As I write this post, there are just 36 hours left in the presidency of George W. Bush, and baseball fans might be watching closely. Pardon rumors surrounding Roger Clemens just won’t die.
On Friday, the Daily News’ I-Team blog, run by the paper’s sports investigative team, noted that Dana Perino, White House press secretary, basically shot down the idea of a Clemens pardon. Meanwhile, yesterday, Buster Olney hypothesized on the prospects of a pardon. In the end, the ESPN scribe didn’t believe a pardon would be forthcoming.
For the most part, baseball on the whole is sick of the Clemens-Bonds-steroids saga. It’s become far more about catching a big fish in a lie or half-truth about something they did five or ten years ago. While George Mitchell tried to gloss over the shortcomings of his report by half-heartedly suggesting ways the game should look forward, once he named names the report became a useless piece of sensationalistic reporting instead of a series of serious recommendations.
The Bush pardon question, though, and Clemens’ potential culpability raise some interesting questions. If Bush were to pardon Clemens, in a way, this part of the saga would be over. No longer would we have to listen to he said, he said fights between Clemens and McNamee as the game of baseball tries to move beyond the cloud of steroid.
Olney summed up the argument for a pardon in a nutshell:
He probably has already suffered the greatest punishment he will receive: the diminishment of his reputation and legacy. In the past month, a golf tournament removed Clemens’ name from its title, as did a hospital funded by the pitcher’s money. It’s possible he will never be inducted into the Hall of Fame, despite putting up the most daunting numbers of any pitcher in his lifetime.
Why bother running Clemens through the public spectacle of a trial, basically?
Well, the flip side of that argument is a good one. It’s possible that Clemens lied to Congress, and as Olney writes, if Bush pardons his friend Roger Clemens, he may have to do the same for Barry Bonds. At that point, millions of government dollars and thousands of man-hours would basically have gone to waste. Of course, many people already think the money has gone to waste, and a witch hunt for Bonds or Clemens won’t make anyone feel better.
In the end, a Clemens pardon is probably, as Olney said, a headline-grabbing event that Bush seems to be trying to avoid in his final day in office. He’s taken heat for the Isaac Toussie pardon and seems much less trigger-happy on the pardon issue than Bill Clinton did during the waning days of his presidency.
So the steroid circus will continue. While I’d hardly advocate for pardoning Clemens or Bonds, part of me thinks the health of baseball and the continued success of the game would benefit from the opportunity to put the Steroid Era behind us once and for all.