In the end, it was the government that struck out in the Roger Clemens perjury trial. But Monday’s not guilty verdicts weren’t a triumphant vindication of the star-crossed hurler. Rather, they return the question of Clemens’ alleged violations of baseball’s drug policy to the fandom, where it probably should have been all along — or at least ever since his first trial ended with a hung jury. As with the recent John Edwards prosecution, which this one resembled as an effort to make an example out of a high-profile defendant, the government should have given up after one attempt.
At that point, prosecutors had already brought important publicity to the issue of steroids and human growth hormones in baseball, helping both to cleanse the pro game and discourage kids from following suit. Both were noble aims. Putting Clemens in prison for lying to Congress wasn’t as urgent a task.
Now, the pitcher will be looking for ways to rehabilitate his reputation, with Hall of Fame voting on the horizon. Two routes come to mind: Loud protestations of innocence on TV, and quiet good works in his communities, at home in Texas and in the larger baseball world. He should choose the latter.