"Can you really not be aware we've been building a RICO case against Tony Soprano for five f**king years? And then you blow this popcorn fart?" -- Federal agent to local prosecutor in Sopranos episode "Soprano Home Movies"
In the eight or so years that we got acquainted with Tony Soprano, one thing we learned is that he was defiant to the federal government. They chased him, they pestered him, but ultimately he knew his ability to escape them would come down to his ability to maintain dominance and lie through his teeth.
Larger than life and believing their own bullshit, Roger Clemens and Tony Soprano are not that different. At all.
I'm now going to ask all of you to do something that will be either very difficult (because it was six years ago, which in the Twitter Era may as well be 6,000 years) or very painful (given the dilapidated current state of the franchise), but remember back to the Astros' magical 2005 season.
(That feels kind of good, right? Right?)
Okay, now remember how during that season the Astros, a mediocre offensive team to begin with, went from subpar to Mendoza Line bat freeze when Roger was on the mound?
Roger had to do the heavy lifting (pun fully intended) nearly every time out just to scratch out a no decision. He finished with a decent 13-8 record and an otherworldly 1.87 ERA. On most nights he took the mound, he was a one-man wrecking crew against an opposition that was bringing its A+++ game.
Well, Clemens's perjury trial, which ended in a mistrial Thursday morning, was the total opposite of that. Roger didn't have to do anything. Nothing. Just sit there and watch the federal prosecutors serve up second-inning gopher balls to his attorney Rusty Hardin.
In baseball speak, the proceedings this week in our nation's capital were an 18-1 rout. Roger got plenty of federal run support. The only thing missing was Jose Canseco pitching ninth inning mop-up duty. (Ironically, Canseco, in all of his disjointed lunacy, would have probably prosecuted this case better than the federal government. At the very least, Canseco would have been more familiar with the subject matter.)
The trial, which consisted of a few days of jury selection, one day of opening arguments and about an hour of prosecuting attorney Steve Durham throwing batting practice to Hardin, ended in a mistrial when prosecutors played video testimony from Clemens's appearance before Congress three years ago that made mention of Andy Pettitte's conversation about Roger with his wife Laura, a huge no-no because that conversation was deemed inadmissible as evidence in pretrial proceedings.
This federal gaffe came one day after Judge Reggie Walton had to issue a warning to the prosecution for bringing Chuck Knoblauch's and Mike Stanton's (two of Roger's former teammates and two admitted steroid abusers) names into the mix.
Basically, Durham and his team tried to nibble on the outside corner one too many times. They got cute, and a furious Walton not only turned and jacked it out of the yard on Clemens's and Hardin's behalf, but also raised the possibility to Hardin of a double jeopardy scenario preventing a retrial. The judge brought this up, not Hardin.
They say that the federal government's conviction rate once a case goes to trial is something like 98 percent. Ironically, a success rate almost like Clemens's in 2001 (his steroid heyday and the year Brian McNamee decided to hoard syringes awash with Clemens's DNA), when he went 20-3 for the Yankees.
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For some reason, the government decided to trot out J.A. Happ, and now Roger is likely going to at least get to sleep in his own bed, even if most sane people still don't believe him.
I sure hope the $60 million in taxpayer money was worth it, Feds.
That was one expensive popcorn fart.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on Sporting News Radio (Sirius 94, XM 208) and 1560 The Game from noon to 3PM weekdays, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.