Dan Shaughnessy

Clemens gets out of a jam

Mistrial is Rocket's biggest victory ever

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By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / July 15, 2011

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Call it the biggest win of Roger Clemens’s career.

The Rocket won 354 games in the big leagues. He won 192 games for the Red Sox, still a franchise record (along with Cy Young, which is somehow fitting). He won seven Cy Young Awards. He won an MVP. He won a World Series. He won two games in which he struck out 20 batters and walked zero.

But Clemens’s greatest victory was yesterday in Washington, when US District Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial in federal court after the government introduced evidence that had been barred by the court.

Are you kidding me? Could the feds look any more foolish? Untold millions of dollars have been spent on the George Mitchell report (in which Clemens is named 82 times) and an exhaustive investigation that involved 103 law enforcement people, five lawyers and 72 investigation locations. And the prosecutor gets his clocked cleaned by Roger’s rube attorney, Rusty Hardin?

This is an absolute joke. Clemens voluntarily went before Congress in 2008, unleashed a stream of whoppers that would have made any polygraph explode, and got slapped with a perjury indictment. It’s all erased now because the boobs in the prosecutor’s office showed the jury some video of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) referring to former Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte’s recollection of conversations with Pettitte’s wife, Laura. Suddenly, Hardin looks like the smartest guy since dumb-like-a-fox Joe Pesci fooled ’em all in “My Cousin Vinny.’’

Roger, Rusty, Deb, the K-kids, the Hendricks Brothers and Roger’s pals must be having a good laugh over this one. The feds were foiled in the Barry Bonds trial, but at least they came away with one guilty count of obstruction of justice. This time, they came away with nothing but abject embarrassment and the wrath of the nation’s taxpayers.

You should be infuriated. I am. A lot of sports fans were opposed to this trial on the grounds that it was a waste of money. You know the argument - “who cares if Roger cheated and lied? That was a long time ago. He’s a baseball player. He’s not a threat to society.’’

I was in the other corner, defending the feds. I wanted to see Clemens stand trial and try to explain how he could stand on front of Congress with such defiance in the face of so much contrary evidence. Ballplayers and sports executives routinely lie to the media and it doesn’t really matter. But I shared the naive opinion that it’s not OK to lie in front of Congress or grand juries. The American system needs to be protected from blatant abuse of sworn testimony. It also seems like a good idea to remind young people that it’s not OK to take performance-enhancing drugs to advance in your sport of choice. I’m one of those suckers who believes in a level playing field.

But now that’s all out the window. The folks who said this was a waste of money were proved correct. It was a waste of money. It was royally botched, and now it may be gone forever.

“I would think that a first-year law student would know that you can’t bolster the credibility of one witness with clearly inadmissible evidence,’’ said Walton.

There’s a spanking for you.

There’s a hearing Sept. 2 to determine if there’ll be a new trial. Good luck with that one. Certainly there’s no appetite for a return to this business. It was a tough sell the first time around and it was fumbled in swift and spectacular fashion. The Clemens camp now will have a sympathetic audience when it claims this is a witch hunt.

The feds had their chance and they blew it. Clemens won and he won big.

If there’s no retrial, Clemens can move on with his life and his Hall of Fame expectations without fear of a prison sentence. His stupid decision to go before Congress will fade into the Texas sunset. He’ll still be stuck with the Mitchell Report and all of trainer Brian McNamee’s syringes and gauze pads, but he’ll suddenly become something of a sympathetic figure. He might be remembered as a cheater, but he won’t be a convicted felon with jail time on his résumé. Perhaps many of his PED transgressions will be “misremembered’’ when his name comes up on the Cooperstown ballot.

It’s a joke. The feds had everything they needed this time. They had Clemens cold in his own lies. But they couldn’t get out of the early innings. Like Roger Clemens in Oakland in the playoffs in 1990, they were ejected by their own stupidity before the end of the second inning. Wonder if lead prosecutor Steven Durham was wearing eye black and wearing Ninja Turtle shoelaces?

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

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