Searching for meaning in the Clemens mistrial ruling

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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.

Jones, Maddux, Morris consider Bonds, Clemens for Hall

USA TODAY Sports
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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Hall of Famers Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Jack Morris and Ryne Sandberg are among 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee that will meet to consider the Cooperstown fate of an eight-man ballot that includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro.

Hall of Famers Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also are on the panel, which will meet in San Diego ahead of the winter meetings.

They will be joined by former Toronto CEO Paul Beeston, former Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs executive Theo Epstein, Anaheim Angels owner Arte Moreno, Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng, Minnesota Twins president Dave St. Peter and Chicago White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams.

Three media members/historians are on the committee: longtime statistical analyst Steve Hirdt of Stats Perform, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Neal and Slusser are past presidents of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Hall Chairman Jane Forbes Clark will be the committee’s non-voting chair.

The ballot also includes Albert Belle, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy and Curt Schilling. The committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A candidate needs 75% to be elected and anyone who does will be inducted on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the BBWAA vote, announced on Jan. 24.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their 10th and final appearances on the BBWAA ballot. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program, just over two weeks after getting his 3,000th hit.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) in 2021. Support dropped after hateful remarks he made in retirement toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the BBWAA ballot in 2019. Murphy was on the BBWAA ballot 15 times and received a high of 116 votes (23.2%) in 2000. Mattingly received a high of 145 votes (28.2%) in the first of 15 appearances on the BBWAA ballot in 2001, and Belle appeared on two BBWAA ballots, receiving 40 votes (7.7%) in 2006 and 19 (3.5%) in 2007.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.

This year’s BBWAA ballot includes Carlos Beltran, John Lackey and Jered Weaver among 14 newcomers and Scott Rolen, Todd Helton and Billy Wagner among holdovers.