National Columnist

Whatever we think we know, Clemens deserves to be remembered as clean

History will judge Roger Clemens, not a jury in Washington D.C. Some of you love that, because you're convinced Clemens is guilty and are comforted that history won't be fooled as easily as that jury of Clemens' peers. History knows what it knows, and history will tell future baseball fans that Clemens was guilty of using steroids late in his career.

As for me, I'm not comforted at all. Roger Clemens won't make it into the Hall of Fame, and he won't be remembered as one of the greatest steroid-free pitchers of his or any era, and that doesn't feel right to me.

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Because Clemens has done what almost no other alleged drug cheat has done: He has walked into a court of law and beaten the charges.

Clemens hasn't technically beaten the charges of using steroids -- technically he was found not guilty of lying when he told Congress in 2008 that he had never used steroids -- but that's semantics. This trial wasn't about perjury; it was about steroids.

And Roger Clemens was found not guilty. Innocent, in other words.

Does it mean he's innocent? Well, no. Not necessarily. Guilty people go free all the time, just as innocent people go to jail. The courtroom is a place where we get answers, even if sometimes we get the wrong answer.

Lots of people -- most people, I'm guessing -- think the wrong answer came out of U.S. District Judge Reginald B. Walton's courtroom. Lots of people, even most people, think Clemens was guilty of using steroids late in his career, which means he was guilty of lying to Congress about it in 2008.

And I'm not here to tell those people they're wrong. Truthfully? I think Clemens was guilty, too. I think he used steroids or HGH or something to pitch at heretofore unseen levels in his late 30s and early 40s. I think he lied to Congress about it. That's what I think, and that's what I'll always think.

But it's not what I know.

What do I know?

I know the same thing you know: That the mighty U.S. government, with all the resources at its disposal, took its best swing at Roger Clemens and went down like Greg Vaughn, a mighty slugger himself who struck out 24 times in 45 career at-bats against Clemens, batting a measly .089 against the Rocket. I know Roger Clemens is, technically speaking, not guilty of lying to Congress about using steroids, which means he is -- technically speaking -- not guilty of using steroids.

And that's enough for me. If I were a Hall of Fame voter, which I am not, I would vote Clemens into Cooperstown -- because it would be the ultimate in hubris to keep him out on the grounds that I know more, from what I've read and seen on TV, than the jury of Clemens' peers who listened to more than 40 witnesses over 10 weeks and sifted through that mountain of information to find Clemens innocent.

How arrogant do I have to be to say the jury was wrong, and I'm right? Pretty damn arrogant, and I'm not there. Not on this. Look, this is the Ryan Braun story all over again. What we think we know about Ryan Braun and his urine sample doesn't amount to two squirts of piss compared to what independent arbitrator Shyam Das knew. He heard detail after detail after detail. He read War and Peace. You and I read the CliffsNotes. No comparison. But I'm going to sit here and say, "I don't care what anyone says, Ryan Braun was guilty"?

Nah. Not going to say it. If that makes me naïve, I can deal with that. The court system has spoken, and I choose to listen.

That's why, to me, Clemens deserves to be remembered as innocent. He deserves that much from history, though he won't get it. Barring a complete change of voting procedures or philosophy by the Baseball Writers Association of America, Clemens won't make it into the Hall of Fame. He won't come close. Those folks think he's guilty, and they're not interested in the jurors from U.S. District Judge Reginald B. Walton's courtroom. The court of public opinion has spoken, and it says Clemens is guilty.

That's not enough for me, because the court of public opinion has been wrong before. I've been wrong before.

The legal system has been wrong before too, of course. But I don't know that it's wrong here. And I'm not arrogant enough to pretend I do.

Are you?


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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