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Bob Ryan

I’m happy Roger Clemens was acquitted

Roger Clemens walked out of federal court a vindicated man on Monday.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Roger Clemens walked out of federal court a vindicated man on Monday.

Of course, Roger Clemens was acquitted. The trial was the equivalent of an NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed-vs.-No. 16 seed game.

I seldom indulge in this type of rhetoric, but the government’s prosecution of Roger Clemens on this matter was a profligate waste of taxpayers’ money. It was a Loser, capital L, from the outset.

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And I’m happy he was acquitted. I’m happy because the apparent intent of the prosecutors was to put Roger Clemens in jail. Now, I happen to think Roger Clemens is often foolish and seriously delusional, but that doesn’t mean I want to see him in jail - another waste of taxpayers’ money - because he fibbed to Congress about his usage of what we’ll call The Juice.

Yes, I know lying to the government is not good form, but there’s lying to Congress and there’s LYING TO CONGRESS!!!!.

Was this a matter of life and death or national security? The answer would be no. In the big scheme of things, Roger Clemens - or anyone, really - lying to Congress about this particular matter is the legal equivalent of jaywalking. There’s a suitable punishment. But having Roger Clemens taking up space in some correctional institution, however briefly, should never have been a part of anyone’s agenda.

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The government never had the slightest chance of victory. Start with the jury composition. In order to be selected to sit on this jury, one had to be not only Roger Clemens ignorant, but sports ignorant. God forbid anyone on that jury knew the difference between a fastball and a slider, let alone the difference in effectiveness between a fastball clocking in at 87-88 m.p.h. as opposed to 93-94. God forbid anyone on that jury have any idea how Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza will be forever linked in baseball history or how prone Roger Clemens was to “re-correct’’ himself on various matters over the years.

You couldn’t sit on that jury if you had any understanding of how Nolan Ryan was Roger’s hero and how Roger was determined to emulate his hero in every way, which included staying on the mound as long as he could by being able to throw a quality fastball.

No way was Roger Clemens going to reinvent himself as a cutesy finesse pitcher. He was going to throw high-octane gas until the end, and if the only way to ensure that was to seek a little extra outside pharmaceutical help, then stick the needle right there, pal. This jury would have no conception of any such matters, and, of course, knowledge of such details are essential in any discussion of Roger Clemens.

The smartest move Roger made was in his choice of representation. Rusty Hardin turned out to be a No. 1 seed of a defense lawyer. I’m sure he was happy to relieve Roger of a substantial portion of his estimated $150 million in career earnings in order to take on the task of defending him, but he turned out to be worth every penny. His destruction of star government witness Brian McNamee, who in this competition wouldn’t even have made it to the NIT, was an instant courtroom classic.

The government’s case was flimsily constructed on the testimony of Clemens’s one-time trainer, and Brian McNamee, was, by its own admission, a “flawed’ witness. Flawed? How about “pathetic’’? How about “useless’’?

Well, sure, I believe he was telling the basic truth, but you can’t fault a Clemens- and sports-ignorant juror for dismissing his testimony after Rusty Hardin was through destroying him on the stand.

This was a court of law. Roger had to be acquitted.

OK, Roger is a free man, but that does not mean he has been acquitted in the much more informed Court of Public Opinion. It cost him a lot of money to stay out of jail, and that must be considered money well-spent. Frankly, neither you nor I should care what a Clemens- and sports-ignorant jury had to say about Roger Clemens. The rules of the game gave no other choice. The government’s case, featuring that dreadful witness, was not credible to them. They did what they should have done.

Thanks, folks. Go home now and resume your Clemens- and sports-ignorant lives.

For the rest of us, the story is only beginning.

If anyone wants to get up to speed on the Clemens matter, it is necessary to read Jeff Pearlman’s book, “The Rocket That Fell to Earth.’’ This is not some hysterical screed. This is a well-researched book authored by a legitimate journalist. I just say, read it and see what you think. Ask yourself then if any juror who actually had read it might have been inclined to change his or her vote.

I believe Roger Clemens did what he is accused of doing and that he indeed perjured himself that fateful day in Washington. The thing about Roger Clemens is that he has sometimes proven himself capable of disbelieving things that actually happened, Exhibit A being the bat-toss incident in the 2000 World Series.

I also believe that Roger Clemens did work out as hard as he says he did, and that his initial success came as a result of that hard work, which transformed him from being the No. 3 starter on a University of Texas staff to one of the great pitchers of all time.

But I also believe that the spike in his performance beginning in 1997 was not simply the result of hard work and a renewed dedication. I believe he had extra help.

Yes, I’m a Hall of Fame voter and my position is the same as it is on the other prominent steroid-linked players. I don’t believe they belong in Cooperstown. There is, however a big “but.’’

But I reserve the right to wake up someday feeling differently. It is not inconceivable that I will fall in line someday with those who say it is unfair and impossible to judge these people, that juiced pitchers were throwing to juiced batters, and who can be a proper judge and jury in that scenario? Just put them all in if they have the career accomplishments, the hallowed numbers, perhaps with some sort of disclaimer on the plaque to the effect that during their time, the use of PEDs was rampant and their name was associated with its usage.

Perhaps we voters should all get together and agree to do just that. As for Roger specifically, I think he’ll fall into Hall of Fame limbo. He’s not getting in for several years, if ever.

It’s all a big hair-hurting mess. I just know that putting Roger Clemens in jail would have served no good purpose.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.
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