Is Roger Clemens back on the road to Cooperstown?
The journey may be a little shorter but still could take the rest of his lifetime.
Clemens was found not guilty Monday on one count of obstruction of Congress, two counts of perjury and three counts of making false statements in regards to his 2008 remarks regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.
But the acquittal settles nothing among baseball fans and Hall of Fame voters. If you thought Clemens should reside among the game's immortals before, then the verdict just validates that belief. But if you think he cheated by using steroids or human growth hormone and shouldn't be enshrined, the decision won't change your mind.
The trial was an expensive waste. Congress was embarrassed when its showy Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on baseball's steroid use was proved a sham after some players who swore they were clean later were exposed as liars. It made Congress' self-imposed guardians of the game look like morons, and someone had to pay.
It didn't help that federal prosecutors proved inept. Two days into the first trial, a blunder that any first-year law student would have avoided resulted in a mistrial. They could have let Clemens off with a scare but instead refused to back down. A 10-week second trial that further escalated the national deficit followed. The amount of tax money you pay over an entire lifetime was just flushed. Was it worth it?
Everyone knows a good lawyer is worth every dime. A cheap one turns innocent men into Alcatraz inmates. Lawyers making millions of dollars just spanked their lower paid federal brethren like whining children screaming for candy.
It's not what everyone thinks they know is true that's important in a courtroom. It's what can be proved. Clemens' attorneys destroyed the government's case.
You would think federal prosecutors would leave athletes alone and worry about more important things -- like terrorists. A seven-year investigation into Barry Bonds netted one obstruction of justice charge that never had baseball's all-time home run leader seeing the other side of prison bars. A recent two-year investigation into cyclist Lance Armstrong ended with no charges.
Now Clemens can be included on the next Hall of Fame ballot. And he should. The courts say Clemens is an innocent man.
Clemens' 354 victories and 4,672 strikeouts should make his Cooperstown entry a no-brainer. But voters have a right to make him serve purgatory first -- maybe decades until the 49-year-old can be chosen by the senior committee. It might not be fair, but many voters believe that just because the courts didn't prove PED use doesn't mean it wasn't true. Bonds faces a similar barrier.
At the 2008 hearing, Clemens admitted, "I'm never going to have my name restored."
Maybe not never -- but certainly not soon, either.