So now that Roger Clemens has been found not guilty of perjury, does that mean he's not guilty of anything? Rusty Hardin hopes so.
“I hope those in the public that made up their mind before there was a trial will now back up and entertain the possibility of what he has always said: using steroids and H.G.H. is cheating and it was totally contrary to his entire career,” Clemens' Houston-based defense attorney said after the verdict, as reported by Juliet Macur of the New York Times.
But it may not be that simple. As Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated wrote:
The verdict, of course, does not necessarily mean he is "innocent" when it comes to using Human Growth Hormone and illegal steroids. It simply means he is not guilty of criminal charges relating to his Congressional testimony about HGH and illegal steroids. Whether this distinction matters in the court of public opinion remains to be seen.
Michael O'Keefe of the New York Daily News told PBS News Hour, "This is a cloud that is going to hang over him for a long time. This is really going to define his legacy even long after he's dead. This is going to be an asterisk on his legacy."
But Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated 's take was exactly the opposite of that:
Not guilty, not guilty, not guilty.
In time, this is all that people will remember. Clemens won his perjury trial, and this is his prize: He can tell people that a jury declared he was not guilty. Forever....
He had a Hall of Fame-quality career before any hint of drug use. He denied the allegations, and nobody could prove he was lying.
I'm sure some voters will try to keep Clemens out. There has never been a unanimously approved inductee anyway. Maybe he won't make it in his first year of eligibility. That will make him a sympathetic figure: He can argue that he has been unfairly vilified for something nobody can prove.
And I believe that, before long, Roger Clemens will be voted into the Hall of Fame. And when that happens, he can stand next to his plaque and say "See? I was not guilty."
Rosenberg's personal opinion is that Clemens' former trainer, Brian McNamee, was likely telling the truth about injecting Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs. That was not a belief that the jury shared.
“We just could not believe that they even called their key witness, the drug dealer,” juror Joyce Robinson-Paul told the New York Daily News, referring to McNamee.
In a blistering column for Yahoo! Sports, Jeff Passan wrote that the government:
"through its equally repugnant zealotry turned a cheater into a martyr ... we're all dumber for having sat through this sham, sold to the public as setting an example not to lie to federal authorities instead of what it really was: the government's attempt to leech off the public's displeasure that athletes might not be all natural.
Coincidentally, Clemens will appear on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time next year. The Houston Chronicle 's Jose de Jesus Ortiz surveyed a few voters, with mixed responses.
"I believe today’s verdict will get him to Cooperstown on the first ballot," said USA Today 's Bob Nightingale, who also intends to vote for accused PED-users Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds.
But another veteran baseball writer, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Paul Hoynes, said no way. “I just think he’s guilty. I don’t care what the court said. I think he did it. I think he knew he was cheating, and I’m not voting for him.”
Ortiz's personal opinon about the case was firmly pro-Rocket, as seen on his Twitter feed:
No athlete has done more 4 Houston community than Clemens. Selig's stupid Mitchell Report and Congress sullied a good man. Waste of money
— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) June 18, 2012
As Brian McTaggart of MLB.com wrote, Clemens can now potentially return to being part of the Astros organization--he signed a personal services contract with former owner Drayton McLane, though he hasn't had any connection to the team since 2007.
"We want to see what he wants to do," current Astros owner Jim Crane said. "I'm sure he'll need a little time. He's been busy, but we definitely want to talk to him. He's got a contract with us, and he could add a dimension we might need somewhere down the road or immediately. As soon as he's ready to talk, we'll be ready to talk to him."