thoughts on the Mariners, MLB draft, and more homelinksdraftabout me

The Clemens Mistrial

As I got ready to go to work yesterday morning, I just had to stop. I rather literally stopped dead in my tracks, when I saw the headline that the Roger Clemens trial was over barely after it started, thanks to a mistrial.

That probably says something about how I feel about baseball. Still, wow. What an unexpected, stunning end to a couple years of tense build-up.

I have no idea what to make of the legal happenings. I am a sports fan with a math major and a job tutoring high school students. I am no budding paralegal. There are some guys over at ESPN with law degrees that wrote and said things. Sports Illustrated also has their two cents. Dan McLaughlin at Grantland also provided a meaty write-up on the mistrial. I am sure many others have chimed in with better informed opinions of what will happen too.

For what it is worth, I asked a friend who used to work in a legal firm about the mistrial, and he anticipates that the odds of a retrial are tied to the merit of the trial itself. Judges do not like having their decisions appealed, so the judge likely is not interested in rejecting a retrial, only to have the decision appealed and ultimately overturned.

That's probably already farther than I should have gone with any sort of analysis of what's next.



What I do know is that Roger Clemens got lucky today. I doubt anyone expected the prosecutors to make such a dubious mistake. Maybe it was intentional, maybe not. Either way, it was a dubious mistake. It seems that the judge was well aware of the tax money that had gone into the case, and was not interested in throwing all those dollars out the window.

This wasn't some slimy, underhanded move by Clemens's legal team. They had to call out what was so obviously wrong, and the judge had little choice but to do what had to be done. A costly blunder like this always looks bad for the government, but looks especially bad right now with all the scrutiny on the fiscal responsibility (or lack thereof) on Capitol Hill.* I didn't think there was any way this trial could unfold in some way that would make me dislike the prosecution, but they proved me wrong barely 24 hours in to what was supposed to be a rather long trial.

*For the record, it feels very weird to talk about politics and the courts on this blog. Very, very weird.

It seems that from most angles, it is hard to fathom that the Clemens trial ended so soon and abruptly. However, the more I thought about the steroid era, this should go down as the ending. It's perfect.

We will never have details about the steroid era. It was too widespread and too secretive to ever unravel. We can say with confidence that many players took PEDs, and that there are not as many these days taking them as there used to be. There are also a few players that we know used things for sure, along with a large contingent of players that the public in general seems pretty certain isn't clean. The feelings are widespread enough to keep players out of the Hall of Fame.

This case had a good chance to be the exception, where clarity emerged in some sort of concrete, meaningful way.

Roger Clemens became a highly unlikeable character as he violently denied any sort of steroid use. Not that personalities and perceptions should matter in the court of law, but let's be honest - every jury member is human, and it's way easier to punish someone that's arrogant, surly, and borderline belligerent. It is harder to punish a likable figure, simply because they are likable. Even if every member of the jury had no idea who Clemens was at the start of the trial, I doubt his strong demeanor would avoid the hearing, whether it was invited or not.

On top of that, tactically, Clemens's scorched-Earth denials had to have made the prosecution's job easier. Virtually any evidence that could plant a seed of doubt with his overly zealous stance would have been damaging.

It seemed so clear that Clemens had done himself no favors, and the government wasn't about to grant him any either, particularly after Barry Bonds got away more or less without consequence. Clemens faced a storm that seemed hard to escape.

Then, this happens. A mistrial of all things. Not only did the jury never deliberate, the decision happened so early that none of the evidence was really presented.

Once again, the steroid area recedes into the fog and shadows. It seems as if there is an invisible hand that keeps the details cloaked. At first it could be blamed by an unfortunate combination of factors within the game, but that context is gone. The mysteries persist, now against what seemed like good odds for some sort of resolution.

* * *

I applied to graduate school at Seattle University last year. My application wasn't considered because it was incomplete. That surprised and infuriated me, because I was certain I had everything in.

As it turned out, I was right. The "missing" document was in my file the whole time. It simply had been labeled incorrectly. Even with the simple mishap, things should have still been fine. Seattle University has several notification systems in place to alert applicants of missing documents.

Seattle University sent a letter to me that mentioned the "missing" document months before it would have been a problem. The letter also had details on how to review the status of my application online. That letter got lost in the mail. There also was an e-mail alert system that should have notified me of my incomplete application multiple times, but it malfunctioned. It took a while to catch because only a batch of applicants were not receiving e-mails, and for everyone else it was working fine. As you probably have guessed by now, I was in the unfortunate batch.

In the end, I wasn't angry. I came away feeling like it simply wasn't meant to be.

I've got a similar feeling about the steroid era. Maybe my Seattle U application is a bad example, because I found out all the details, but the principle is the same. We aren't ever going to get closer on the steroid era. It simply isn't meant to be.

In a roundabout way, the Clemens mistrial hammers home that the steroid era will forever be punctuated more by question marks than asterisks. It is time to move on. It has been time to move on.