SPORTS IN THE COURTS
Bonds' sentencing Friday brings BALCO saga near close
The largest federal criminal investigation into sports doping began more than nine years ago with a tax agent digging through the trash of the now notorious Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. Barring an appeal, the government's work comes to an anti-climactic end Friday when Barry Bonds — the probe's highest-profile catch — is sentenced for obstruction of justice.
In between, the federal government spent millions of dollars and untold staff hours obtaining the convictions of 11 people. Six of them, including track star Marion Jones, were ensnared for lying to grand jurors, federal investigators or the court. Five men, including Bonds' personal trainer Greg Anderson, pleaded guilty to steroid distribution charges stemming from their BALCO connections.
The investigation in general — and the pursuit of Bonds in particular — ignited a debate over whether the government's long involvement was the best use of public resources.
More than seven years after he testified before a grand jury investigating BALCO, Major League Baseball's all-time home runs leader was convicted on just one of four remaining counts against him. And the jury deadlocked on whether Bonds lied about taking performance-enhancing drugs.
Now, federal sentencing guidelines suggest a prison term of between 15 months and 21 months. But federal probation officers are recommending that Bonds receive no time, citing his charitable work, the nature of the crime and his otherwise spotless criminal record. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston has sentenced two other BALCO figures convicted of similar crimes to probation and house arrest.
Was it all worth it?
"It absolutely was," said MacGregor Scott, the former U.S. attorney for Sacramento, now in private practice at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. "It brought a focus and awareness to the steroids issue that wasn't there before."
Scott said prosecutors had to go after Bonds once they concluded he lied to the grand jury when he denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs and said he allowed only doctors to inject him. Dozens of other athletes testified truthfully, Scott said.
"There aren't two sets of laws, one for Bonds and one for everybody else," Scott said. "The grand jury is the bedrock of the criminal justice system in the United States."
Man who accused ex-coach Fine jailed
A Maine man who accused former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine of molesting him has been arrested for violating bail conditions. Zach Tomaselli is himself facing molestation charges. Lewiston police arrested the 23-year-old on Tuesday because he gave a ride to someone under 18. Police Sgt. David St. Pierre says the arrest was made a day after police received a tip. Tomaselli, who lives with his grandmother in Lewiston, is being held without bail. Tomaselli has admitted that he sexually abused a young teenager. He faces 11 charges including gross sexual assault and has said he's working on a plea deal.
Brewers, ex-Cub Ramirez finalize deal
With Prince Fielder all but gone and Ryan Braun facing a possible 50-game suspension, the Milwaukee Brewers needed another source of offense. The Brewers finalized a $36 million, three-year contract with free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez on Wednesday, adding a much-needed bat to their lineup. Ramirez, who played the past eight-plus seasons for the Chicago Cubs, said he considers the Brewers a team that will be in position to contend every year for the foreseeable future — even if they do lose Braun for a chunk of next season and Fielder, a free agent, for good.
Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin acknowledged that Wednesday's signing of Ramirez more or less means they're moving on from Fielder, who is almost sure to sign elsewhere. "It appears, obviously, that Prince Fielder will probably not be coming back at this time," Melvin said. "So we had to move forward."
The 33-year-old Ramirez played 149 games for the Cubs last year, batting .306 with 26 home runs and 93 RBI.
■ The Boston Red Sox acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Houston Astros for infielder Jed Lowrie and right-hander Kyle Weiland on Wednesday. The deal brings the Red Sox a potential replacement for closer Jonathan Papelbon, who signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies. Melancon is a 26-year-old righty who had 20 saves last season with an 8-4 record and 2.78 ERA in 71 relief outings.
■ The Oakland Athletics agreed to a $3.35 million, one-year contract with left-hander Dallas Braden. Braden, 28, made three starts last season before being sidelined by a shoulder injury. He pitched a perfect game against Tampa Bay on May 9, 2010.
■ The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan's Pacific League have until Tuesday to accept a bid from a major-league team for pitcher Yu Darvish, considered the best pitcher in the Japanese professional leagues. Bidding for the posting fee closed Wednesday, and the U.S. commissioner's office said it will notify its Japanese counterpart of the amount of the highest bid, but not the identity of the MLB club that made the offer.
Writer Jenkins voted to Hall of Fame
Sixty years after he wrote from the first of 210 major championships, Dan Jenkins is headed for the World Golf Hall of Fame. Jenkins, 82, will be only the sixth media member in the hall when he is inducted May 7 at the World Golf Village along with Phil Mickelson, Hollis Stacy and two other inductees who are to be announced Thursday in London. His career goes from Ben Hogan to Tiger Woods, from the manual typewriter to Twitter, and Jenkins is still going. He previously worked for the Fort Worth Press, the Dallas Times Herald and Sports Illustrated, and he has been writing for Golf Digest since 1985. Jenkins also has written 20 books, including Dead Solid Perfect.
Jenkins covered his first major at the 1951 U.S. Open. Hogan shot 67 in the final round to win at Oakland Hills, and Jenkins still says that round on that "monster" of a golf course remains as good as he has seen anyone play. He listed that among his top three moments in golf, along with Jack Nicklaus winning his sixth Masters at age 46 and the 1960 U.S. Open, regarded by many as being one of the greatest days in the history of the championship. Arnold Palmer shot 65 in the final round to beat Hogan, the aging star, and Nicklaus, the emerging star who was still an amateur that day at Cherry Hills.
Jenkins' writing style was grounded in humor. When PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem introduced him on the conference call by listing all his achievements, Jenkins replied, "You left out my cure for polio."
Wahlin leads in Dubai; U.S. teen 4 back
Lotta Wahlin made seven birdies for a 6-under 66 Wednesday to take a one-shot lead over Becky Brewerton after the first round of the Dubai Ladies Masters. The 28-year-old Wahlin, whose career was disrupted in 2009 when she was diagnosed with skin cancer, made a 26-foot birdie putt on the 18th for the lead to go along with six other birdies and one bogey. The Swede is two shots ahead of four other golfers and four shots ahead of Lexi Thompson (70), the 16-year-old American who is the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour. Thompson recovered from a slow start to make three birdies on her final three holes. The teenager came into the tournament as one of the favorites, having won the Navistar LPGA Classic in September. Michelle Wie, looking for her first win of the year, was seven shots back after shooting 73. She's tied for 54th in the 108-player field.
The last word
Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, on National League MVP Ryan Braun testing positive for excessive testosterone:
"Braun said he'll comment soon, but right now he's too busy shaving 19 times a day."