I haven’t read everything written about the recent Roger Clemens verdict—that he was not guilty of perjury of telling Congress he did not take performance-enhancing drugs—but I’ve read enough to form an opinion opposing some of what I’ve seen.
Goose Gossage, the great relief pitcher we all knew really belonged teaching law at Harvard, charged, “He lied!.”
The first big column I saw was in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Normally, I stay away from all papers with Journal above the headlines, but this editorial was syndicated in the Austin American-Statesman.
Jeff Schultz wrote that the decision of innocence was wrong—“Of course, he cheated.” The verdict “doesn’t matter, changes nothing,” and Clemens will get his when he does not get into the Hall of Fame. Major league players join the HOF when 75% of the writers voting say yes to their careers. The steroid and/or performance-enhancing drug connection is working better against pitchers like Clemens than cleanup hitters did.
All right, here’s my beef: We don’t believe in the judicial system for Clemens? Innocent until proven guilty hasn’t mattered since Perry Mason was on TV? Do I know if the once superstar committed perjury before Congress? No, and I wasn’t selected for jury duty, either.
You know, too, I always thought that Mitchell Report and Congressional investigation of ballplayers smelled like the infamous House on Un-American Activities bunch of the middle of the 20th century. The mantra: Don’t find something wrong with Clemens or the others and then set out to prove it—ask a lot of questions and pick a few that may sound gray on the answer sheets and scream, “Perjury!”
The Philadelphia Daily News wrote it best: “Congress forced Clemens to testify and referred him to the Justice Department when he did not say what the lawmakers wanted to hear.”
A lot of people like reporter Jeff Schultz are trying to compare the jurors’ vote to the one which freed accused double-murderer O.J. Simpson. That was a once-in-a-lifetime tragedy/verdict. The prosecution put on a terrible and terribly confusing case. The public knew much more about Simpson and his relationships to the victims than we know about Clemens’ use or non-use of steroids.
Also, trainer Brian McNamee was a dubious-at-best state’s witness against the pitcher. Schultz admits the prosecutors did a poor job in the Clemens trial. So, he should be found guilty, because of the opposition’s incompetence? A surprise that he was freed? I’d say he beat the odds of 53-47. The betting line against O.J. was 9-1.
There have been too many criminal defendants who’ve lost their lives on questionable verdicts—Bruno Hauptmann for the Lindbergh baby kidnapping (1932) and the Rosenbergs for spying in the early 1950s. Mistakes will be made to favor both sides of the courtroom, but we’re advised to respect the outcome even when we feel it’s wrong. Better get used to it, it’s not changing.
Back to baseball: Owners and players are truly the ones guilty of this steroid era, as neither fought hard enough for testing a long time ago. And maybe sportswriters didn’t push hard enough, either.