Pitching a New Game
by Gregory Pratt, Special to BaseballEvolution.com
January 8, 2008
Don't be shocked if Brian McNamee recants his allegations of
Roger Clemens' steroid use. Don't be moved by it, either.
Following the Mitchell Report, baseball writers wondered whether or not
Roger Clemens' Hall of Fame bust had been destroyed or merely sullied.
Fans who had never given any thought to
Roger Clemens being a steroid user were shocked by the notion. If Clemens
is to be believed, his wife and children have become distraught by the media
onslaught. Unlike others named who apologized and "confessed," like his good
Roger Clemens decided to go on the offensive against the Report, and his
intentions are clear. No waiting for the news to settle down and go away before
he attempts to rebuild in the aftermath of the aftermath -- no,
Roger Clemens wants to field a winning team now and on paper, he
has reached that goal, hiring an ace celebrity attorney for the frontline,
hard-hitting private investigators to solidify his lineup, a cool manager in
Mike Wallace, and, perhaps, the love-children of
Richard Nixon and Meyer Wolfsheim to set the table.
Just thinking about The Rocket's Amazing Spinning Circus makes me dizzy, and
that is how I felt during yesterday's press conference, when he played a tape of
his private conversation with Brian McNamee over the weekend. McNamee, in case
you have been living in an abandoned dugout somewhere, sent Clemens an email
telling him that his son was sick and dying. That is how the conversation began,
but it soon became two men talking to themselves with the other listening. It is
my suspicion that they were both attempting to entrap the other.
Roger Clemens said, several times, "I just want someone to tell the
truth" and McNamee screamed, "Tell me what you want me to do!" He also stated
that he wished they could talk face-to-face and told Clemens he'd be willing to
go to prison for him, if only Roger would give the word. A couple more excerpts:
McNamee: It is what it is, and it's not good. And I want it to go away. And I'm
with you. I'm in your corner. I don't want this to happen. But I'd also like not
to go to jail, too. But it has nothing to do with you. But I would like to sit
down with you in person and talk with you.
McNamee: I reached out to you because -- I mean, I tried to help as much as I
could, as late as I could. And it was too late, I guess, to help. But what it
comes down to is the way it affects our kids. They got nothing to do with this.
They've got nothing to do with any of this.
Here are my thoughts on the McNamee/Clemens dynamic. McNamee, like any trainer
and friend worth a damn, did not want to turn
Roger Clemens in to the Mitchell Investigation. He resisted and
only relented when it became apparent that he had to to avoid going to prison.
Nobody wants to go to prison, especially not a man with children, which was why
he had to turn
Roger Clemens in. Now he is having regrets, partly because of the
pressures this puts on himself and his family (don't kid yourself -- there might
not be anything more exhausting than a media storm), partly because of his
friendship and hero worship of
Roger Clemens, and partly because he is distraught. He has likely lost a
great friend for life, and he is on the verge of losing his son. Now he is all
choked up facing situations he never imagined he'd have to face and is likely
I'd hate to be his attorney, who today declared war against
Roger Clemens for manipulating McNamee, because I wouldn't be sure
whether or not I could trust McNamee to keep his mouth shut and his heart hard.
It is clear to me, and always has been, that
Roger Clemens was using steroids for as long as I remember (I am, after
all, eighteen, so I only really remember his steroid peak). I didn't need
McNamee to tell me that, although others have, and I am not the only one who
heard the whispers. Steve Phillips mentioned it the night the report broke. But
I am disturbed by the McNamee situation for numerous reasons because of the
effect it could have on his "legacy." Let's say McNamee cracks somehow and
recants, which is unlikely but possible, and not altogether mind-boggling to
consider -- then what happens in the world of public perception?
Roger Clemens is no longer a steroid user, because his buddy was too weak
to stand by himself? Clemens versus McNamee is a brutal mismatch: a
tough-as-nails Texan (on steroids) fighting a patsy behind-the-scenes fanboy who
idolizes him. Who will stick to his script longer? I have no doubt that
McNamee's script is accurate, but will he continue to read from it, or will his
admiration take him back?
All I know for sure besides
Roger Clemens' guilt is that Clemens is playing a dangerous game that
only one other man in the history of baseball has played before (and lost). He
has decided to attack McNamee and Mitchell and the charge, throwing at its head
as if it were
Mike Piazza. Will his strategy of intimidation, Spinning Circus, and
adamance work? Is Brian McNamee more like
Mike Piazza (a shrinking flower) or more like
Manny Ramirez (a bat-wielding, hard-charger)? If McNamee is Piazza and
backs down, will Clemens be vindicated? Maybe, but it's a stretch. It is out in
the open now, and there is no place to go when your reputation has been
destroyed. It is worse when you come away "innocent" but still appear guilty and
almost certainly are guilty, like with OJ Simpson.
Roger Clemens denies using steroids, and who knows how long it'll take
him to say, "We were all using, and I'm hypercompetitive -- I had to," or if
he'll ever say it. But if he does come clean someday, before he makes the Hall
of Fame, he might be in for a life of exile. Does that sound far-fetched or
ridiculous? It should, because it's far too soon to talk about that. But
if he continues down his path of denialdenialdenial and nobody believes him, and
eventually he comes out and says "Yeah so I was lying all those years," he might
wind up like
Pete Rose, the only other man to play this game at this level. Yes, at
this point some sort of banishment and almost-universal scorn is unlikely, but
the same could've been said for Rose when the rumors first surfaced. Look at him
now, and tell me you don't see a little bit of
Roger Clemens in him.
Gregory Pratt is a student at UIC who also runs a political weblog.
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