Skip to main content

Going after Clemens stupid, political

By Jeff Pearlman, Special to CNN
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Tue June 19, 2012
Roger Clemens speaks to the media in Washington on Monday, June 18, after he was found not guilty of lying to Congress during an investigation of steroid use among Major League players. Click through the gallery for a look back at his career. Roger Clemens speaks to the media in Washington on Monday, June 18, after he was found not guilty of lying to Congress during an investigation of steroid use among Major League players. Click through the gallery for a look back at his career.
HIDE CAPTION
Clemens through the years
Clemens through the years
Clemens through the years
Clemens through the years
Clemens through the years
Clemens through the years
Clemens through the years
Clemens through the years
Clemens through the years
Clemens through the years
Clemens through the years
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jeff Pearlman: Now Roger Clemens is cleared, we can all agree this was waste of time
  • Pearlman asks with all that's wrong in the country, why did government go after ballplayer?
  • He says everyone knows Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs
  • Pearlman: Exile from baseball is enough; government wasted time, money to pursue Clemens

Editor's note: Jeff Pearlman is a columnist for SI.com. He blogs at jeffpearlman.com. His most recent book is "Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton." Follow him on twitter @jeffpearlman.

(CNN) -- Well, Roger Clemens has finally done it.

After winning 354 games and two World Series titles, after striking out 4,672 batters and being selected to 11 All-Star Games, after bringing hope to Boston and bliss to New York and revival to Houston, the Rocket has, at long last, accomplished something bigger than the game of baseball itself. Somehow, this man -- this preposterous man -- has united America.

It's true. With Monday's acquittal of charges that Clemens lied to Congress in 2008 when he insisted he never used performance-enhancing drugs during his 24-year big league career, Americans across all boundaries came together as one. Republicans and Democrats, tea partiers and Occupiers, Christians and Jews, blacks and whites, dog lovers and cat lovers, nuns and death row inmates -- all could hold hands and sing in one loud, harmonious voice, "What the hell is our government doing?"

Jeff Pearlman
Jeff Pearlman

Seriously, what the hell is our government doing? When the 12 jurors (eight men, four women) made it clear Monday that Clemens would be found guilty on none of the six counts, the retired pitcher bit his lip, wiped tears from his eyes and hugged his sons. He just as easily could have flashed a middle finger toward the prosecutors.

News: Baseball great Roger Clemens found not guilty of perjury

The unemployment rate is 8.3%. Our roads are crumbling, our bridges falling apart. Our public schools are in dire need of, well, everything. Cities near and far require larger police and fire forces. Health care demands serious attention. On and on and on and on.

Toobin: Steroid prosecutions mostly fail
Why the Clemens case fell apart
Clemens on verdict: Time to be thankful
What are Clemens' Hall of Fame chances?

And the government spends four years and, undoubtedly, million upon million of dollars going after ... a ballplayer?

Really?

I'll tell you what -- let's take a break here and get some things out of the way. Three years ago I wrote "The Rocket That Fell to Earth," a biography of Clemens. (Note: If you think this is a sales plug, it's not. I assure you, plenty of copies can be had in the 50%-off bin at your neighborhood dollar store.)

I devoted a good chunk of time to researching the man's life and career, and will proceed to answer the pressing questions: A. Did Clemens take some sort of performance-enhancing drug? Almost certainly; B. Was he aware he was taking some sort of performance-enhancing drug? Almost certainly squared; C. Is it possible that his wife, Debbie, took HGH without Clemens knowing, and that Andy Pettitte, his pious Yankee teammate, lied when he testified under oath that Clemens confided in him about his HGH usage? Uh, no; D. Is Clemens a dunderhead of epic dunderheadedness? Son, you don't even know the half of it.

Personally speaking, I have little doubt (translation: absolutely no doubt) that Clemens cheated. Nor, for that matter, do the majority of the Major League contemporaries I've interviewed through the years.

And he will pay for this in enormous ways -- his dream of being voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (dead); his invitation to Old Times Day at Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium (lost in the mail); his position as a broadcaster or Big League pitching coach (don't hold your breath). Clemens hasn't sniffed a new endorsement opportunity for years, and they sure as hell won't start coming now. He is a baseball pariah -- Barry Bonds without the uncanny cruelness.

And, truth be told, that should be enough. Like Pete Rose before him, Clemens lives for baseball. It is his air, his food, his blood, his identity. To deny him of a place in the game is to deny him of a reason to look forward. Yet the U.S. government and, specifically, the U.S. attorney's office, saw something extra special in Clemens. He was an easy mark, an uncomplicated target in complicated times.

So why wouldn't the government go after Clemens? He seemed to be, like Kathie Lee Gifford and the old Soviet Union, a common enemy everyone could loathe. Surely baseball fans near and far would commend America's political class for trying to clean up the game they so dearly love.

There was just one wacky problem: As unpopular and unlikable as Clemens may well have been, he was never nearly as loathed and untrustworthy as the U.S. government.

Now, it's on to his next career ...

Politics.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jeff Pearlman.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT