Roger Clemens Acquitted: Does it even matter?

Clemens was acquitted of all charges in court today

News broke today that the jury in the Roger Clemens perjury case had acquitted the former seven-time Cy Young Award winner of all charges in regards to his perjury charges. You may remember that Congress opened an investigation into whether Clemens lied about performance-enhancing drugs and whether he used them back in 2008. Though it seemed that the evidence against Clemens in the case (which included testimony from his trainer, Brian McNamee, and former teammate, Andy Pettitte), Clemens was found not guilty.

Not guilty. That’s a funny phrase. Think about it for a second. In the eyes of the American public, Clemens isn’t innocent. He’s not guilty. Is there a difference in the phrasing? Maybe not. But, at least for me, the verdict handed down by the jury of our peers is rather baseless and meaningless.

Anybody can make anything seem like something its not with the art of public communication. Sad, but true. People that are guilty of a crime do, at times, escape conviction because of one person’s ability to cast doubt on what may or may not be the truth. That’s why defense lawyers get paid big money, because what they do is incredibly unique and takes a long time to craft that skill.

Before I go off on a tangent about my philosophy on courtroom manner, let’s focus right back on Roger Clemens and what this really means for his legacy. At the end of the day, that’s really all that matters to the baseball loving American public. I could care less about Clemens’ personal life or his off-field interactions with trainer Brian McNamee. The only reason I even know the name of his former personal trainer is because it makes a huge difference on how I evaluate the career for someone who could’ve been in the discussion for greatest pitcher of all time.

If you happened to read the post by Vinny Ginardi and myself on TWW about the greatest pitchers of all-time, both of us made a point to leave out Clemens because, quite honestly, his career arc makes absolutely no sense what so ever. And no amount of acquittals can remove the stank of a link to performance-enhancing drugs.

Looking back on the career of Roger Clemens, I think too many people draw that the line at 1996 being the last real season in which Clemens produced without the helped of supposed performance-enhancers. In fact, I call 1996 a career outlier for Clemens, who was uncharacteristically wild. He walked a remarkable 106 batters in ’96, having only issued 80+ walks two prior seasons before that in 13 years of pitching in the Majors. Are his numbers, on paper, stark in contrast between his final 1996 season in Boston and his first season in Toronto in 1997? Absolutely. Hard to go from 10-13, 3.63 ERA and 257 punch-outs to 21-7, 2.05 ERA, 292 Ks and a Cy Young. But, he limited his walk number back down to a more controllable 68 in ’97. That explains a lot more than the drugs.

Also, remember, we’re talking about human growth hormone. It is a drug that, when properly injected, can reduce an athlete’s recovery time from injury or strenuous workouts. It limits minor injuries and masks other ailments that would otherwise hamper and athlete’s ability to succeed. For that, I look more towards the unexpected longevity of Clemens’ career, and the fact that a drug may have directly impacted the amount of time in which Clemens remained at the top of his game.

I wish it was as easy as pointing to one season for Clemens and saying “There. That’s where it started.” Sadly, nothing is ever that cut and dry. The link Clemens has to HGH is undeniable. I mean, how does your wife, your best friend in baseball (Andy Pettitte) and your personal trainer all admit to using, all while you were perfectly oblivious to everything around you and just trained really hard. I know, there’s a lot of assumption in what Clemens did and what he didn’t. But, the connection is engranied in my head, much as it is the same in yours.

I can’t look at Roger Clemens the same ever again. Even if he’s not guilty.

That, and he STILL should’ve been ejected in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series after throwing a broken bat directly at Mike Piazza. HOW DO YOU NOT EJECT HIM?!!? IT WOULD’VE CHANGED THE ENTIRE SERIES!!!

Great. Now I’ve lost my entire night. Wonderful.