aaron and Maris, it already has a couple of winners waiting to regain their rightful places as home run kings.
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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org

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