I know what you are thinking. Another take about Roger Clemens? Really? Hasn’t this issue been beaten into the ground worse than Ricky Hatton against Roger Mayweather?
The answer to all of those are yes. But its still not stopping me.
Before I get into my thoughts, I have covered Roger Clemens in the past. Before moving to San Bernardino roughly 18 months ago, I worked at a small daily paper in suburban Houston and covered the Astros for much of the 2005 and 2006 seasons, including Houston’s 2005 World Series run. During that time, I interviewed Clemens (mostly in a throng of other reporters) a number of times.
Does this make me an expert on Roger’s inner psyche? Certainly not. As a reporter, you very rarely get to know the entirety of the people you interview, especially the higher-profile ones. For the most part, athletes give you the bare minimum in a postgame or a pregame interview. For example, the professional athletes that have been the most cordial and most accomodating to me are Kobe Bryant and Dave Justice. Neither of those guys are considered the “good guys” of professional sports.
With that said, I don’t have the hero worship of many fans or even media (read Jayson Stark on ESPN) has toward Roger. I also don’t hate the man, but I never understood why Roger got the hero worship that he did. He was accomodating, but not necessarily friendly, with the media. He was prone to outbursts, like the tirade he pulled in Game 3 of the 1990 ALCS against Oakland, arguing balls and strikes before getting tossed, costing the Red Sox all hope of getting back in a series in which they were eventually swept. And I’ve always been a little skeptical of how great a teammate he was – especially in recent years where he would start the season in June and wouldn’t necessarily accompany his teams on road trips.
With all that said, the man is talented. Steroids or not, he knows how to pitch. You don’t win 354 games like he has just based on chemical enhancement. While his statistical peak late in his career is unnatural for someone his age (and a reason why I have personally suspected for years that Clemens has been on the juice) that person still has to know how to pitch, to mix pitches, speeds and hit locations. There’s no question in my mind that Clemens is a great pitcher. And if he had just fessed up and said that he used performance-enchancers to try to “keep up with the Joneses” he’d still be looked upon as a great pitcher and forgiven accordingly.
But after yesterday’s stop on Capitol Hill, Clemens’ legacy is tarnished. Instead of his seven Cy Youngs (three which came before he was fingered for illegal substances) people will remember him meekly suggesting that Andy Pettitte “misremembers” their HGH conversations. Instead of his strikeouts, people will remember his contradictions about how he wasn’t contacted for the Mitchell Report/wasn’t told about it by his agents/was told about it but advised not to go. Instead of his champagne-popping after World Series, we’ll remember him popping off to Henry Waxman, only to be scolded like a child by the congressman. And all this could have been avoided had he said “I’m sorry.” He might have dealt with a little bit of backlash, but American is forgiving of those who admit to their mistakes. Clemens refuses to, however, and his corresponding denials, from 60 Minutes to Congress, have gone over like a fart in church.
For those of you still believing Clemens’ innocence, my question is why? Even if you think that McNamee is scum (and there’s evidence to support that, from date rape trials to drug trafficking), that doesn’t make him a liar. The fact is that scumbags are used by law enforcement all the time to put people away (ex. Michael Vick). Typically when people are involved with criminal acts, the witnesses against them aren’t Mother Theresa, Mr. Rogers or Barney the Dinosaur. The witnesses to criminal activity are typically criminals. Just the way it works.
And even if McNamee is kind of sketchy, Pettitte has backed up his account of him, as has Knoblauch, Debbie Clemens and the Clemens’ nanny. So there are four people who back up McNamee’s accounts of their actions but this guy is completely lying about Roger? Pettitte, Clemens’ best friend in baseball, is not only going to back some “drug-dealer” over his best friend, but to make up conversations of Clemens, throwing his best buddy under the bus, while under oath?
Other things seem thin. How can Clemens say that he was discussing his wife’s HGH use in 1999-2000 while he stated, corroborated by his wife, that she hadn’t taken HGH before 2003? How can Clemens claim to “have learned more about HGH in the past month than he had before” when his wife not only took the drug from the accusing trainer, but also suffered “itching and circulation problems.”? And are you telling me that McNamee injected his wife in the butt in their bedroom without Roger’s knowledge, then not only didn’t catch a beatdown, but continued to be employed by Roger after he found out? I know if some was “treating” my wife without my permission, he’d have hell to pay.
There are other things that stick out to me, from the abcesses to his possible witness tampering of the nanny (who got him to retract his denial of being at the 1998 Canseco pool party) to his body language and actions while being questioned by Congress. Barring a confession (which seems unlikely), I’m not sure if there’s enough to find Clemens guilty of perjury. And to be honest, I don’t have a need to see Clemens in jail. I think that the loss of his legacy, and his possible banishment from Hall of Fame consideration, is appropriate enough punishment from my perspective. In fact, the only person who is likely loving this story is Barry Bonds, who has seen his scrutiny drop considerably in the past two months.