Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Clemens Aftermath: Bucketed with Bonds?

Much has already been written and analyzed about Roger Clemens’ and Brian McNamee’s day on Capitol Hill yesterday, and I found Howard Bryant’s ESPN piece to be a nice summary and post-mortem. Both Clemens and McNamee ended up sullied, arguably even ruined, but at least McNamee (whose account was corroborated by accounts from Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch, Clemens’ wife, and the Mitchell report) maintained his credibility in this matter. Clemens, on the other hand, came out looking like a liar who can’t even look in the mirror:

Clemens, meanwhile, revealed himself as incapable of introspection or culpability. When cornered, he attempted to bully, but Room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building is not a pitcher's mound and he did not hold the gavel. Not being in control frustrated Clemens, and he did not know what to do.

He avoided accountability for his role in his own drama. At no point during the day did he take responsibility for the direction of his career or the choices he's made. As much as McNamee, by being a signature player in the steroids era, Clemens has been part of a drug culture that has diminished his standing and that of his sport, but he never once acknowledged his part in its, or his, downfall. There was always someone else who should have done something for Roger. Clemens had an answer for everything the committee asked him, and each answer, when sifted to its essence, was that nothing was his fault.

On the stand and under oath, Clemens claimed his protégé and friend, Pettitte, “misremembered” the situation. His use of B-12, which MLB cautioned teams against, was blamed on advice from his late mother. His choice to contact his nanny, ahead of Congress reaching out to her on their own behalf, was “a favor” (as if Congress didn’t have the resources on their own and needed Clemens’ intervention). That he never even knew about HGH until the last month.

Come on. How stupid do you think we are, Roger?

I’m troubled by all of this since I have admired Clemens’ career, his amazing beginning and late-career rebirth, his off-season workout regimen of legend, even his irascible bat-throwing personality that we call “being a ‘gamer’.” And now, it’s pretty clear that it’s all on a mountain of fraud, illegal drug usage, personal denial, and lack of public accountability or personal introspection.

But I’m even more troubled by this when I juxtapose Clemens against Barry Bonds, another purported steroid abuser and liar under oath. I’ve hated Bonds for years—though admittedly admiring his prodigious offensive talents--for the same list of reasons that now bother me about Clemens. Bonds is (allegedly) also a user, he’s also in denial, he lacks public accountability and personal introspection (and is probably even more frosty with the media). Like Clemens, Bonds has played the “victim” card, to extremely poor and ineffective results.

And throw in the fact that Bonds has achieved most of his career highlights as a San Francisco Giant, and it’s easy to see why Bonds is a fitting recipient for boos, for disgust, for even hatred.

If you're a true Dodger fan, I know you have been right with me: up in the top deck, booing Bonds as he emerged from the dugout and walked to the on-deck circle, vitriol spewing from one's mouth during every pitch of the at bat. Uproarious laughter and cheering, with high-fives all around, should Bonds strike out or even ground out to a heavily shifted infield. More booing, but perhaps some pangs of awe, should he take a pitch deep into the night, the ball traveling so fast that it disappears faster than you can gasp. Booing Barry has been such an integral part of Dodger-Giant games, I can even recall debating the Dodger fans' right to boo as if it was mandated by the Bill of Rights.

But now, in the aftermath of the latest round of this steriods debacle, it may be difficult to rationalize how one feels about Clemens today--but it's even harder to wonder how one would have felt about Clemens back then. Clemens was never a Giant, he mostly pitched in the AL, so we didn't get a chance to see him at Chavez Ravine all that much. But if he really isn't all that different from Bonds, isn’t he also deserving of our scorn, our hatred?

And if Clemens had spent the last fifteen years as a Giant, would I have booed just as loudly? Would any of us have booed at all?


Eric Karros said...

As soon as I heard Canseco vouched for Clemens, I knew he was telling the truth.