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July 14, 2011

BP Unfiltered

Clean Clemens?

by Chris St. John

Today, Roger Clemens’ perjury trial was declared a mistrial, due to some evidence added by the prosecution that was already deemed inadmissible. Apparently. That’s what Craig Calcaterra tells me, and I trust him. I know basically nothing about courtroom stuff, besides what I learned at Boys State and a fake trial in Social Studies class in 9th grade*. But I do know I have some thoughts about Roger Clemens.

*I was the judge and I don’t remember what the case was about or what the verdict was, but I do remember not allowing a “police officer” to testify about blood spatter because he wasn’t an expert. I’m all about taking advantage of any power I am given.

I grew up in a family of six (now seven) people, none of whom cared one iota about sports. In fact, the closest my family got to sports was when my sister played volleyball in middle school. We didn’t have a television, and we didn’t play sports as a family. However, there was an old man who lived down the street from us named Tommy Thompson (not the former governor of Wisconsin) who for whatever reason decided to give his entire collection of baseball cards to me and my brothers. Neither of my brothers cared for them as much as I did, though. I would sort and re-sort the cards, first by player name, then by team, then by year, and I would read the back of them. I was astonished at even the thought of placing them in my bike spokes, for fear of ruining them beyond repair. Bret Saberhagen and Tom Brunansky were among my favorites, simply because they kept showing up in the decks.

For many years, baseball cards were my only connection to baseball, apart from listening to Brewers games on the radio. In fact, when I read “The Red Sox Brunansky” on the back of one of the cards, I literally thought, “Oh, does every team have a player named Tom Brunansky?” Maybe that was a function of my naivete in general and not simply my ignorance of baseball. In Wisconsin, police officers would hand out decks of Brewers baseball cards in an effort to create a positive public image. Every summer, I would run up (carefully) to the first one I saw and ask him (politely) for a pack. Since no one else in my family wanted to play sports, I would take a tennis ball and throw it at a basketball backboard in order to play catch with myself. It probably looked ridiculously silly, but I’m pretty good at catching now, at least.  The only time I actually played baseball was in a youth softball summer league, which remains one of my favorite memories from childhood.

Which leads me to Roger Clemens. For some reason I became obsessed with Clemens at a young age after reading the backs of his baseball cards. I’m led to believe it was because of his high strikeout totals, because I also loved Nolan Ryan and Bert Blyleven. However, I used to hate Randy Johnson, as I always saw him as Clemens’ nemesis. My parents knew about my obsession with Clemens and bought me one of his cards for my birthday one year, which solidified my Clemens infatuation for the rest of my life. Whenever I sorted my baseball cards, I made sure to take out all of the ones with Clemens on them. I didn’t dare place them in the red boxes with all the other cards—no, they got to go in the special gray plastic box (yes, they’re still there).

Whatever team Clemens was on became my favorite. First I was a Red Sox fan. Then a Blue Jays fan. Then a Yankes fan. Now that I’m a Rays fan, I’ve almost covered the entire AL East. I didn’t like the retire/un-retire thing, so I didn’t follow him as much with the Astros. I bought a jersey for every team he played for and put them up on my bedroom wall. I’ve also felt a slight connection to him, since his first full year was 1986—the year I was born. For a majority of my baseball-following career, Clemens was my life           .

The steroid accusations really began to surface while I was in high school; however, Clemens seemed to be safe from all of them. I would always speak about his work ethic and how he didn’t need to take drugs because he worked so hard and would never take the easy way out. Also, the accusations were focused on power hitters and not power pitchers, so the heat wasn’t directed toward him. But if anyone dared challenge him, by God I was ready to defend. Everything seemed to die down, though and everything was right between Clemens and me. He would eventually stop un-retiring, get inducted to the Hall of Fame and legitimize my life-long interest in his career.

Until 2008. I was in the middle of college at this point and my interest in baseball had dwindled. Most of the players I followed growing up were either retired or in the twilight of their careers. But apparently this steroid story kept coming up, to the point that Congress became involved. I’m not sure when I heard that Clemens was asked to testify, but I’m sure my reaction was “Oh, they just want to find out what he knows about other players.” Then, when I found out that people thought he was using them and that they were accusing him of lying to them about it, I thought, “Oh, this is just a witch hunt to get at someone famous,” but I wanted to know the truth. Now, this has been brought to the trial which was declared a mistrial today, and I still have the same desire. I just want to know the truth.

Clemens has been mentioned in the Mitchell Report, something I know embarrassingly little about. He has stated that he voluntarily went to the congressional hearing just to clear his name. If he didn’t take steroids or HGH, this is all a waste of time and money. If he did, he lied under oath and should be punished, just like anyone else.

Now, I’m not one to hold a grudge or judge. In fact, I don’t even care about performance-enhancing drugs. Mark McGwire confessed he took them. Barry Bonds says he didn’t (at least knowingly). Manny Ramirez retired, probably because of them. I honestly don’t care. If I were in the same situation that they were, how can I say I wouldn’t have done the same thing? PEDs and HGH mean nil to me. Except when it comes to Roger Clemens. Did he take them? Did he lie? Did he…cheat? My 24-year old self doesn’t care. But my seven-year old self needs to know.

11 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

djardine

Until this hunt to punish steroid users includes a more holistic investigation into the way that steroids were given tacit approval at EVERY LEVEL OF THE GAME, from fellow players, to coaches, to managers, to owners, and yes, even by the media, I will cheer every time that the government uses the courts to conduct witch hunts for individual players ends up without a conviction. Convicting individuals will result in a whitewash, and there will be no real investigation into the greater truths of what was happening at all levels of the sport, and all of those mentioned above will get off scot-free, while the individual players will take all of the blame.

Jul 14, 2011 13:13 PM
rating: 9
 
Richie

Convicting individuals leads to further information. Guilty individuals nevertheless getting off scot-free leads to the continuation of the whitewash. Really, that's Criminology 101.

Jul 14, 2011 13:39 PM
rating: 2
 
djardine

Richie, I don't see that happening here at all. Where is there any evidence that investigators are digging deeper into the economics of this issue? Show me the owners, managers, coaches or members of the media that are being held accountable for their role in the steroids scandal?

Jul 14, 2011 14:14 PM
rating: 2
 
Shaun P.
(676)

I am with you, djardine. Richie is right in general, but it doesn't work in this case.

Clemens is on trial because he might have lied to Congress under oath about using PEDs. The DOJ can investigate him because of the "lying to Congress under oath" part, not the "using PEDs" part. IIRC, the DOJ has already looked at the other two they might have gotten on a "lying to Congress under oath" charge, Tejada and Palmeiro, and those cases are closed.

Chris, I sympathize with your 7-year-old self wanting to know, but I don't think you'll ever get a definite answer. Great article - glad to be reading you!

Jul 14, 2011 14:45 PM
rating: 2
 
amazin_mess

Instead of Clemens, how about we put the Congressmen that decided to try this and waste taxpayer money on trial?

Jul 14, 2011 17:32 PM
rating: 1
 
Ragnhild

cool story, bro!

Jul 15, 2011 00:36 AM
rating: -2
 
Tarakas

This trial is a waste of taxpayer money. If lying in the halls of Congress were a crime, I'd think we should start by prosecuting politicians, not baseball players.

As far as steroids go, we'll never really know the entirety of which players used them. Years ago, when the steroid accusations first started against Bonds, my father was railing about how the obvious jump in Bonds's stats made it clear he was a steroid user. I replied "Yeah, well, lots of players have such jumps, and no one accuses them of doping. Look at Tony Gwynn or Roger Clemens. If such a jump makes Bonds guilty, why do they get a pass?"

We still pick and choose who to go after in the press and as fans for pretty silly reasons. Many guilty players experienced little if any gain. And many players with odd jumps in performance remain unquestioned. We either need to question every player or none of them. And since investigating them all is impossible, let's just move on.

Jul 15, 2011 05:52 AM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

I feel old now.

Jul 15, 2011 07:14 AM
rating: 2
 
Tarakas

After I wrote my response, I thought more about it, and I think the real tragedy of the steroid era is that for a whole generation of players (stars, heroes, role players, and scrubs), we will always look at their statistics and wonder about them. No one is immune.

Take Tony Gwynn. He has a great reputation and had a great career. But look at his slash lines:

Ages 22-27 .335/.391/.444
Ages 28-32 .319/.372/.420
Ages 33-41 .356/.403/.500

The shape of these numbers are odd. Without the steroid era, I might marvel at the hard work Gwynn put in to reverse the effects of aging. Now, I am left forever troubled by these stat lines. There is not any way to dispel my nagging doubts.

It is simply too easy to play these games. If one wants to accuse Gwynn of doping, it is easy to say that after Steve Finley spent a year with the Padres, Gwynn started his new teammate on whatever Gwynn was supposedly taking, explaining how a 31-year old Finley went from a player who regularly hit 10 home runes a year to one who routinely topped 30 home runs annually.

If we have Gwynn as a steroid advocate, who else joined the Padres and had a sudden surge in power? Ken Caminiti. Who later admitted steroids were responsible for his power surge.

This doesn't mean Finley and Gwynn used steroids. There is just no way to escape these worries. No number of trials will ever remove these doubts from this generation of players and their accomplishments.



Jul 15, 2011 07:37 AM
rating: 3
 
bossfan101

That's very interesting seeing Gwynn's numbers broken down by age. I have a hard time believing he took PEDs (for the most part, anyway), because of the change in his body. I mean, if you saw him in 1983, and saw him in 1999, or even 1994 for that matter (when he hit .394) he doesn't look like the same guy. But yet his numbers increased across the board, including his ISO. Does this lend any credence to the "juiced ball" theory?

Jul 17, 2011 01:17 AM
rating: 0
 
adambennett

I love the Rocket. I'm sure he took steroids, and I don't care. I never saw a better pitcher aside from Pedro and maybe Tom Seaver.

Jul 17, 2011 16:09 PM
rating: 0
 
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