June 19, 2012 [LINK / comment]

Roger Clemens is found not guilty *

Say it ain't so! A Federal court jury acquitted Roger Clemens of perjury charges yesterday, which essentially clears him of legal jeopardy. This came about ten months after a mistrial was declared during a previous prosecution of Clemens last summer. Specifically, he was accused of lying to Congress about whether he had ever used performance-enhancing drugs. He was cited in the Mitchell Report which came out in December 2007, and a few months after that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform referred the Clemens case to the Justice Department. On Monday, however, the man who then chaired that committee, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), said that prosecuting Clemens was not necessary. See the Washington Post.

So why did Clemens get off scot free? The lead prosecution witness was Brian McNamee, who has a shady background as an athletic strength trainier and a large credibility gap. When Clemens' former teammate Andy Pettitte recanted some of his earlier testimony, doubts began to rise as to whether Clemens could be convicted.

WaPo columnist Mike Wise had a deeply sarcastic column that began, "If I ever lie to Congress..." He says "we have learned two truths: Steroids work ... and And cheating pays." (Ouch.) Extending that line of logic, if rogues like Barry Bonds or former Sen. John Edwards and can get acquitted on legal technicalities, is it possible that former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky will get off the hook? What a depressing thought...

* Much like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Sammy Sosa, Pete Rose, among others still living, and tragic long-gone figures such as Shoeless Joe Jackson, Clemens' name will always be tainted with suspicion. Each of them still has their die-hard loyal fans, and detractors. Should any of those guys be admitted to the Hall of Fame? Mike Wise says no with regard to Clemens. I'm still undecided on that. I know that defendants are entitled to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty in this country, and no doubt many people get wrongly convicted. We'll probably never know the "whole truth." But there is a certain personality type among pro athletes, politicians, and entertainment celebrities that reeks of smug arrogance, disdain for lesser beings, and contempt for the normal rules and moral codes of society. Some of the people in that list above clearly fit that pattern, and they do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. 'Nuff said.

In the world of bicycle racing, meanwhile, Lance Armstrong... (Sigh.) frown

Yankees sweep the Nationals *

The Washington Nationals faced their biggest test of the season this past weekend as the New York Yankees came to town, and they failed. In Friday's game, starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez did his best, but the Yankees' Phil Hughes did better, and the final score wasn't even close: 7-2.

Saturday's game was much better -- tense and exciting all the way through, and Ian Desmond rose to the occasion with a game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. Right after that, Adam LaRoche hit a single to right fielder [Dewayne Wise, who had just been moved over from left field,] and Tyler Moore ran from second base, sliding head first into home, just under the tag of catcher Russell Martin. [Unfortunately, however, home plate umpire Tim Timmons called him out. He had to jump out of the way during the slide, so he didn't have a good view.] Tied at 3-3, the game went into extra innings, but the Nats failed to get a single hit until the 14th inning, by which time the Yankees had taken a 5-3 lead, thanks to a double by Mark Teixera. When the Nats came to bat, they finally got two runners on base with two straight hits, but Danny Espinosa flied out and Bryce Harper grounded out, wasting the run-scoring opportunities. Harper had his worst day yet in the majors, going 0 for 7 and striking out five (5) times. He was mad as hell after the game.

* Saturday's game would have been won by the Nationals if instant replay rules were in effect for all run-scoring plays, rather than just home runs. Multiple photo and video images leave no doubt at all that Tyler Moore avoided the tag at home plate, when the umpire called him out. Instant replay will probably be expanded next year, and this game will be a major reason why.

On Sunday, which would have been the deciding "rubber" game of the series if the world were fair (which it isn't), Harper bounced back with a double and a single, but neither resulted in a run being scored. Adam LaRoche's solo home run in the second inning was the only offensive accomplishment by the lackluster Nats, who fell to the Yanks, 4-1. For the Nats' third consecutive series, the home team was swept three games straight, but this time the shoe was on the other foot, and it hurt. frown

Actually, the entire American League East came close to sweeping the National League East over the weekend. The Blue Jays swept the Phillies, and the Orioles took two of three from the Braves, as did the Rays from the Marlins. (The Mets were swept by the Reds in the only all-National League series over the weekend.) And as a result, strangely enough, the Nationals held on to a four-game lead in the NL East.

Former All-Star pitcher Brad Lidge failed to help the Nats over the weekend, allowing five runs in his last two games, and has been "designated for assignment." (You're fired!) That's a shame, but it was necessary to make room on Washington's roster for right-hand pitcher Ryan Mattheus, who had been on the disabled list.