Roger Clemens is found not guilty on all counts

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Roger Clemens is found not guilty on all counts

From Comcast SportsNet
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Barry Bonds. Guilty on a technicality. At least that's how much of the public sees it. It's all that came out of a seven-year investigation into baseball's home run king. Lance Armstrong. Not even prosecuted. A two-year, multi-continent investigation brought to a close this year with no charges filed. Now Roger Clemens. Acquitted on all counts. A five-year investigation ended with the top pitcher of his generation celebrating with family hugs inside the courtroom. After three expensive failures, the government is done, it seems, with the business of pursuing high-profile cases of drugs-in-sports -- with a track record not worth bragging about. "It was a tremendous waste of federal resources," said Stanley Brand, a long-time Washington defense attorney who was counsel to the House of Representatives from 1976 to 1983. "The juries that acquitted these people weren't persuaded by any of this. That's the man on the street." With the government striking out yet again, the policing of drugs in sports now falls to other entities. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency filed formal accusations last week against Armstrong that could strip the cyclist of his seven Tour de France victories. Armstrong denies any doping. Clemens, 49, was acquitted Monday on all six counts that he lied to Congress when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs. The government had been pursuing him since 2007, when he was first mentioned in the Mitchell Report on drug use in baseball, and he famously and vehemently disavowed any link to steroids and human growth hormone at a nationally televised hearing in 2008. Clemens' lawyers derided the hearing as a "show trial," and even some members of Congress at the time questioned the validity of the proceedings. But then-President George W. Bush had made the problem of drugs in sports a talking point -- even mentioning it in his State of the Union address in 2004. The FBI and Justice Department pursued a perjury case against the former pitcher that eventually involved 93 federal agents and officers. It carried over into the Obama administration, albeit without the head of the Justice Department's criminal division, who stayed out of the case because he had represented Clemens at the hearing. Attorney General Eric Holder also took no part in the case because he had worked at a firm representing Clemens. Brand questioned why the aggressive federal investigators weren't reined in. "Where was the adult supervision from the Justice Department to control these individual prosecutors from trying to make hay out of things that didn't fit the big picture?" he said. "They contorted federal statutes to try to convict these guys." In the end, the government could only find one person who could claim firsthand knowledge of Clemens' using performance-enhancing drugs. He was a flawed witness, something even prosecutors acknowledged. Longtime strength coach Brian McNamee said he injected Clemens with steroids in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and with HGH in 2000, but his story changed over the years and his only physical evidence was kept haphazardly in a beer can. Yet the case came to trial. The public perception that the government had better things to do was evident during jury selection, when many prospective jurors felt the congressional investigation was a waste of taxpayer money. One man used the word "excessive" to describe the 2008 hearings -- and he actually made it onto the final panel of 12 jurors. The trial that lasted into its 10th week yielded less than 10 hours of deliberation over several days. After the jury foreman uttered "not guilty" for the sixth and final time, Clemens teared up. He and his four sons gathered in the middle of the courtroom, arms interlocked, like football players in a huddle. Then Clemens kissed his wife, Debbie, who was a defense witness in the case. When Clemens went outside to speak to reporters, he fought hard to hold back tears. "I put a lot of hard work into that career," said Clemens, who won 354 games in 24 seasons with the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays and Astros and took home an unprecedented seven Cy Young Awards. "And so again I appreciate my teammates who came in and all the emails and phone calls. Thank y'all very much." Clemens was charged with two counts of perjury, three counts of making false statements and one count of obstructing Congress. He did not take questions after his brief statement. The jury of eight women and four men declined comment through a court spokesman. One juror, however, told the New York Daily News the panel was troubled by the prosecution's reliance on McNamee. "We just could not believe that they even called their key witness, the drug dealer," Joyce Robinson-Paul said. Defense lawyer Rusty Hardin said Tuesday that the jury, in interviews after the verdict, made clear that Clemens didn't get off on a technicality. "They are convinced he did not use performance-enhancing drugs at any time in his career," Hardin told CNN. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia issued a statement thanking the jury and respecting the judicial process, but it will be hard for prosecutors to put any kind of positive spin on another disappointing Justice Department outcome. The investigation into Bonds yielded a guilty verdict on only one count of obstruction of justice in a San Francisco court last year, based on an evasive answer he gave about injections. The jury deadlocked on whether Bonds lied to a grand jury when he denied knowingly taking performance-enhancing drugs. He was sentenced to 30 days of house arrest and two years of probation; the sentence was suspended pending an appeal. The Clemens outcome also comes on the heels of the Justice Department's failure to gain a conviction in the high-profile corruption trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards. In addition, the first attempt to try Clemens last year ended in a mistrial when prosecutors played a snippet of video evidence that had previously been ruled inadmissible. "I think he's gone through enough," said former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, who was the top Republican on the House Government Reform Committee when Clemens testified in 2008. "We did the appropriate thing in referring it over to Justice. But hopefully this will put it behind him. He's a good citizen." The panel's chairman at the time, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., also defended the decision to refer the conflicting testimony it heard to the Justice Department, but said, "Whether Mr. Clemens committed perjury is a decision the jury had to make and I respect its decision." This may well be the end of an era in which sports stars are prosecuted for getting involved with performance-enhancing drugs, said Ty Cobb, a former coordinator of the Justice Department's Mid-Atlantic organized crime and drug enforcement task force. But Cobb, a long-time Washington defense attorney and a distant relative of baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, felt the cases against Bonds and Clemens were warranted. "Lying to Congress is a serious matter. Lying to a grand jury is a serious matter, and the Justice Department should pursue those crimes without fear of losing when they think they occurred," Cobb said. Clemens' lawyers contended that the pitcher's success resulted from a second-to-none work ethic and an intense workout regimen dating to his high school days. They said that Clemens was indeed injected by McNamee -- but the needles contained the vitamin B12 and the anesthetic lidocaine and not performance-enhancing drugs. Said Hardin: "This trial was the first chance we had to let somebody on his behalf question the accusations and what we knew were the wrong perceptions of him as a person. It got to where people thought arrogance was a man saying, I didn't do it.' When a man says he didn't do it, let's at least start out giving him the benefit of the doubt." As for Clemens, the verdict is unlikely to settle the matter in sports circles as to whether he cheated in the latter stages of a remarkable career that extended well into his 40s -- during a period in which performance-enhancing drug use in baseball was thought to be prevalent. Clemens himself told Congress at the 2008 hearing, "No matter what we discuss here today, I'm never going to have my name restored." A crucial barometer comes this fall, when his name appears on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. His statistics would normally make him a shoo-in for baseball's greatest honor, but voters have been reluctant to induct premier players -- such as Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro -- whose careers were tainted by allegations of drug use. "I hope those in the public who made up their minds before there was a trial will now back up and entertain the possibility of what he has always said -- using steroids and HGH is cheating," Hardin said, "and it was totally contrary to his entire career."

Todd Frazier's late single lifts White Sox over Mariners

Todd Frazier's late single lifts White Sox over Mariners

The White Sox offense showed a bunch of late life on Thursday night.

Todd Frazier had two hits with runners in scoring position, including the game-winner, as the White Sox topped the Seattle Mariners 7-6 at U.S. Cellular Field. Frazier’s one-out single in the ninth inning off Nick Vincent scored Adam Eaton as the White Sox won for the fourth time in five games. Frazier’s game-winning hit was his first since June 2015 and the fifth of his career. It and a game-tying, two-out, two-run single in the seventh helped Frazier shake off a game in which he struck out three times in his first three at-bats.

“You learn something,” Frazier said. “You take the last at-bat and throw it away and just keep on going. Unfortunately, it took me three times to do that. To come up clutch today felt pretty good.”

Frazier leads the club in home runs and RBIs.

Similar to his teammates, however, Frazier has lefty plenty of chances for more damage on the table. He entered Thursday hitting .159 with runners in scoring position for a team that ranks 18th with runners in scoring position (.255).

While Frazier struck out with runners on the corners in the first inning, he succeeded in his next two tries. He picked up Jose Abreu in the seventh after the slugger struck out against Steve Cishek. Frazier sat on a slider and ripped a 2-0 pitch into left field to drive in Eaton and Tim Anderson, whose one-out RBI double made it a 6-4 game.

Then in the ninth, Frazier came through again. Eaton’s bloop single to center got things going before Anderson bunted him over. Vincent walked Abreu to get to Frazier, who singled to left again.

Frazier was previously 17-for-17 with five doubles, four homers and 42 RBIs with runners in scoring position.

“These are the best ones,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You can't rely just on the homer. There's more to his game than that. You have to be able to knock in runs when you're not hitting them over the fence. He can use the other side of the field. I think he can level it out somewhat and get some hits. Just put it in play more because you don't know know what's going to happen.”

[MORE: Rick Hahn denies rift in White Sox front office, holds off on plans for 2017]

David Robertson found that out in the top of the ninth inning when his outing was delayed for several minutes by a trio of fans who ran onto the field. Robertson worked around the delay and a one-out walk to keep the score tied at 6.

Down 2-0, the White Sox scored three times in the first inning to briefly take the lead.

Abreu and Avisail Garcia both singled in runs and Dioner Navarro had a bases-loaded sacrifice fly.

White Sox starter Anthony Ranaudo pitched well after a slow start and then ran into bad luck in the sixth inning. What looked to be a surefire double play ball kicked off Ranaudo’s glove and combined with an Anderson throwing error led to a three-run inning that put Seattle ahead 6-3.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Ranaudo allowed six earned runs in 5.1 innings.

The White Sox were 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“That’s just part of it,” Robertson said. “I guess that happens some times.

“Everybody played hard. They didn’t give up at all tonight. We pitched well enough to win and had timely hitting. A few things went our way, a couple errors that really ended up giving us a few runs. A few things went our way and it was great to pick up a win.”

Jay Cutler, Dowell Loggains face deepest test yet in Bears' third preseason game

Jay Cutler, Dowell Loggains face deepest test yet in Bears' third preseason game

Third preseason games come with added significance simply because it is the one practice game in which the starters play the closest to a full game prior to the start of the regular season. But for the Bears, Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs is potentially far more important for another reason.

The Kansas City game looms as something of a new tipping point in the one relationship that must function above all others for immediate success of the franchise:

The working relationship/bond between offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterback Jay Cutler.

The two-plus quarters that Cutler is expected to play will be the longest yet trial by fire for his trust in Loggains. The latter has been a coordinator previously in his career, but with less time and success in the position that most of Cutler’s previous list of coordinators.

And few of those relationships survived, let alone flourished once Cutler lost faith or belief in their messages, whether under an avalanche of sacks, poor play selection or design, or whatever.

Cutler put up the best season of his eight-year career in 2015 with Loggains as his position coach. Adam Gase was the coordinator, Gase came in with credibility from having worked with Peyton Manning in Denver. The credibility traced to not necessarily what Gase might have taught Manning, but rather because of what Gase undoubtedly LEARNED from Manning.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Saturday’s test will be far short of the ones the regular season holds, when Loggains’ offense has been scouted and schemed for. But after a stretch of “quizzes” for Cutler-Loggains, this is a “test.”

Buy-in with Loggains?

Loggains has traction with Cutler – for now. Cutler was consistent in his compliments of Loggains last year, but it was Gase ultimately in his ear on game days. Indeed, the entire offense believed in Gase: “When I’m in the huddle…and we get a play call,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said at the time, “there’s never a time where we look at each other and think, ‘Oh [darn].’”

The NFL reality is that Loggains, who has stressed an even stronger commitment to running the football (Long and associates love that), has to earn, or re-earn that gut-level trust.

Most of all, from Cutler.

The lurching start to the preseason – the Bears’ 22-0 home loss to Denver, in which the offense with Cutler netted 13 yards in 10 plays, two of them ending in sacks of Cutler – was test No. 1. The Cutler-Loggains relationship appeared to emerge intact.

“We talked,” Cutler said. “We talked a lot about that game. I think the major point for us was, ‘Let’s not panic. Let’s not hit the fire alarm and put guys in a panic.’

“Because it was the first preseason game and we watched the film and a lot of the stuff that went wrong was because of mistakes… . So it was a matter of just kind of cleaning that stuff up and just going back to work. Which I thought we did a really good job of offensively [at New England]. Hopefully we can do that this week, too.”

Tough warm-ups

NFL schedule-makers did Loggains and the Bears no favors. Their first three preseason opponents – Denver, New England, Kansas City – were all top-10 run defenses. Meaning: The Bears are working to establish Loggains’ run-based offense right into the teeth of three of the NFL’s best at stopping that.

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The Bears want to run. But just consider: What if they can’t run against a monster Chiefs front that includes Jaye Howard and Dontari Poe and which held the Bears to 3.3 yards per carry, tied for their second-lowest of 2015, in their meeting last season?

Which then tasks Loggains with getting the offense to the right solutions, and those traditionally have not been – and should not be – solely found in Cutler’s right arm. The Bears streamlined and simplified Cutler’s decision-making last year, by design, and it was the right strategy, minimizing a Cutler weakness.

But now Loggains is front-and-center in those decisions. And Cutler has never appeared to suffer from an excess of patience through his career, even the new, more mature Cutler.

And not only WHAT Loggains tells Cutler, but also HOW he tells him, will matter. Gase was generally quiet; that worked. Loggains is very expressive, which Cutler said he now appreciates.

“He sets the tone every day,” Cutler said. “There’s never a gray area. He sets the tone, sets the standard, and if you don’t live up to that, meet those expectations, he’s going to be vocal, he’s going to let you know.

“As a player, that’s all you can ask for: A coach telling you how to do it, and when you don’t do it, you expect him to push you and help you achieve those goals.”

Preseason game No. 3 will be the biggest test yet for the synchronicity that is there now but needs to stand up to inevitable failures.

Illinois lands Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo

Illinois lands Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo

Illinois added another important in-state piece as Huntley three-star ranked defensive end Olalere Oladipo (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) announced his college decision Thursday night to the Fighting Illini.

"Illinois has a great staff, is close to home," according to Oladipo. "Illinois felt like a nice fit for me."

Oladipo is also the second verbal commitment Illinois added Thursday as the Fighting Illini added a commitment from Miami (Fla.) Central four-star ranked wide receiver Carmoni Green (6-foot-1, 178 pounds).

Oladipo is now the sixth in-state verbal commitment for the Fighting Illini Class of 2017. Oladipo joins St. Rita OLB Marc Mondesir, Auburn OT Verderian Lowe, Marian Catholic QB Cameron Thomas, Chicago Brother Rice WR Ricky Smalling and Bolingbrook ATH Kendall Smith.

Illinois now has 11 known verbal commitments total in the Class of 2017.