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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.