Yes, lying before Congress is a crime, but some lies are of far greater national interest than Clemens’ defense of his athletic purity. If he was lying, who was harmed by it? What public end was served by a prosecution, waged at great expense through two trials over five years?
Roger Clemens has been acquitted, which is not quite the same as being vindicated.
A jury found Clemens not guilty of lying to Congress when he testified he had never used drugs to put a little extra zip in his fastball. The testimony at trial essentially came down to Clemens’ word against that of a former Yankee trainer, and the jury was not sufficiently convinced to expose the Rocket to a sentence of as much as 30 years.
Like most Massachusetts baseball fans, we’ve always had mixed feelings about Clemens. When he was the ace of the Red Sox pitching staff, we loved him on the mound but found him sometimes obnoxious in street clothes. He was warm and friendly to his neighbors, but often surly to the press. Of course, we loved him in a Red Sox uniform and hated to see him return to Fenway as a Blue Jay –– or worse, a Yankee.
This we know: Clemens was the best Red Sox pitcher ever, surpassing the legendary Cy Young. Old Cy was good, but Clemens won an unbelievable seven of his namesake awards.
We know Clemens won the great majority of his 354 victories through skill, muscle, discipline and guts. In his later years — Clemens was an elite pitcher up to the ripe old age of 44 — did he get some help from modern chemistry? That we’ll never know for sure, but given his competitive nature, it’s easy to believe, regardless of Monday’s verdict.
We are as ambivalent about Clemens’ prosecution as we are about the man. The 2008 hearings in Congress into steroid use in Major League Baseball had an air of political grandstanding that was hard to ignore. As we say at the time, if the senators were, as they said, truly worried about steroid use among high school and college players, they shouldn’t have been preening before the cameras with big-league professionals.
The prosecution seems like showboating as well. Yes, lying before Congress is a crime, but some lies are of far greater national interest than Clemens’ defense of his athletic purity. If he was lying, who was harmed by it? What public end was served by a prosecution, waged at great expense through two trials over five years?
We had the same feeling a few weeks ago, when former Sen. John Edwards was acquitted of charges his support of a pregnant girlfriend violated campaign finance laws. Yes, the defendant is a creep, but there are limits to how much the law should be distorted and the taxpayers’ money wasted so some prosecutor can bag a famous scalp.
Clemens is a man of fierce will and tremendous pride. While his criminal trial is over, other trials await. For the first time, he is eligible for the Hall of Fame this fall, which has long been his goal.
Page 2 of 2 - But the sportswriters who vote players into the Hall of Fame don’t have to follow the rules of the criminal courts. The “character clause” gives them the power to hold a player’s personality, reputation and even unproven allegations against him.
Baseball writers and baseball fans aren’t ready to forget the steroid scandals that marked a dark decade for the sport, even for a player as gifted as Roger Clemens.