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Roger that

Had some time to digest that bizarre press conference involving Roger Clemens on Monday, and a couple of other thoughts came to mind that I didn’t mention in yesterday’s blogs.

1) Clemens’ willingness to put Brian McNamee’s personal life on public display — in particular, the state of health for McNamee’s 10-year-old son — was disgusting. A lot of that phone conversation was pertinent in Clemens’ apparent goal of destroying McNamee’s credibility, but there was really no reason to involve McNamee’s son in the conversation. I understand McNamee contacted Clemens and used his son’s sickness as a reaching-out point. But that part of the conversation has nothing to do with the mess to which Clemens and McNamee are linked, and should’ve been bleeped out when played in front of reporters. Bottom line, Clemens was trying to portray himself as a sympathetic friend by using a former friend’s sick child as a media op. Gross.

2) McNamee had some seriously brass gonads in reaching out to Clemens. Let’s imagine what McNamee was thinking. OK, I gave you up to the feds. I permanently stained your career. I probably should’ve kept quiet and gone to jail. But, oh, my son is sick, can you help me? Now granted, watching your own child fall ill will drive a man to do anything to change things. But, to paraphrase Tom Cruise in “The Color of Money,” he’s got brass, man. He’s got brass.”

Other news from the Clemens fallout:

1) Andy Pettitte is undecided whether he’ll testify in front of Congress. Big stunner there. Pettitte has absolutely nothing to gain by going to Congress. He’d be asked about Clemens, his friend and McNamee, also his former trainer. Thus, he would a) have to beg out of answering questions about the two of them or b) paint one of them as a liar. Nice choices.

Of course, Pettitte could help the game by telling Congress all he knew about the use of performance-enhancing drugs. But as much as they say otherwise, few of these players truly care about the health of the game. Otherwise, more objections about the rise of PED’s would’ve been made by members of the players’ union.

— Baseball has decided to ramp up security in its clubhouses. Among the changes: Teams no longer will be notified the night before drug testers arrive. Gee, what a novel concept.

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Roger Clemens’ Press Conference

Well, Roger Clemens has now aired his story to a room full of reporters, and his lawyer aired a conversation between the Rocket and his former personal trainer Brian McNamee. And if you’re more confused than ever about what to believe, join the crowd.

About the only thing definitive  you can say is that Clemens’ legal side should inform him to stay quiet after his appearance in front of Congress, because the more Clemens talks, the more he creates doubt about the his version of the truth.

Take this phone conversation he had with McNamee. McNamee, on at nearly two dozen occasions, asked Clemens, “What do you want me to do?” At no point, does Clemens respond by telling him to recant his story. Granted I’m not a guy with a lawyer telling me what to do, but I’d guess my instinct, were I in Clemens’ position, would be to tell McNamee to do just that.

Clemens also hurt himself when he stammered and gave a weak explanation when asked why he didn’t have a doctor inject him with the Vitamin B-12 and lidocaine — the substances Clemens acknowledges to have used. He said initally, ”I didn’t know” McNamee wasn’t licensed to give some shots. That’s akin to, “Gee officer, I didn’t know the speed limit here was only 35 mph.”

One other point. When McNamee asked Clemens if he (McNamee) should show up at the press conference, Clemens seemed to ignore him. 

But here’s why confusion reigns. When Clemens  mentioned the report to McNamee and that “for the life of me, I’m trying to figure out why you told those guys I did steroids,” McNamee responded by saying, “I understand that.”

Not exactly the same as saying, “Because you did!”

In other words, who knows what to believe at this point. At the least, these are two very sketchy individuals. Clemens has never been forthcoming about injections he’s received; if there was nothing to hide, he surely could’ve volunteered that information any number of times he talked about his training regimen. McNamee clearly had a direct hand in baseball’s steroid epidemic, which calls into question his character and credibility, and by whistling his clients — even if compelled to do so by federal authorities — he branded himself a rat. At one point in the conversation, McNamee told Clemens he’d “go to jail for you,” which is an odd thing to say considering the reason he’s supposed to be believed is because he was trying to avoid jail.

Next up in this saga, Clemens’ appearance in front of Congress on Jan. 16. Clemens can be as angry as he wants, but it’s worth wondering if he’ll be as defiant. It’s one thing to conduct a press conference; it’s another to testify under oath.

Two  questions I’d like to hear: Roger, do you think it’s possible that McNamee injected you with steroids and HGH, and told you it was Vitamin B-12 and lidocaine? If so, why weren’t you more careful about what you put in your body?

If nothing else, one incontrovertible fact has emerged from the Mitchell Report and Clemens’ part in it. Simply put, if athletes really are serious that they want a PED-free sport, they need to be much more vigilant about what’s being given to them. If they’re not, then they should be seen as accomplices to an era that’s not going away anytime soon.

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The Rocket’s Red Glare

I do not believe Roger Clemens. Not after watching him on “60 Minutes” with Mike Wallace on Sunday. Not after seeing that he has filed a defamation suit against former personal trainer Brian McNamee. Probably not ever.

Hey, I realize I’m more cyncial than most. But really, wouldn’t you be a fool to believe anything that comes out of this guy’s mouth? If he was so innocent, why didn’t he issue some kind of statement, without any lawyering, on the day the Mitchell Report was released? An interesting article on ESPN.com over the weekend by the network’s interview coach stated the obvious when it said, “the instinct of the innocent is to talk and the instinct of the guilty is to run to a lawyer.” Exactly.

Here’s another problem I have with Clemens: In the video he released proclaiming his innocence, he insisted that McNamee had not injected him with steroids or HGH, but he conveniently left out that McNamee had injected him with lidocaine and Vitamin B-12, a fact that came out only during his intervew with Wallace. Clemens has done several interviews regarding his conditioning over the years, and never once mentioned that he was being injected with anything. If there was nothing shady about that, then why not volunteer it?

Clemens’ admission about the lidocaine and Vitamin B12 also seemed a little too rehearsed for me. Watch the interview and see how he spits out the answer, the smugness in his voice. A little too smug for me.

It was also comical to hear how he doesn’t understand why 24 or 25 years in the public spotlight doesn’t buy him “an inch of respect,” or any “benefit of the doubt.” Sometimes, the absolute inability of some star athletes to grip reality is unbelievable. If Clemens wants to complain about that, then he should take it up with Donald Fehr and his fellow union members, who a) long have resisted drug testing and b) have been caught in more lies than the boy who cried wolf. 

The bottom line regarding this whole thing, as colleague Gary Peterson wrote today, is that the Clemens spin job is in speed cycle right now. Let’s see how he answers some really difficult questions that could come in a press conference today (Uh, Roger, why didn’t you lobby the union and your fellow baseball teammates to pine for the elimination of performance-enhancing drugs?) and how he performs in front of Congress, if he chooses to show up.

Speaking of Congress, let’s keep one thing in mind. It’s entirely possible that the Clemens lawsuit was filed not with complete vindication in mind but rather to give Clemens an excuse to either skip the Congressional hearings (he was invited, not subpoenaed) or be choosy with the questions he answers. It’s difficult to win a defamation suit, especially when one is a public figure, so Clemens deserves credit for going full bore with a lawsuit, because it will expose him to sworn testimony in a court of law. Well, it’s hard for me to imagine, anyway, but again, maybe I’m more cynical than most.

In the final analysis, my feelings about Clemens haven’t really changed. Yes, I think he’s a Hall of Famer, because he was one of the best pitchers of his era, and if he used, he certainly wasn’t alone. But he’s absolutely NOT a guy I’d ever have pitch a huge game for me. All you need to know about that are the games he pitched and lost against Dave Stewart in the late 1980s and early 90s. 

In the meantime, he’s not a guy to be trusted at his word.

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So Long Nick Swisher

Not going to spend a lot of time delving into my opinion on the Nick Swisher trade this evening, because it’s best summed up in my column that will appear Friday. The long and short of it is that once general manager Billy Beane determined his returning team would be mediocre at best, this was inevitable. And since he’d rather do this job than be mediocre, he’s jumped into the deep end.

What this move also does is establish a starting line for which Beane should be judged. He’s been called a genius for building the foundation that led to the A’s great run from 1999-2006 (five playoff appearances, eight straight winning seasons), but his legacy will be written as much by this rebuilding project as by that early success. Starting with this move and the Dan Haren trade, there are no more free passes.

Just happened to check out John Sickels’ minorleaguball.com site and he happened to list the White Sox’s top 20 prospects for 2008. Check it out. Three of the top five come to the A’s in this deal. This is one of the best minor-league sites on the Web, by the way.

Sickels also talked to athleticsnation.com on Friday afternoon, and here are his thoughts.

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The A’s purge continues — Swisher gone

Ordinarily, this would qualify stunning news —- the A’s dealt Nick Swisher to the Chicago White Sox this morning for three relative no-names — but anybody who has followed Billy Beane through the years knows nothing is ever stunning with him.

Not sure why the A’s would make this move, so looking forward to what Beane has to say during a 1 p.m. conference call. The players the A’s received — outfielder Ryan Sweeney, left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez and righty Fautino De Los Santos — fit the A’s stated intention of getting younger, but only time will tell if the A’s have gotten more talented.

Going to be a long, long summer in the House that Al Built. 

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More on Leyritz

More trouble looms for Jim Leyritz, apparently, although can things really get any worse than getting drunk (allegedly), running a red light, plowing into another car, and killing somebody?

Seems Leyritz was driving with a suspended license when he ruined his life and that of Fredia Ann Veitch last Friday. All of which ponders this question: Was he arrogant, and just plain stupid?

At least Leyritz is perfectly qualified for the lecture circuit. The topic: How to throw everything away by not thinking!