Capitals

So what does that mean for his HOF chances?

515656.jpg

So what does that mean for his HOF chances?

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Acquitted in court, Roger Clemens must wait a half-year before finding out whether he cleared his name in the minds of Hall of Fame voters. Standards for conviction are clear in court, less so in baseball, where Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have been bypassed for the Hall thus far despite distinguished careers. "I think the voters have already spoken, with McGwire and Palmeiro. I don't see him getting into the Hall of Fame as a first-year eligible," said ESPN reporteranalyst Tim Kurkjian, who plans to vote for Clemens. Clemens was acquitted Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C., on six counts that he lied and obstructed Congress when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs. "I think everybody believes he was guilty in some form or fashion," said John Harper of the New York Daily News, who doesn't plan to vote for Clemens. "I think that's the real issue as far as voters go. I know that's an issue for me." Rusty Hardin, Clemens' defense attorney, said his client never fixated on whether or not he would gain admission to the Hall. "You know, the Hall of Fame thing, that's always been other people's concern," Hardin said Tuesday morning during an appearance on CNN. "Roger has made clear that wouldn't have driven him. He wanted to be considered the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball. ... "If he's judged in history by people in baseball to have been a great pitcher, that's good enough for him. If the writers decide to put him in the Hall of Fame, that's fine. If they don't, that's their call. This guy is one of the best people who happen to be also a great pitcher that I've ever known." Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa all will be first-timers on the ballot, which in some ways will be a referendum on the Steroids Era. Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and Craig Biggio also will be making their initial appearances. "I haven't made any final decision on my votes, but my opinion has always leaned toward the idea that it is unfair to make Hall of Fame voters the steroids police," The Seattle Times' Larry Stone said. "We'll never know definitively who used and who didn't use, and MLB has never disallowed any statistics, so my inclination is to make judgments based on their performances on the field." Asked about Clemens' chances for making the Hall, NBC's Bob Costas said: "A guilty verdict would have damaged his reputation. It remains to be seen how much or if this verdict helps it." Costas doesn't cast a ballot; Hall of Fame voters are veteran members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. "I think some people will assume that he may very well have lied, but that the government couldn't prove it," former commissioner Fay Vincent said. "They may have real reservations about his record in light of those questions. But I think it modestly improves his chances of being elected to the Hall of Fame." Clemens spent 4 years proclaiming his innocence after Brian McNamee, his former personal trainer, told baseball investigator George Mitchell that he injected the pitcher with steroids and human growth hormone about 16 to 21 times during 1998, 2000 and 2001. On Monday, a jury of eight women and four men agreed with Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner. "I think it's great for the game because we can stop talking about it now," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "I'm pretty sure baseball fans are happy it's over." Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, a longtime friend of Clemens and a key witness in the case, wouldn't give his opinion on the verdict, saying only: "I don't even care to talk about that." Pettitte was believed to have given Clemens a boost when he testified there was a 50-50 chance he might have misunderstood a conversation during the 1999-2000 offseason that the government claimed was proof Clemens admitted using HGH. "We get all these trials out of the way, we can move on," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, a former Clemens teammate. "Now, it seems like we're beyond it." Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig declined to comment on the verdict. Union head Michael Weiner said Clemens was "vindicated." "We look forward to him taking his rightful place in the Hall of Fame," Weiner said. Vincent called it a "big win" for Clemens and his lawyer. "It's a major defeat for the Justice Department -- one of a series," he said. "I think the government is at a huge disadvantage against really good outside lawyers." Clemens is the latest sports figure to frustrate the federal government's efforts to nab suspected steroid cheats despite prosecution costs of tens of millions of dollars. Bonds, a seven-time NL MVP, was convicted of a single obstruction of justice count that he gave an evasive answer to a grand jury in 2003, and charges were dropped last year that he made false statements when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs. A grand jury investigation of Lance Armstrong was dropped last winter without charges being filed, though the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency filed formal accusations last week that could strip the seven-time Tour de France winner of his victories in cycling's premier race. Armstrong denies any doping. Federal agent Jeff Novitzky and his teams of investigators have obtained only two guilty pleas from athletes (Olympic track star Marion Jones and former NFL defensive lineman Dana Stubblefield); and two convictions (Bonds and sprint cyclist Tammy Thomas). Jones, who also pleaded guilty to making false statements about her association with a check-fraud scheme, was the only targeted athlete to serve a day in prison. Bonds' conviction still must survive an appeal. Clemens has no such worries. With a 354-184 record, 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, he would have been a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer when the votes are totaled in January. But since the day the Mitchell Report was released, his reputation has been tainted by suspicion. Still, Cleveland Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin was thrilled for Clemens, one of his boyhood heroes growing up in Texas. "If a case goes on that long and the jury decides he's not guilty, then obviously he's telling the truth," he said.

Quick Links

How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

The Capitals found themselves in deep trouble on Saturday.

Game 5 at Capital One Arena provided Washington a golden opportunity to take a 3-2 lead in their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A loss -- another home loss -- would have been a devastating blow.

After battling back from a 2-0 series deficit, to lose in Washington would mean facing elimination in Columbus. Game 5 was the game the Caps needed and it would have slipped away from them if not for Nicklas Backstrom.

The Caps’ most underrated superstar -- the one who is constantly overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby -- took center stage on Saturday as he tipped a Dmitry Orlov shot past Sergei Bobrovsky at 11:53 of overtime to seal the victory for Washington.

“It was just a good shot from [Orlov],” Backstrom said after the game. “I thought before he had a chance to block it, and I got a tip on it, and it’s usually what happens in the playoffs. Tip goals or rebound goals. That’s the way it is. It was nice.”

Backstrom’s overtime goal capped off a three-point night for the veteran center, who also scored in the first period and assisted on a goal from T.J. Oshie.

The team ended up needing every one of his points.

From the start, Columbus outplayed Washington. With the series tied 2-2, a best-of-three mentality took over and the Blue Jackets pushed hard for the pivotal Game 5 win.

It is in those very moments that team needs its superstar players to step up. In Game 3, it was Holtby who stole the show to help Washington steal a win in Columbus.

On Saturday, it was Backstrom.

Columbus converted a shorthanded goal to seize a 1-0 lead in what was shaping up to be a dominant first period. A fluke goal from Backstrom, however, made sure the score was knotted up, 1-1, after the opening frame.

With the puck behind the goal line, Backstrom tried to slip a pass through the crease. Bobrovsky got a piece of the puck with his stick, but the amount of spin on the pass forced the puck to carom off the stick, off the back of Bobrovsky himself, and into the net.

“I was trying to make a pass,” Backstrom said. “Honestly, got lucky. I don’t know who came back-door there but I was trying for him. I’ll take it.”

After a back and forth game, the Blue Jackets came out swinging to start the third. Down 3-2, Columbus tied the game just 2:30 in and made a real push to win the game in regulation. Washington was outshot 16-1 in the third and looked like they had no push at all.

But the Caps looked like a different team when they took the ice for the extra frame. What happened in between periods?

“As I was leaving the room after the period, I could hear guys, the right guys, all saying the right things,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

When later asked if one of those guys was Backstrom, Trotz said, “Absolutely. He's one of the leaders on our team. They were all talking about let's make sure we're doing the right things. There's a lot of pride, lot of good leadership in that room.”

Whatever Backstrom and the other leaders said did the trick. Washington made a strong push in overtime leading to Backstrom’s game-winning goal.

This isn’t the first time Backstrom has delivered. Saturday’s overtime tally is the fourth of his career. That’s the most in franchise history and tied for fifth in NHL history.

Through his efforts on the ice, the Caps were able to erase a bad first period and steal the win in overtime. But it also took a big effort off the ice to get the job done.

“If you just look at the scoresheet, that doesn't say enough of about Nick Backstrom, his contribution from in the dressing room to on the ice to key moments to key faceoffs,” Trotz said.

“I've been on his soapbox about how complete a player he is and I never really worry about Nick Backstrom. He's got enough games under his belt, he's got enough stats to back it up and he's played huge minutes and he's one of our leaders. He's a tremendous hockey player.”

Quick Links

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."

RELATED LINKS: