Monday, January 07, 2008

Weighing in on the Clemens Saga

I want to believe Roger Clemens. I really do.

In my eyes, Clemens is the greatest pitcher who’s ever lived. He’s got seven Cy Young awards, 354 career wins, eleven All-Star game appearances, two World Series rings and countless other records and accolades. Needless to say he’s proven himself on the field, but now he needs to prove himself in court of public opinion—a battle proving to be far more daunting.

Clemens good name and Hall of Fame career came under question with the release of the Mitchell Report on December 13 of last year. In the report Clemens’ personal trainer, Brain McNamee implicates former clients, most notably Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch.

The Mitchell Report alleges that McNamee helped acquire performance-enhancing drugs including steroids, amphetamines and human growth hormone, for some or all of the players he trained. McNamee told the Mitchell Commission that he began injecting Clemens with steroids in 1998, and that he continued to provide these steroids through 2001.

Clemens’ appearance on “60 Minutes” Sunday was met with mixed responses. Some believe his adamant, and almost furious, denials were proof that he was a wronged man who’d grown emotional due to the immediate public crucifixion, despite a lack of evidence beyond the testimony of a former trainer. Others saw his borderline tirade as further proof of his guilt and the unwillingness of his ego to be done in by a mere “clubhouse lackey.”

Clemens had a phone conversation with McNamee on January 4, two days prior to the “60 Minutes” interview. In that conversation Clemens stated he just wants the truth from someone, never actually telling his former trainer to come out and clear the pitcher's name. Clemens stated many times in the conversation that the steroid accusations were false, and when this was stated McNamee never agreed or disagreed, simply asking "tell me what you want me to do."

At this point, both Clemens and McNamee have been asked to testify before a congressional committee. In addition to the once chummy training duo, Pettitte, Knoblauch and former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski have also been asked to appear and give their testimony.

As a life-long fan of Clemens, I’m very much torn. I want to believe him. I want to believe that he’s been clean his entire career. I want to believe that he rose above the temptation to take the easy road. I want to believe that he saw others taking short-cuts and decided he’d rather work harder to keep up and, for the most part, stay ahead of those around him.

But one can’t help but wonder how a man in his forties is throwing just as well as, if not better than, pitchers half his age. One can’t help but wonder how a man in his forties manages to avoid any major injuries or nagging set-backs in recovery time. One can’t help but wonder whether or not all their heroes are tainted.

It pains me to question the integrity of one of my favorite players of all-time. I can only liken it to the way it would kill my father if Willie Mays were to suddenly come under question for having been using some sort of early performance-enhancer.

It hurts when a hero falls, but it hurts even more when you can’t sit there and listen to them declare their innocence without skepticism taking over.

Here’s to hoping I’m wrong and that the Rocket can prove we were all wrong.

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