Clemens may be ‘not guilty’ but it won’t change legacy

Roger Clemens' legal record remains clean, but his legacy remains tainted. (AP photo)

Roger Clemens' legal record remains clean, but his legacy is still damaged. (AP photo)

The final shot from the defense attorney came on the front steps of a federal courthouse in Washington on Monday when Rusty Hardin stood before the assembled media, Roger Clemens at his side, and said, “He was not only a seven-time Cy Young winner, he’s a hell of a man” – and suffice to say, Mindy McCready was not standing anywhere nearby.

This is the way it ends for the guilty winners. They cheer. They hug. They cry. It doesn’t make them any more believable, it’s just the expected gloating that comes after the litigation finish line. O.J. Simpson cried, too. Then he held a party for jurors on a yacht.

The jurors in the 1919 Chicago “Black Sox” trial celebrated, too. They acquitted eight players on charges of fixing a World Series following only three hours of deliberation — and you think the Clemens’ jury was fast — and then they threw their hats and confetti in the courtroom and lifted the defendants on their shoulders. Did that make the players innocent?

How about every other athlete who used – excuse me: whom we strongly suspect of using – performance-enhancing drugs? Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez, etc. Other than one trivial obstruction-of-justice verdict against Bonds, have any of the suspected cheaters in baseball been hammered legally?

Doesn’t matter. This changes nothing.

Legacies for athletes generally are not shaped in courtrooms. Had Clemens been found guilty of perjury and/or obstruction of justice for lying to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, it merely would have rubber stamped what most already believe/know. He cheated. Of course he cheated. Just like Bonds, McGwire and almost any other player who had almost cartoonish feats abnormally late in their careers.

If federal prosecutors were baseball players, they would be batting eighth in Single A. The BALCO case should’ve been a monster. But Victor Conte, the founder of the laboratory and mastermind of steroids programs employed by some of the world’s more famous athletes, spent only four months in prison. A case against Lance Armstrong was pursued for two years until being dropped last February. Bonds was slapped on the wrist. Clemens went to court and won in humiliating fashion.

The government’s two best witnesses against Clemens: trainer Brian McNamee, who carefully stored used syringes in a crushed beer can (Miller Lite, at that), and Andy Pettitte, who told prosecutors Clemens used steroids, then made a U-turn on cross-examination and said it’s quite possible he misinterpreted his former teammates’ remarks.

Organized crime families should bid for Pettitte’s services.

The prosecution put on such a compelling case that two jurors were dismissed for falling asleep.

It follows that many believe Congress should get out of the sports business. I disagree. 1) There would be next to zero drug testing in baseball if Congress did not get involved; 2) Remember that really isn’t about athletes breaking records but rather illegal drug use. Dealers and corrupt doctors and pharmacists need to be exposed. Kids, trying to emulate their heroes, have died as a result of steroids use. Yes, died. These are not victimless crimes. Ask Don Hooton, who testified at the Congressional hearings on drug use in baseball about his son’s suicide following extensive steroids use; 3) Nobody, under any circumstances, should ever be allowed to lie to Congress.

The problem is determining what’s a winnable case. Prosecutors either overestimated the strength of their case or completely botched the one they had. Clemens’ name was listed 82 times in the Mitchell report. Congress failed anyway — not because the mission was wrong, but because the government failed to present solid evidence or a witness with an ounce of credibility. Also because at times attorneys acted like buffoons (see: mistrial).

About legacy: Clemens is dead. So are all record breakers from the steroids era. It would be surprising if any get into the Hall of Fame, short of a confession and an image makeover. There is enough anti-drug sentiment among Hall voters to keep the perceived juicers out. Even Henry Aaron has spoken out, saying cheaters should be exposed and banned from Cooperstown.

The words “not guilty” don’t change what we think, what we remember. Clemens and Bonds will be on next year’s Hall of Fame ballot, but many voters will leave the boxes next to their names unchecked. It won’t be about what can be proved in a courtroom. It’s about logic and our belief system. And when the vote comes out, Clemens won’t celebrate.

By Jeff Schultz

155 comments Add your comment

Dale

June 19th, 2012
1:15 pm

Welcome back, Jeff.

SSIgator

June 19th, 2012
1:19 pm

Jeff -

You left Eldrick Woods off of your list.

coach

June 19th, 2012
1:25 pm

then congress ought not be allowed to lie to us……….

nate from detroit

June 19th, 2012
1:25 pm

It just shows you the glaring problems these days with our judicial system. Star-crossed, uneducated jurors will not convict anyone even if the evidence is insurmountable. The lawyers do a good job of turning the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” into meaning beyond any doubt. According to our defense lawyers definition of beyond reasonable doubt you could not prove that the sun would come up tomorrow, although it has happened every day for millions of years you can’t prove to me that it will tomorrow. It also shows that our legal system isn’t racially biased it is socially biased. I have a relative that did more time for a first offense marijuana possession charge than O.J. did for double murder. My relative didn’t have O.J.’s money or fame so therefore he was found guilty and sentenced to jail time.

DePort

June 19th, 2012
1:26 pm

Thank you Coach! .. When will congress be put on trial… Shouldnt they all be under oath everytime they talk to us?

coach

June 19th, 2012
1:26 pm

or waste our money

PoliticalMan

June 19th, 2012
1:31 pm

What a pompous, stupid creep – Clemens. There is absolutely no reason to honor the likes of Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, etc. Even ElRod juiced. He has not come close to the 47 HRs he averaged for 7 yrs beginning in 2001. I have long thought that Woods was a juicer. It is half the reason he cannot play like he once could and contributed to injuries.

As far as Lance Armstrong. I’m sure he juiced. However, in his day all cyclists did. It is not possible to ride over 100 miles a day at those speeds up and down mtns without chemical assistance.

Stank Wren

June 19th, 2012
1:32 pm

No telling how much tax payer money has been wasted persuing Clemens, Bonds, etc with nothing to show for it. That said, I hope that these cheaters never wind up in the Hall of Fame

RTB

June 19th, 2012
1:37 pm

I understand in the minds of many people, he still cheated. However, there was nothing to prove it. Syringes from a trainer don’t prove you used drugs, they prove you were injected with something. Was it a cortizone shot? We don’t know for sure, it’s just circumstancial evidence.

I am careful about labeling steroid users “cheaters.” If you consider someone using modern medicine to improve their athletic ability to be cheating, then wouldn’t everyone who had tommy johns surgery be classified as a cheater? If HGH was banned in the sport at the time they were used that would be cheating. However, it was not.

Also your comment about children dying from steroids is missing some perspective. Children also die from alcohol consumption. Yes, die. Does that mean we should ban alcohol for everyone? No, it means that children will mimmick the actions of adults and it’s up to us as parents to educate our children and set boundries. Teenage boys die in car wrecks by trying to mimmick Nascar racers; should we ban Nascar?

Matt

June 19th, 2012
1:40 pm

Jeff, unless you have a law degree we’re not aware of, I don’t think you’re really qualified to make the claim that federal prosecutors botched or overestimated their case. That would be like an AUSA saying you violated your journalistic ethics without any background in journalism. It’s easy to chirp from the peanut gallery about prosecutors and how they failed. My belief is that the jury (mostly made up of DC workers) was making more of a statement that Congress should not have involved itself in this.

Old Boy

June 19th, 2012
1:42 pm

Dale Murphy for Copperstown!

Old Boy

June 19th, 2012
1:43 pm

Or Cooperstown!

bulldogbubba

June 19th, 2012
1:43 pm

You know a corrupt “Government” wanting to legislate corruption in Baseball is ridiculous anyway.Why do I need senators useing taxpayer money to determine whether a ball player is guilty of lying to them about his use of banned substance?What does that do for my state?So you put him in a country club for the rich who lie.What a way to use tax dollars! Bottom line is don’t support the liars and if he is not voted into the Hall of Fame so what.Politics,Politics,Politics.Each mans Sins will always come to surface.Welcome back Jeff!!

Sonny Clusters

June 19th, 2012
1:48 pm

Tarnishes the game. Not that the game wasn’t already tarnished. We was wondering how to remove tarnish from the field and the dugout?

Red Stick

June 19th, 2012
1:49 pm

I knew the government would not win when McNamara’s estranged wife disputed some of his claims. The prosecution simply did not have the evidence to prove its case.

I’m not a big fan of Clemens but he was found not guilty and that’s the system we live with.

What’s really ridiculous is that the Feds may have spent over $100 million in bringing Clemens, Bonds and John Edwards to trial.

Sonny Clusters

June 19th, 2012
1:52 pm

Matt, juries are charged. It is scary when they make a statement rather than completing their charge. Judges do that, too. Make statements by creating rather than interpreting the law. We was wondering if maybe the Braves could make some statements with their bats?

VOLinATL

June 19th, 2012
1:53 pm

Keep all these rascals out of the HOF!!!

Sonny Clusters

June 19th, 2012
1:55 pm

This blog is moving slowly a lot like a third base relic that is hitting ground balls and striking out since he rushed back into the lineup to save the team. Now, we have got a new thought that may not be popular with true fans and real fans and the tender little fella but here goes . . . Uggla’s arms aren’t Pop-Pie arms like Brian Jordan thinks – they are Pop-Up arms with all those weak little popups he’s hitting. We was thinking.

Bill Payer

June 19th, 2012
1:56 pm

Jeff, did you see the article Ken Davidoff wrote in today’s NY Post? He thinks Clemens is owed an apology by George Mitchell (the Mitchell of the Mitchell report) Bud Selig, and the US government. In my mind, it’s only a matter of time until Clemens announces search for “real juicers”.

Stinger2

June 19th, 2012
2:03 pm

Clusters: You don`t know how to think. Now you are adding Uggla to your hit list of Braves. Do you ever have anything good or positive to say.
No matter how much you rant about Chipper, Fredi, and Uggla keep in mind they are what you have. Be as critical from now on as you always are
but remember there is noting you can do about it.

David Granger

June 19th, 2012
2:08 pm

Yeah, good point, Jeff. Problem for Clemens is that nobody really believes he didn’t use steroids. Like Barry Bonds, even his most fervent defenders can only point out that he never failed a drug test.
And everyone pretty much knew we were going to get an OJ-type verdict here: Everyone knows he’s guilty, but the prosecution couldn’t prove it beyond reasonable doubt.
Sad…I like Roger, and wish he’d been a little more honest with us. I think his fans deserved that.

blue

June 19th, 2012
2:15 pm

Exactly, Jeff. “not guilty” does not mean “innocent”. And the sad thing is, some of those guys (Palmeiro, Clemens, Bonds) would have likely been HOF guys if they had NOT used it. Bonds most definitely would have. Three cheers for Griffey Jr.

Hankie Aron

June 19th, 2012
2:16 pm

Schultzie- This past weekend I bought 2 certified autographed Barry Bonds bats and also 3x certified autographed Barry Bonds baseballs for $130 at an auction. I was the only guy bidding on Bonds stuff. Does that tell you how people feel about steroid users?

JSS

June 19th, 2012
2:18 pm

“Clusters: You don`t know how to think.”

Sayeth the Tin Man…

Hankie Aron

June 19th, 2012
2:19 pm

Only thing I have to say playing devil’s advocate is that there are many people who feel like 50 years from now people won’t care about the steroid era because that’s public opinion and the numbers will still be on paper. The asterik in my opinion is warranted.

JSS

June 19th, 2012
2:19 pm

I guess jury nullification only works in Simi Valley!

Hankie Aron

June 19th, 2012
2:21 pm

Public opinion can change over time, look at how people felt about gays, lesbians, and transgenders 20 years ago and today.

Hankie Aron

June 19th, 2012
2:24 pm

If youv’e read Jose Canseco book “Juiced”, he feels that steroids will be commonplace in the future for athletes when “used correctly and safely”

JSS

June 19th, 2012
2:24 pm

You can always tell the guys or ladies who’ve never truly enjoy a first rate meal when they try to make McDonalds quality food seem like cuisine at Bottega in Baseball terms…

JSS

June 19th, 2012
2:33 pm

” It is not possible to ride over 100 miles a day at those speeds up and down mtns without chemical assistance. (?)”

The answer is yes… The difference is that they did not recover as quickly in training… This is what separates the HGH, EPO, and the conventional anabolic steroid users… It is what most people don’t get…

gt4ever

June 19th, 2012
2:35 pm

Congress needs to pay him back EVERY penny they spent on this Absurd suit. They also need to pay back the taxpayers who paid for this crap…

CaptJackR

June 19th, 2012
2:36 pm

Another really sorry thing here is not just about Clemens, Bonds McGwire or Sosa or any other player that has had this tarnish their reputations. But also the MLB management – the commissioner and team owners and managers – And lets not forget sports casters that were willing to look the other way – when everyone with a brain knew this was going on, but said nothing. As these players put “butts in seats” and paid their salaries as well. So all was good, until it all hit the fan. I think there are a number of -off the field personalities that should be tossed into the “Hall of Shame” as well. So many of these guys are still active in the sidelines are willing to point fingers at the players, But are silent on their own behavior.

Tim

June 19th, 2012
2:43 pm

oh his legacy. who gives a crap. idiotic gov’t has spent millions investigation steroids and for what? we’re broke. we’re greece spain and italy in a few years.
but we gotta go after some moron jock and waste tens of millions on all these investigations.

The Ghost of Lyle Alzado

June 19th, 2012
2:43 pm

RTB nailed it; it’s all subjective and had the goverment proved its case, perhaps the verdict would have been different. At the end of the day; MLB baseball players who take cortisone shots for sore elbows or shoulders are using PEDs. MLB hitters who seek/receive an ADD diagnosis so they might score some Ridilin are using PEDs. It seems disingenous for sportswriters (and MLB brass) to decide when the use of drugs is “cheating” and when it is “sports medicine”. I am not fan of Clemens or Bonds (or A-Rod, or Manny, et al), but at the end of the day it will be impossible to quantify the effect of steroids on the careers/numbers of players who my most accounts where on their way to Cooperstown anyway. Personally, I could give a rat’s rear-end, but maybe an asterisk, maybe the words “suspected of steroid use” should be included. better yet, have a specific wing or section in the H of F for steroid era players.

Who cares?

June 19th, 2012
2:45 pm

This country has real problems. Millions were wasted so George Mitchell and Congress can pretend they matter. If government has time to pursue this crap they need to be part time legislators. Perjury? Since when is that wrong in Washington? Couldn’t care less about Roger Clemens or any other entertainer who chooses illegal substances. They have zero impact on my life or my wallet unless I choose to be part of it. Unlike our corrupt lawmakers.

gt4ever

June 19th, 2012
2:49 pm

Thanks RTB, and Tim…..

This is the world we live in…. Stupid idiotic politicians looking to grandstand, and spend money…

Bill Payer

June 19th, 2012
2:57 pm

The tin man had no heart, the scarecrow had no brain.

GTBob

June 19th, 2012
2:57 pm

Pretty good post by RTB. Nothing here is black and white. If writers want to keep these guys out of the hall of fame, then go ahead. Im not sure anyone cares. Especially the guys themselves who have their awards, records, and money to help them get through such a tough time. Personally, I would be more impressed if MLB would accept that it is very flawed as an organization, and would work to improve in the future. These guys weren’t the only ones looking for an edge and baseball looks foolish trying to single them out and act like a victim of their evil deeds.

Evil Roy Slade

June 19th, 2012
3:20 pm

Oh yeah, Canseco’s book “Juiced” is atop my summer reading list….

Supersize that order, mutt

June 19th, 2012
3:21 pm

rivercard

June 19th, 2012
3:21 pm

RTB and Ghost – great post. Made a lot more sense than Jeff’s hissy fit.

The Austrian Brotherhood

June 19th, 2012
3:22 pm

Congress makes the laws, they don’t enforce them. That’s what crew-cut cops do. They should bust in the doors of the juicers and shoot there dogs dead like they do to innocent marijuana smokers.

Progressive spends a whole article deriding the government’s execution (were for the government’s execution. If it’s good enough for Tampa Bay then…) of the trial, while simultaneously calling for the government to get involved. Progressives are so dammm ignorant, stupid, and evil.

Supersize that order, mutt

June 19th, 2012
3:22 pm

typical bamard

June 19th, 2012
3:36 pm

Saw that bamard, harvey updyke is about to get his trial going in auburn….His bamard lawyer couldn’t get the venue changed? Have you read all the auburn ties the pool of jurors have? What a DUMBA$$….funny thing is, any decent, bamalama jock sniffer would probably want to take this guy down, whereever the trial, and seperate him from anything to do with that interstate highway, dump of a school in Tuscaloosa.

Thanks for for giving us (the owners) your money

June 19th, 2012
3:41 pm

That idiot must live for his “fine cuisine” of the dollar menu at McDonalds. A bulldog most likely owns it, but “Supersize that order, mutt” must eat all his meals there. Supersize, are you about 500 lbs? Still able to get out of bed for your supersize meal everyday?

Hillbilly D

June 19th, 2012
3:54 pm

Nobody, under any circumstances, should ever be allowed to lie to Congress.

I have to disagree with that. When they aren’t allowed to lie to us, get back to me.

Double Zero Eight

June 19th, 2012
4:01 pm

Just goes to show that money can buy justice in
America. No one should be surprised with the verdict.
A group of high priced lawyers can usually create enough
doubt to confuse at least one juror. Clemens and Bonds
(and the rest of the cheaters) should have an asterisk after
their name in the record books. It makes no sense to
me that they will be welcomed into the Hall of Fame, while
Pete Rose is barred.

.

Double Zero Eight

June 19th, 2012
4:03 pm

Prior post should state an asterisk after their “names”.

itpdude

June 19th, 2012
4:04 pm

Baseball, the owners, the fans, the players (I stopped being a fan after ‘94) CHEERED the huge numbers and accomplishments knowing, or at least strongly suspecting, that the players were juicing. That ridiculous ‘98 homerun chase where the legit single-season HR record-holder, Roger Maris, was “bested?” I still remember hearing on a softball field, two idiots warming up talking about the HR chase and saying, “it’s great!”

And only NOW, including you Schultz, do people cry about the cheaters?

Gag.Where were you in ‘98? Where were you when it was obvious the players were juicing, but you likely said, “oh, conditioning programs are much more advanced nowadays. . . .that’s why the 1991 Twins look like a high school team compared to a 1998 team. . . .

What a joke. Shame on baseball, but also, shame on the “fans” (who all wanted the long-ball, love the DH, and hate pitching duels), the owners (who wanted their profits back after that RIDICULOUS strike that cost the WS in 1994), the players (who really are the biggest victims in the scheme because for some it was either juice or be drummed out of the league), and most of all, the journalists who at best turned a blind eye or at worst participated in the cover-up.

To hell with you all.

Matt the Brave

June 19th, 2012
4:05 pm

By the way, ClemOns on the front page? Do y’all even have editors for AJC.com? Just awful.