Roger Clemens leaves the federal courthouse with attorney Rusty Hardin in Washington

Searching for meaning in the Clemens mistrial ruling


It takes a pretty unique intellect to look at what happened with the Roger Clemens case yesterday — a mistrial ending the thing before it began — and consider it anything other than awesome news from Roger Clemens’ perspective.  No, he may not be 100% out of the woods yet, but when you get your criminal trial stopped on a mistrial due to the government screwing up royally on Day Two, that’s a pretty darn good thing.

But Mike Lupica wants Roger Clemens to know that he has no reason to celebrate at the moment, noting that most legal experts don’t think that the potential knockout punch of the case — an argument that a retrial would be double jeopardy — is likely to be successful. That much may be true. I agree that it’s a stretch that the judge will say double jeopardy attaches and thus prevent a re-trial. But how Lupica can look at this as anything other than a good development for Clemens is somewhat mystifying to me.  Take this quote:

“If (Clemens) is convicted,” Reggie Walton said, “knowing how I sentence, he goes to jail. He is entitled to a fair trial. He cannot get that now.”  In that moment, it was as if Walton was coming at Clemens and his lead attorney, Rusty Hardin, with high, hard stuff of his own.

Lupica goes on to quote an attorney who believes that the judge was sending a message to Clemens as well, with that message being “you had better make a deal now.” Never mind that there is no deal on the table available to Clemens at the moment.

Contrary to Lupica and his source’s view, all I see is a judge who has a reputation for giving out harsh sentences acknowledging how serious the government’s error was.  He’s saying Clemens faced real consequences if he lost — which he did — thus making the prosecution’s error all the worse. His comment had nothing to do with his assessment of the merits of Clemens’ defense. Indeed, it would be improper for the judge to actually say something which signals his opinion as to whether Clemens was truly in deep doo-doo because, at least potentially, there’s going to be another jury seated in a few months and he can’t be in the business of prejudicing them. He’s saying that the gravity of the government’s mistake was huge. Nothing more.

Or maybe something a little more, but not what Lupica is thinking. At least one legal observer thinks that the mistrial ruling — in action, if not in the judge’s words — gave insight into the judge being not particularly impressed with the government’s case:

Artur Davis, a former federal prosecutor and former United States representative from Alabama, said that the swift decision revealed Walton’s underlying opinion of the case.

“The judge could have just admonished the prosecution and embarrassed them enough to undermine their credibility with the jury, but he purposely chose not to do that,” Davis said. “For him to take the very extreme step of stopping the trial says he was fundamentally skeptical of the case.”

That may be a stretch too. And of course, you know what they say about opinions and how everyone got one.  But I see Lupica’s view of this thing being colored by some measure of dissatisfaction that Clemens is getting away with something, causing him and his source to stretch to find some sort of negative here.  And I get that because, man, I’m not a big fan of Roger Clemens or Rusty Hardin myself.

But when you wake up in the morning on trial for your freedom, and you go to bed that night with that trial gone and your prosecutors humiliated, that’s a pretty damn good day. That Lupica can’t acknowledge that is rather curious.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.