No Connection Between Baseball and the Clemens Verdict

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For our purposes, let’s look at the Roger Clemens trial and its aftermath.

Not guilty doesn’t mean innocent.

If Clemens or his defenders are going to take the not guilty verdict as a proof of innocence of having used performance enhancing drugs, they’d better think again. The standard of proof in a criminal trial has to be beyond a reasonable doubt. This case was shaky from the start relying on testimony from a witness, Brian McNamee, who didn’t have the greatest credibility and, if the allegations were true, was a participant in the use of the drugs by Clemens. When McNamee’s own ex-wife contradicted his testimony and Andy Pettitte backtracked on having knowledge of Clemens’s drug use, the case was doomed.

Did Clemens lie under oath in front of congress? Of course.

Did the government prove that case? Did they ever have a chance at convicting him? And was it worth it to spend the amount of money, time and other resources they did for a case that wasn’t likely to result in any significant jail time—if he had to serve time at all?


In a strange way justice was done in the court of reality.

Does Clemens deserve to get into the Hall of Fame? Will he?

It’s obvious that Clemens did use PEDs to rejuvenate his career. But anecdotal evidence and the leaked findings of the Mitchell Report don’t constitute enough to warrant his exclusion from the Hall of Fame. The writers—many of whom have their own biases and look for reasons to keep players out—could keep any player from Babe Ruth onward out of the Hall of Fame.

Because there are no ironclad rules for induction based on statistics or anything else, there are no rules for exclusion either. We can debate it, but when egos and self-important gatekeeping is involved, few minds will be swayed.

Roger Clemens belongs in the Hall of Fame because he was not a creation of PEDs as certain players like Rafael Palmeiro were. Clemens was a Hall of Famer before he was accused, therefore he’s a Hall of Famer after he was accused.

It’s too soon to say whether or not he’ll get in. I don’t think it’s as easy to determine one way or the other until there’s a vote. For a player like Mark McGwire, he was a creation of the drugs. The same goes for Sammy Sosa. They’re not getting in.

For players like Clemens and Barry Bonds, they were great without the PEDs and they used them to lengthen their careers or maintain competitiveness by doing something that the majority of baseball was doing with the tacit approval of baseball itself.

If the drugs weren’t banned, how can they be punished for doing something they weren’t officially caught doing and that no one said they shouldn’t have done until after the fact?


4 thoughts on “No Connection Between Baseball and the Clemens Verdict

  1. That would qualify as a ruthless analysis. There has never been a failed test for steroids and the Andy Pettite connection to HGH is slimmer than Barry Bonds in his rookie season. The transcript of AP’s deposition verifies exactly what Clemens said before Congress – He misremembered.

    Given consistent claims by Clemens of evidence, the enormous resources of the government to investigate, the complete lack of reliable evidence, and the plea deal offered by the prosecution and refused by Clemens – why is it so hard for people to believe that he is innocent (not just Not Guilty)?

    As for the Hall of Fame, I’d argue that if you believe Clemens (or, Bonds, ARod) cheated by using HGH or steroids, you can’t accept them into the Hall. When a player is accused means nothing as the player may have been a user any time in his career – before and after an accusation. What should matter is whether the accused was actually guilty. In Clemens’ case, Not Guilty is the verdict that should apply to Hall of Fame status.

    1. Pettitte admitted he used HGH.
      To say Clemens might be innocent is pretty far-fetched. Anything’s possible I suppose but it’s pretty unlikely.
      The trial was a farce. I understand where the government was coming from in using Clemens as an example that it’s not okay to lie to congress, but after the mistrial they were putting up a front to save face and it exploded right into the face they were trying to save.
      Did the players “cheat”? The rules didn’t say anything about PEDs being banned by baseball. I guess they could come up with the weak argument that the way they procured the drugs was illegal and if they were doing something illegal it automatically implies that they were breaking a rule, but how hard would it be to find a quack doctor to secure a prescription?
      That argument could also be used to prop up the candidacies of McGwire and Sosa. Palmeiro got busted after the drugs were banned.
      The point of my piece was that baseball and the trial had nothing to do with one another. It was a federal trial and not a validation or nullification of anything baseball said or did. The problem Clemens had was that he was lying to congress. He could’ve simply not responded. It was a mess of his own making.

  2. Baseball banned steroids in 1991. Quoting from an ESPN article*:

    “On June 7, 1991, commissioner Fay Vincent sent a memo to each team and the players union that stated: “The possession, sale or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by Major League players or personnel is strictly prohibited … This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs … including steroids.” The seven-page document didn’t cover random testing — that had to be bargained with the union — but it did outline treatment and penalties.”

    In 1997, Bud Selig reissued the policy. The only thing not covered at the time was random testing for these substances. That, coming in 2003 or 2004, didn’t mean that they weren’t banned. A lot of people used them, and the league looked the other way; but this argument that they were somehow not prohibited during their greatest period of misuse is a myth that has somehow gotten around.


    1. If there was no testing, how could it be enforced? There was a banning of the substance but it sounds like it’s the same thing as banning a recreational drug. It’s illegal, so don’t do it.
      Yeah? Or what?
      There was no punishment, so why not commit the “crime”? And after Vincent was fired, it was a free for all because baseball was reeling after the World Series cancelation in 1994, the Lords of baseball were willing to do anything to get the fans to come back.
      And it worked.
      As I said in response to another comment, the players–or anyone–could go to a quack doctor and get a prescription for steroids, testosterone or HGH for a phantom malady. What would be the recourse then?

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