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Mr. Clemens Goes to Washington



What a revolting abuse of power. Where is it written that the United States government should monitor what goes on in Major League Baseball? Under what constitutional imperative are these Congressional hearings justified? Most important, what is the point?

roger-clemens.jpgYesterday’s hearings, in which Roger Clemens and his former trainer Brian McNamee told diametrically opposed stories, was sickening. Everyone came off looking bad, including the people’s representatives, whose salaries are paid with citizens’ taxes. Although Brian McNamee’s been caught telling numerous lies, not just in this situation, but many times in the past, seventy percent of those polled believe his version of events. I’m still one of the 30% sticking with Roger: McNamee’s stories are full of holes, and if Roger’s guilty of anything, it’s poor judgment in trainers.

That’s me—except for being a diehard Yankee fan, I tend to root for underdogs, and in Congress yesterday, Roger Clemens was definitely the underdog. Rep. Henry Waxman, who heads the investigational committee, was almost rhapsodic in praise of Andy Pettitte for allegedly telling the truth—this despite the news, yesterday, that Andy did HGH a few more times than he ‘fessed up to in his original testimony. Maybe Waxman likes Andy for ‘telling the truth’ about his best friend—for which some might call Pettitte a rat. I’m not saying he is, I’m just pointing out he isn’t a hero for testifying against a buddy. If anything, Roger deserves credit for putting the nail in his own coffin by stating, under oath, that Andy Pettitte’s integrity is impeccable. Actually, all that Andy said in his testimony is “I remember a conversation in 1999 when Roger had told me that he had taken HGH.” I’ve watched enough Law & Order to know that’s “hearsay,” yet it’s being used as proof against Roger.

The other “proof” is a collection of old cotton wads and syringes containing the dregs of steroids and traces of blood that supposedly came out of Roger’s body. I was astonished when I first heard about this “evidence.” McNamee could’ve put anyone’s blood in there, or gotten Roger’s somewhere else–besides, why did he save this stuff for seven years? He says it’s because he “distrusted” Roger. If you ask me, he’s the one to be distrusted here.

Mike and Mike in the Morning devoted nearly their whole program to the hearings today, bringing on one expert after another. Of these, my favorite was Richard Emery, McNamee’s lawyer, a man with no apparent fear of being sued for slander. Among other hyperbole, Emery called the behavior of Congresspeople, many of whom had come down hard on his client, “disgraceful,” and he demanded that “they resign immediately for their behavior.” The guy was riding on the Broadway bus in Manhattan at the time, so maybe he was performing for the crowd—but he sure sounded like a crazy man. He’s probably the only guy who actually believes that seven-year-old needles are admissible evidence in a trial. They’re evidence, all right—evidence that McNamee’s either deranged, or he’s been planning his vendetta for a very long time.

Sports commentator Bob Costas, on the other hand, brought some sanity to this morning’s gabfest. Although he doesn’t think Roger came off as credible, he doesn’t see him as the devil incarnate either. Costas takes the long view of the situation, calling it pure tragedy. As Clemens himself pointed out, he’ll never get his good name back. He won’t go into the Baseball Hall of Fame, despite being “a great and dominant pitcher. It’s just tragic,” Costas said, “that his career has been sullied this way.”

Until yesterday, Costas thought Roger might be telling the truth, for the same reasons I do: he’s willing to confront his accuser, to speak under oath, and to give his DNA; his pitching performance at the age of 40, while admirable, did not comprise a whole new level of play for him; and he didn’t suddenly grow big as a bear like, for example, Mark McGwire andbarry-bonds.jpg Barry Bonds.

Was the Mitchell Report a good idea? The question was raised more than once this morning, and in my opinion, it could have been helpful as a guide to the problem of steroid use in baseball, but not in its present form. It should not have named names; a lot more players have done steroids than are named in the report, and the ones who are named have been forced to bear the brunt of punishment for everyone. Major League Baseball should have conducted their own investigation years ago, and held their own hearings, closed to the public. This pitting of player against player and friend against friend truly is tragic. Lives are being ruined—and for what? Baseball’s ‘crimes’ pale in comparison to government corruption. Legislator, legislate thyself!


Writing in today’s SF Chronicle, Gwen Knapp takes a view of yesterday’s proceedings that’s as far from mine as that of Clemens from McNamee. Knapp sees McNamee as the underdog. She’s right that some of the reps slobbered over The Rocket, and several lambasted McNamee. And she opened my eyes to the classism at work here: Clemens is the titanic pitcher the reps worship, while McNamee’s a lowly peon they look down on. Rep. Dan Burton did ask McNamee why he continued to work for a man “you didn’t trust,” about which Knapp comments, “Let’s try to guess how many people in this country fully trust their employers…” I would add, and how many would walk away from a well-paying, prestigious job because they didn’t?

Still, the overall atmosphere of the hearing was Let’s-get-Roger!–and if classism is part of that atmosphere, let us try to guess how many employees might relish the chance to take down a boss they had a grudge against? I’ve been lucky enough to actually do it myself once or twice, and it was extremely satisfying. McNamee just couldn’t resist.


One response »

  1. Clemens will be in the Hall of Fame, almost certainly, unless he is convicted of perjury. Even then, I would lay only a small bet against his plaque being mounted in the Hall.

    Brian McNamee may have lied at times, but both Chuck Knoblauch and Andy Pettitte say he did not lie when he said he had supplied them with human growth hormone. Why, then, would he lie about Roger Clemens?

    Moreover, the day before the hearing Clemens sat down with various members of the hearing committee as if he were a Supreme Court nominee. He also spoke with his former nanny before turning over her name to the committee. These meetings may have all been innocent — but Roger was an idiot to be involved with them, given their appearance of influence-peddling and witness-tampering. My biggest disappointment in this whole sorry mess is that one of baseball’s best pitchers turns out to be a regular fool.

    Being stupid by itself isn’t enough — and shouldn’t be enough — to keep someone out of baseball’s Hall of Fame. But being stupid can make you do things to keep you out of the Hall. My speculation, based on the evidence, is that Roger’s stupidity did indeed lead him to do things that should keep him out of the Hall.

    But I’m not a Hall voter, just a regular voter.

    I certainly hope you’re right, Steve, and that Roger does get into the HofF. As for his stupidity…Roger’s actions have seemed to me to be the sign of an innocent man. While some of what he’s done has made him look bad, he’s just trying every avenue he can think of to protest the injustice of a false accusation. Whenever a high-profile crime is committed, and the logical suspect claims innocence without getting all fired up, I find it hard to believe him or her. I mean, if I were accused of murdering my spouse and hadn’t done it, I’d be jumping up and down and screaming, metaphorically at least. Roger has done just that–which is one reason I can still find it in my heart to believe him.–MS

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