Innocent vs. Not Guilty
Roger Clemens was found not guilty by a federal court this week.
Ryan Braun was found not guilty by baseball's (at the time) independent arbitrator.
Both were accused of using performance enhancing drugs (PED's). Both have incurred the scorn of the public akin to Hester Prynne's dalliance with Arthur Dimmesdale in 1642. Of course today, the scarlet letter is not "A" but rather "S."
Steroids were the culture in baseball for, as best as anyone can tell, almost 20 years. Jose Canseco, once laughed off as a disgruntled kook with an ax to grind, was the first to blow the lid off the game's dirty little secret in his 2005 autobiography, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big.
But just as you wouldn't jump off a bridge bust because your friends did the same does not excuse not playing by the rules. And even the silly notion that steroids were not illegal in baseball until the passage of the 2005 drug policy is hogwash. The last time I checked, the law of the land trumps the law of the Bud every time.
Today we know that in different forms, PED's have been used and abused by the biggest names in the game. Rafael Palmeiro was found to have used steroids and was drummed out of the game for it. The cloud of suspicion over Sammy Sosa's head has rendered his 608 home runs almost as meaningless as the situations most of them were hit in.
Mark McGwire finally admitted to his steroid use; so did Jason Giambi. Barry Bonds will never admit to his because while its documentation and evidence was compelling, the government failed in their burden of proof to convict him of nothing other than a petty obstruction of justice charge.
With Clemens, the smoking gun was supposed to be the prosecution's airtight witnesses and empirical evidence. DNA was supposed to have been preserved by a medical professional. A longtime friend was supposed to have eviscerated whatever shred of believability Clemens had.
But the joke was on the feds.
Most believe that they actually saw Clemens' nose grow when he became America's laughingstock with the utterance "I think he misremembered" in speaking about his alleged steroid use to Congress on Feb. 13, 2008.
But that's all this comes down to. One publicly disastrous hearing in where Clemens was hauled in before a congressional subcommittee who apparently had nothing better to do than to try to clean up a sport that had already, albeit reluctantly, come correct on the matter years earlier.
This, of course, calls into question why Washington was even involved in the matter with more pressing issues like the housing crisis, the worldwide economy, foreign wars, terrorism, and health care to deal with. If there had been no hearing, after all, Clemens would not have been in a position to (allegedly) lie about the matter and the last four years he could have actually been able to live the life hundreds of other former ballplayers and (alleged) steroid users enjoyed.
"What a waste. I was thinking about it after all this time, what a waste of resources," Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said on Monday. "Then you hear about teachers and stuff who don't have paper and pencils for kids, and it seems like what a waste. What a waste of money."
In one way, Clemens and Braun will forever be linked as those that were officially exonerated of using PED's. They are linked by many fans' belief that both got off on a technicality. They are linked by their superstar status, and a fall from grace of the games they have dedicated their lives to.
Both may become Hall of Famers.
But this week, Braun fell to the fourth spot among National League outfielders in the All Star Game balloting, despite MVP-caliber numbers and previous league-wide popularity. This season, he has had to endure the microscope of suspicion and derision more than any other player in baseball.
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