The Rocket’s Red Letter Day: Why Clemens’ Reputation Should be Restored
*Editor’s note, yesterday Mark Modeski wrote that the Roger Clemens trial was a sham and that his reputation and legacy will never be resrored. Today Max Warner takes the opposing view.*
Roger Clemens was found not guilty yesterday in United States District Court of committing perjury, making false statements and obstructing Congress. The Clemens trial stemmed from a hearing held in front of U.S. Congress in 2008, where it was alleged that Clemens lied when he gave evidence that he did not take performance enhancing drugs, and therefore committed perjury and obstruction.
The fact that the jury took little more than ten hours to deliberate over ten weeks worth of evidence indicates that they believed very little of the evidence tendered by the prosecution. The star witness of the U.S. Government was Brian McNamee, Clemens’ former strength trainer and a former strength and conditioning coach with the Toronto Blue Jays. Clemens was accused of receiving steroid injections and HGH injections between 1998 and 2001, including in the Skydome Hotel when Clemens was a member of the Blue Jays. McNamee alleged that he injected Clemens in 1998 when both were members of the Blue Jays, as well as when Clemens was a New York Yankee in 2000 and 2001. McNamee claimed to have saved various needles and other materials after some of their injection sessions, which were found to contain Clemens’ DNA. McNamee also admitted to providing HGH to Clemens’ wife and former Yankees Andy Petitte, Mike Stanton and Chuck Knoblauch. As a Jays fan, I was glad to see that as a result of this trial, the Blue Jays are at least receiving some attention in the mainstream U.S. media for a change. And I’m sure that the Rogers Centre Hotel is enjoying the free press as well.
The strange and bizarre aspect of this whole trial is that everyone seems to conveniently have forgotten that the allegations of Clemens’ PED use covered a time period where Major League Baseball had no formal policy in place to ban the use of steroids or Human Growth Hormone. The Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program was adopted by MLB and the Players Union in 2006, and MLB did not have an anti-steroid policy until 2002. This trial was about whether Roger Clemens lied to Congress, not whether he did anything wrong by taking steroids or HGH. Major League Baseball clearly sanctioned to use of HGH and Steroids before 2002, and even if Clemens had admitted to using these substances from 1998 to 2001, he would not have been breaking any rules.
Steroids and HGH were good for business for baseball owners because they (allegedly) helped players like McGwire, Sosa and Bonds slug more homeruns and draw more fan attention to the sport in the last 15 years than it otherwise would have received. I have no doubts that many pitchers used these substances during this time period as well, possibly helping them strikeout more batters and pitch deeper into games, but again, MLB was all-too-happy to receive more fan attention for these enhanced player performances.
The absolutely disgusting thing about this issue is how Major League Baseball, the owners, the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Union have been allowed by the mainstream media to wear the “white hat” in this dark chapter of baseball history. They did everything to create artificially enhanced performance in the late 90s and early 2000s, yet seem to take or receive no responsibility whatsoever. Players will take every advantage that they can within the rules of a given sport, and will sometimes go beyond what is allowable, and we, as fans which demand the absolute best from them every game, cannot blame the players for doing what they are paid to do: win games for their team. The League, and to a lesser extent the Players Union, have the duty to set the proper legal parameters for the players in Major League Baseball, and they failed miserably prior to 2002.
This was not comparable to the O.J. Simpson case where the jury reached a verdict that seemed to fly in the face of very compelling evidence. Brian McNamee was not believed by a jury of Clemens’ peers for good reason – his story changed drastically over time and he simply was not a credible witness. There was lots of circumstantial evidence that Clemens may have used PEDs, but in the system of law we so cherish in the Western World, that can rarely be taken as evidence of someone’s guilt. The only thing the U.S. Government was able to prove was that Roger Clemens associated with a very shady trainer.
Now that Clemens has been exonerated, his reputation as one of the greatest pitchers the game has ever seen should remain intact. He is a first ballot Hall of Famer, without a shadow of a doubt, and the unproven allegation of lying to Congress about whether he engaged in sanctioned juicing simply should not factor into his Hall of Fame selection. It’s hard to call someone a cheater when they may have been using chemicals which were approved by a league of less-than-extraordinary owners. It’s even harder to deny a player entry into the Hall of Fame when he has never been proven to have broken the rules of the game which he so dominated.
…and that is the Last Word.
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