I wasn’t going to comment on the Clemens/McCready story. Honest, I wasn’t—it just didn’t seem to have that much to do with the basic question of whether or not Clemens used steroids and HGH. But then, I read last Sunday’s New York Daily News report, in which Mindy McCready’s mom confirmed that there was a relationship between the Rocket and her daughter. The story was credited to four members of the Daly News’s “I-Team” of sports department investigative reporters, and included various anonymous quotes about other alleged dalliances Clemens had, as well as this gem, from Lawrence Balter, a professor of “applied psychology” at New York University:
…men and women who are as blatant about affairs as Clemens has been have an oversized sense of entitlement.
“They believe if it makes them feel good, it’s justified,” says Balter.
With apologies to the Colonel from Boogie Nights: Oh, you think so, doctor? People screw around because it makes them feel good? How insightful!
I don’t mean to take out my frustrations on Dr. Balter, and the Daily News crew (Terri Thompson, Nathaniel Vinson, Michael O’Keefe and Christian Red) has done solid work in the past: some of the same reporters were responsible for breaking the Operation Equine story a few years back. But if ballplayers’ sex lives warrant the breathless and thorough sort of reporting applied here, then the newspaper better hire a few dozen more reporters for their “I-Team,” because I’d bet Clemens’s conduct is hardly an isolated incident in the world of baseball. Ballplayers, and not just the unmarried ones either, fool around with girls. I think Jim Baker conveyed the shock that this news carries with it better than I can in this article from last year.
That’s not to say that the Clemens story isn’t scandalous. Supposedly, the relationship started when Ms. McCready was 15—that’s Hannah Montana-aged, for those of you scoring at home—and Clemens was almost twice her age. That’s not good, and quite possibly could have resulted in a criminal investigation if it had come to light within the statute of limitations for statutory rape. But setting the age difference aside for a moment (since that’s hardly been the focus of the coverage) we’re still just talking about ballplayers making poor decisions with the opposite sex.
From a legal point of view, these revelations have dubious usefulness. The idea that damages in a defamation case can be mitigated if the person bringing the suit doesn’t have a reputation to ruin is something I mentioned in my first Stupid Lawyer tricks column. However, McNamee’s lawyers want to apply it retroactively—mitigating their damages by ruining his reputation after the fact—and that might be a bit of a stretch.
There’s also the matter that the damage McNamee did was to Clemens’s professional reputation, not his reputation as a family man, so testimony about extramarital affairs could be beside the point. But the fact is, the legal reasoning behind wanting to depose one or all of the Rocket’s flings is just a pretext. Intimidation is just as much a part of litigation as it is a part of baseball. One way you can destroy an adversary’s will to fight is by playing on their anxieties and threatening to let their skeletons—relevant or not—out of the closet. So you pore through their taxes and business records, interview anyone who might bear a grudge and follow up on any fact that can increase the adversary’s public humiliation and anxiety. It’s a concept Clemens, a guy who liked to pitch high and inside from time to time, should be familiar with. It’s an ugly way to win, but one that’s proven effective. As McNamee attorney Richard Emery told the Daily News “It’s what we call in my business a s*** show.” (It’s almost a week old, but is it too late to get this in The Week in Quotes? With inspirational language like that, law schools should be lining him up as a commencement speaker: “Welcome to the s*** show, Class of 2008!”) But since McNamee’s lawyers are clear that they’ll be spending their time in the sewers, and much of the sports press will be taking the trip with them, the question is, can Clemens dust himself off, or has Emery gotten into his head?