Against all reason, Roger Clemens took a risk and now he's facing the consequences
Friday, August 20, 2010; 12:14 AM
When Roger Clemens decided to testify before Congress in February 2008, I sat a few yards behind him and thought about all the years I'd known him. We'd talked together in the locker rooms of four different teams. Once, he'd set some kind of record for patience as I bugged him with questions all day as he played 36 holes of golf.
I'd seen him do favors for people he'd never met before and would never meet again. I'd watched him stand in a polo shirt, teeth chattering, on a chilly evening for an extra hour so that a young magazine photographer who'd showed up unprepared for her first big assignment wouldn't get fired. "It's fine, no problem, I'm okay," he'd say. "I'll wait 'til she gets her shot."
Once, he'd been at a remote golf course in New England, just enjoying his day off, when an old man asked if he'd pose for a photo with a little boy. Clemens said, "Sure." The little boy was my son, visiting his grandparents, though Roger didn't know it. That's the only personal picture of a ballplayer I have in my house.
Of course, I'd also seen him go ballistic cursing at an ump in a playoff game and throw a broken bat at Mike Piazza from point-blank range during a World Series game. I'd seen him act like a prima donna, too. I thought I'd seen it all.
But I hadn't. That day before Congress, when he said, "I have never used steroids, human growth hormone, or any other type of illegal performance enhancing drugs," I thought, "He's not stupid. So how can he be this dumb?"
Maybe we'll never know. Maybe he just couldn't bear to go down without a brazen fight, until every last long-shot chance had been taken to clear his name. Even when there was a man sitting next to him, an ex-cop and his own former personal trainer, who was swearing under oath that he had injected Clemens in the buttocks numerous times with steroids that Clemens had provided.
Now Roger Clemens will have to stand trial after being indicted on three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury during his testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Under current sentencing guidelines, a conviction might bring only 15 to 21 months. Do you get time off for teaching the guards to throw a splitter?
Here's what's so amazing, almost incomprehensible, about Clemens's dilemma: The federal indictment against him is 19 pages long. But indictments are always wordy. The proverbial indictment-against-a-ham-sandwich could probably run 20 pages. But in December of '07, two months before Clemens came to Capitol Hill, baseball itself had issued the Mitchell Report. The centerpiece, the huge blockbuster revelation, in it was the sport's own official condemnation of Clemens as a PED cheater.
The "Roger Clemens" section of the Mitchell Report - that would be former senator George Mitchell - was nine pages long, an indictment in itself.
-- "Clemens said he was not able to inject himself and he asked for (Brian) McNamee's help."
-- "Clemens asked McNamee to inject him with Winstrol which Clemens supplied."
-- McNamee injected Clemens approximately four times in the buttocks over a several-week period with needles that Clemens provided."