No one earns ‘W’ in Clemens’ trial

To the surprise of very few who paid attention to the proceedings, Roger Clemens received a not-guilty verdict last week from the jury on charges of perjuring himself before a congressional committee in 2008.

It is never a good sign when the judge admonishes the prosecution in midtrial for putting jurors to sleep during their presentation of its case.

So, after two trials, countless hours of work and an estimated $3 million in costs, the federal government did not lay a glove on Clemens, whose next trial will come when his name appears on Hall of Fame ballots.

Those ballots will be mailed out to baseball writers in November, featuring Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa in what will no doubt be remembered as the first Hall of Fame class of the Steroids Era.

But the question here is what have federal prosecutors accomplished by pursuing Clemens through two judicial proceedings? Don’t forget the case that was declared a mistrial in July 2011.

Obviously, they wanted Clemens found guilty and, at the least, ordered to pay
a fine of more than $1 million.

And if Clemens were sentenced to a day or two on the wrong side of the cell bars, all the better.

Well, the prosecutors swung and missed badly on that front.

Perhaps they wanted to send a message to anyone who might be tempted to fib at a congressional hearing.

They may be able to claim a measure of victory there, since Clemens’ life has been disrupted from Day 1 of the investigation. And he has had to dip into his deep bank accounts to pay for the lawyers who gained his acquittal.

Odds are, if someone is inclined to lie at a hearing, they are unlikely to pause at a reminder of the Clemens case.

Some may claim that Clemens’ trial kept the issue of steroids in the public eye, and that in itself might have been worth the cost.

Our response to that: The steroids controversy was never in danger of being forced off center stage. And it remains unlikely that it will fade away any time soon.

Congress, of course, will now back away from those 2008 hearings as fast as it possibly can. It was clear then, and remains so, that the hearings were nothing beyond an exercise in political theater, something designed for one and all to get lots of face time on television.

Perhaps the hearings reminded Major League Baseball that threats of losing its priceless anti-trust exemption were real. It seems that could’ve been accomplished with greater financial efficiency by calling in baseball’s leadership and putting the anti-trust exemption, and the consequences of its removal, squarely on the table.

As for the prosecutors, the trial smacked of a team of lawyers going on a big-game expedition. There is nothing like putting the head of a major celebrity on the office wall to get a lawyer a lifetime of national exposure.

Did Clemens lie to Congress?

Only he knows.

If he did, is he ever likely to admit it?

Probably not.

Will he be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame?

We’ll find out.

But a plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y., is unlikely to ever sway members of the public, or authors delving into the history of baseball’s dirty little secrets, from the feelings they already have toward Clemens and his career.