The Federal Government, whose batting average has dipped well below the "Mendoza Line" when it comes to prosecuting cases involving high-profile athletes, will step into the batter's box on Monday, and will once again attempt to take Roger Clemens
Last July U.S. Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial accusing prosecutors of making a mistake that even a ''first-year law student'' wouldn't make when they allowed the jury to see evidence that he had ruled inadmissible.
This time around both sides have beefed up the number of lawyers at the table - enough so that they could combine to fill out a starting lineup - with a couple of relief pitchers thrown in. Both sides will spend copious amounts of money trying to discredit and ruin the reputation of the other side - as if they hadn't already achieved that outcome.
Clemens won 354 games in a 24-year career that saw him win seven Cy Young Awards as the top pitcher in his league. The former Longhorn is one of only four pitchers to have recorded more than 4,000 strikeouts in his career.
Clemens becomes eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame next year, but as one of the players named in the 2007 Mitchell Report following an instigation into baseball doping, Clemens faces a tough fight given the little support given to others linked to banned substances, even without a high-profile prosecution to battle.
The government will again attempt to prove that Clemens committed perjury, made false statements, and participated in an obstruction of Congress by telling a House committee under oath, in both a public hearing and in a deposition with committee staff, that he hadn't used steroids or human growth hormone during his 24-season career.
The prosecutions key witness against Clemens' will be his former strength trainer, Brian McNamee, who says he injected the pitcher with performance-enhancing substances and held on to some of the used needles that will be entered as evidence. Obviously the defense will try to discredit McNamee, who provided drugs to several professional baseball players and has acknowledged he hasn't always told the truth about Clemens' drug use and other matters.
The defense will also have to try and discredit another prosecution witness, Andy Pettitte, a close friend and former teammate.
Pettitte says that Clemens, in a private conversation in 1999 or 2000, acknowledged using HGH. Clemens has said Pettitte "misremembers" their conversation. As if the New York media didn't have enough to chew on over this case, Pettitte recently came out of retirement and is currently pitching in the Yankees minor league system, hoping to return to the major league rotation within the month.
Judge Walton gave both sides even more incentive to ratchet up their presentations since the mistrial. Aside from trying to clear his name from the allegations that the end of his remarkable 24-year, 354-win career was the product of something more than an intense fitness regimen, Clemens faces the real prospect of jail time if convicted.
Last July, Walton said he quickly declared a mistrial, ''Because if this man got convicted, from my perspective, knowing how I sentence, he goes to jail,''
U.S. sentencing guidelines suggest he would receive up to 15 months to 21 months in prison if found guilty on all six counts. The maximum sentence is 30 years and a $1.5 million fine.
Meanwhile federal prosecutors got a warning of their own from Walton. In a newly released transcript that he gave to both sides in September, Walton warned the government that some of the jurors in the first trial felt that trying the case a second time would be ''a waste of taxpayers' money at a time when we have significant fiscal problems in our country.''
Expensive, high-profile prosecutions of late have not produced the results that federal prosecutors were looking for. A seven-year pursuit against home run king Barry Bonds yielded a guilty verdict on just one count - obstruction of justice - and a sentence of 30 days confinement at his Beverly Hills estate. Bonds has appealed his conviction.
The Justice Department also recently closed, without bringing any charges, an expensive, two-year investigation of possible drug use by seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
The trial is expected to last four to six weeks, plenty of time to slap a little more mud on both sides, as well as Major League baseball, as it gets to have the games steroid era dragged out in front of the public just as the season hits stride.