BOZICH: Verdict Doesn't Save Clemens' Tainted Legacy - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH: Verdict Doesn't Save Clemens' Tainted Legacy

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By Rick Bozich

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Barry Bonds has to snicker. Expect a forearm shiver from Mark McGwire. Sammy Sosa will undoubtedly shrug and say that he doesn't understand the hullabaloo.

A jury in Washington, D.C. found Roger Clemens, a pitcher who won 354 games, not guilty Monday on all charges that he lied to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Excuse me while I insert the laugh track.

Add Clemens to the list of baseball players who want you to believe they turned the game's record book, and aging process, upside down by pushing through a set of extra crunches and by popping another vitamin.

No steroids. No human-growth hormones. But most of all, there is no doubt this verdict registers as another brush-back pitch to the government's efforts to pursue perjury charges against the guys that baseball is convinced were beating the system.

"It's been a hard five years," Clemens said after the verdict was announced late Monday afternoon. "I put a lot of hard work into that career."

There's little doubt that he did. Sprints. Medicine balls. Crunches. Jump rope. Nobody disputes that Roger Clemens was a workout warrior.

What is safe to dispute is Clemens' steadfast contention that the HGH in his household was ordered for his wife, Debbie.  And that Clemens was able to continue averaging better than a strikeout per inning when he was 41 without a little help from the world of performance-enhancing drugs.

Baseball ignored the evidence for as long as it could. Then McGwire hit 70 home runs in the 1998 season, adding nine to the Roger Maris record that had been safe, secure and exalted for 37 years.

Barry Bonds was a great player who became an even greater player with extraordinary longevity. Hmm. The record that Bonds shredded – Henry Aaron's record for career home runs – was even more hallowed.

Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi were having a great time hitting the baseball a long, long way, too.

Eventually the focus moved from the batter's box to the pitcher's mound. The remarkable arc of Roger Clemens' 24-season career made it impossible to look away.

From 1993 through 1996, a four-year stretch that began when he was 30, Clemens won only 40 of 79 games, pitching his way out of Boston.

Clemens landed in Toronto and won 21 and then 20 games the first two seasons he was there. It was magic. Or medicine.

I know what the jury decided. I also know what many people around baseball believe. Roger Clemens never suffered another losing season – and he pitched until he was 44 years old.

He threw hard. He threw tight. During the 2000 World Series, he even picked up a piece of Mike Piazza's broken bat and threw it back toward the hitter. Strange. Clemens said he was pumped up -- with nervous energy, of course.

One-day baseball finally had enough. The game hired former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to investigate the incredible numbers that the Clemens/Bonds/McGwire generation of players delivered.

The 409-page report, which was released in December 2007, named 89 players. Major League Baseball didn't have to say that the run on the record book was a scam. But the game has certainly moved forward as if it was.

There was a time when management and the player's association couldn't agree on how to re-schedule a rainout. They've become legitimate teammates in flushing performance-enhancing drugs from the game with both urine and blood testing.

The assault on the record-book has slowed.  The respect for what Bonds, McGwire, Clemens and the others have achieved has dimmed.

Hall of Fame voters have resisted even cracking open the door for any of the players mentioned in the Mitchell Report. It's going to be years until they will.

The verdict from the jury in Washington D.C. Monday isn't going to change that.

Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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