"If Mr. McNamee's mouth is moving, he's making an inconsistent statement," Roger Clemens's attorney Rusty Hardin during a recent hearing
The doldrums of summer sports boredom should get a nice little B-12 shot (pun absolutely intended) over the next several weeks as the Roger Clemens trial kicks off. If you've been asleep for the last three years, the former MLB ace is charged with perjury, false statements and obstruction of Congress for telling a House committee under oath that he never used steroids or human growth hormone during his 23-season career.
Jury selection begins today, and while I'm not one who would ever openly campaign for jury duty, let's just say I'd make every effort to say the right things if I had the chance to be on this one.
(I'm fairly certain the defense would find ample evidence on our audio logger at the station to have me removed from consideration, but it would be a fun ride.)
There are fewer things more entertaining than watching someone really, really stubborn in the face of the rest of the free world asking them "Why in the blue hell are you doing this?" There's nothing noble about hubris nor about lying, but there's a part of me that admires the balls on Roger Clemens if he indeed rides his story to a stay at Club Fed.
And it could happen.
To briefly recap, Roger Clemens is entering nut-cutting time of a saga that ostensibly started in 2007 when the Mitchell Report was released. It included Clemens as one of 85 baseball players guilty of performance-enhancing drug use in some shape, form or fashion during the previous decade or so.
If you believe Clemens's former trainer, Brian McNamee, he injected the seven-time Cy Young winner with steroids and Human Growth Hormone (HGH) several times between 1998 and 2001.
If you believe Roger Clemens, Brian McNamee is a scumbag of the nth degree who hoarded several used syringes and gauze with Clemens's blood in 2001 and then sprinkled them with performance-enhancing drugs because McNamee was fearful that he would need employment in the wake of being the center of a "date rape" investigation that could have led the Yankees to fire him. (The team did eventually decide not to renew his contract.) The tainted paraphernalia, according to Clemens, was McNamee's ticket to extorting him.
Because everybody knows that when you want to get a job, the best way to go about it is to threaten your future employer with legacy-crushing, fabricated evidence of illegal activity. That always works.
Clemens will be fighting battles in the courtroom on at least two fronts. The main event is certainly Clemens v. McNamee because McNamee's general moral shakiness is the weakness that Rusty Hardin has identified in the prosecution. (McNamee has changed his story a couple times along the way, and just having your name in the same sentence with "date rape" is a bad look, so considering practically no one believes Clemens, it's as sound a strategy as Hardin could have.)
The undercard will see Clemens reprise his battle of believability with former teammate and former best friend Andy Pettitte. Pettitte said he remembers well the time when Roger first admitted his HGH use to him; Roger famously said Andy "misremembers" that conversation. (It has since been clarified, and cleaned up linguistically, that Pettitte "misheard" Roger. Okay, thanks for that.)
So if we can bullet point this thing, here is what Roger is up against once opening arguments begin. To neutralize Pettitte, Clemens's legal team has to convince a jury that either:
1. Andy Pettitte is outright lying about Clemens's steroid use. (Pettitte, who has admitted his own HGH usage, doesn't strike me as the "willing to go to jail to screw Roger over" type. This has a 0 percent chance of happening.)
2. Andy Pettitte misheard a conversation with Clemens. A "mishear" that was presumably heavy enough to send Pettitte home to tell his wife that his boyhood hero had used performance-enhancing drugs. I'm guessing that's a topic that if I were Pettitte and heard it the way he conveyed it to his wife, it would have led to more dialogue with Roger in the original conversation and/or an "Are you serious, Roger?" In short, HGH use, to me, would seem to be an entire conversation (a long one), not an offhand, potentially "misheard" comment. To neutralize McNamee, Hardin has to convince the jury that either:
1. Brian McNamee, in the midst of worrying about whether or not he would be going to prison for "date rape" (he was not convicted, by the way), had the guile to concoct a scheme to extort long-term employment out of Roger Clemens, which also assumes that McNamee (who knew Clemens pretty damn well) thinks the über-competitive Clemens would just roll over and hire him instead of (a) suing the ever-loving shit out of him for extortion and/or (b) crushing him like a grape. (Clemens actually ended up hiring him anyway after the Yankees didn't renew his contract.)
2. Brian McNamee is lying about Roger Clemens's steroid use, which would imply that he's willing to perjure himself (and subject himself to what Clemens is facing now) just to screw Clemens over.
If public opinion means anything, Pettitte's testimony will not go well for Roger. Pettitte's admission of HGH use and the general belief that Andy is "God-fearing and honest" is a stark contrast to Clemens's defiance, bravado and frosted tips.
The court of public opinion on McNamee seems far more split. He's a guy who's lived on both sides of the truth, and again, even merely brushing up against something like "date rape" in a report is a tough stigma to overcome, especially when the sketchy details of the police report get mixed in.
In the end, though, fans find it hard to believe that Roger Clemens -- the guy with the most to lose -- is the one Mitchell Report player to be framed in this whole ordeal, an ordeal that swallowed up his workout partner and best friend. Most of all, fans don't like to be treated like they're stupid. Clemens, people think, is doing just that.
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Is Brian McNamee's character (or lack thereof) enough to trump the implausibility of Roger Clemens's story?
If the jury says "Yes" and cuts Roger loose, then Brian McNamee might as well be Satan. Because Roger's story reeks of bullshit.
At stake? Roger's legacy and a several-month stay in federal prison. Let the games begin.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game and Sporting News Radio (Sirius 94 and XM 208) from noon to 3 p.m. Central Time weekdays, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.