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Beast of the Month - May 2008

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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com Beast of the Month - May 2008 Roger Clemens,
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31, 2008
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      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist

      Beast of the Month - May 2008
      Roger Clemens, Cooperstown Caliber Major League Pitcher

      "I yam an anti-Christ... "
      John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the

      "There is no joy in Mudville."
      Ernest Lawrence Thayer, "Casey at the Bat"

      Okay, fine, we get it. It's no longer just about unconvincing
      performances before Congress by Sammy or Mac, nor is it about Jason
      Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro or even Barry Bonds. Steroids is no longer
      the exception to the rule in baseball, it is the rule. And sorry
      Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.

      That would be lesson after the release of the Mitchell Report, the
      investigative report commissioned by Major League Baseball that
      named at least some of the names of the steroid era, a list that
      still is likely the tip of the iceberg. Iceberg tip or not, the
      names of drug dopers could field a team of All-Stars that would hold
      their own against the '27 Yankees. Among the roster, besides Giambi
      and Bonds: 200-Game winner Kevin Brown, former Philadelphia Phillies
      hero Lenny Dykstra, 2003 NL Cy Young winner reliever Eric Gagne,
      2002 World Series MVP Troy Glaus, two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez, one-
      time rookie sensation Wally Joyner, 1990 Rookie of the Year and
      postseason hero David Justice, 1987 Rookie of the Year and Gold
      Glove catcher Benito Santiago, 2002 AL MVP Miguel Tejada, 1995 AL
      MVP Mo Vaughn and 1994 home run champion Matt Williams. And though
      many of these revelations came with the predictable denials and no
      comments, the general impression is that despite it being a tad
      politically compromised (tellingly, the report only named players
      who roided up and not executives or league officials who had
      knowledge of the widespread abuse) Senator George Mitchell did a
      solid job in his investigation, and all claims could be backed up in

      Winners in the latest juicer revelations are few and far between.
      One could be Mark McGwire, who, after a number of doping indictments
      all related to perjury, seems all the more wiser for his infamous
      2005 Congressional clam-up. The other would be Barry Bonds, whose
      defenders can repeat their insistence he was hardly some lone wolf
      and that his prosecution appears to be a politically motivated
      vendetta. The biggest winner, however, would have to be Jose
      Canseco once again. Even more so than the Mitchell Report and Game
      of Shadows, it is Canseco who has written the definitive account of
      the steroid era in baseball. In 2005, when Juiced was released, he
      became widely reviled in the sports press as a liar and shameless
      opportunist for pointing the finger at other dopers and making
      stunning claims along the way. Three years later, nothing in his
      book has been disproved and much has been found to be shockingly
      accurate. Despite this proven track record of reporting history,
      the publication of his recent sequel (cleverly titled Vindicated:
      Big Names, Big Liars, and the Battle to Save Baseball) led to a
      repeat of attacks on Canseco's honesty and character.

      Meanwhile, there is little question who is the biggest loser from
      the Mitchell Report. That would be Roger Clemens, The Konformist
      Beast of the Month, who has replaced Bonds as the poster boy for
      steroid cheaters.

      Clemens, like Bonds was for batters, is no mere pitcher. With all
      due respect to Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton (or even
      his current competitors Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson and Pedro
      Martinez) The Rocket was named, in a 2006 ESPN poll of baseball
      experts, the greatest living pitcher by an overwhelming margin. He
      has won a record seven Cy Young Awards (two more than Randy Johnson,
      his closest competitor) and is the last starting pitcher to win an
      MVP trophy (after he went 24-4 for the Boston Red Sox in 1986.) His
      career record is 354-184 (nearly a 2 to 1 won-loss ratio) and is
      second only to Nolan Ryan in career strikeouts. He is also one of
      only three pitchers to strike out 20 batters in 9 innings (the
      others being Randy Johnson and Cubs one-time rookie flamethrower
      Kerry Wood) and he's done it twice.

      (Granted, this has nothing to do with the rest of the article, but
      all these mentions of Randy Johnson bring up a good question: does a
      guy named Randy Johnson really need "The Big Unit" as a nickname?)

      On a personal level, members of The Konformist staff have long
      admired Clemens for his tenacity, even if sometimes it has gone a
      tad psychotic. Of special infamy was his twin encounters with Mike
      Piazza of the New York Mets in 2000. After Piazza hit a grand slam
      off The Rocket a month earlier, Clemens beaned him on the hand and
      head with a single pitch during a July game. Then, in Game 2 of the
      World Series, Clemens threw a shard of Mikey's shattered bat at
      Piazza, leading to a bench-clearing on both sides. Even in this
      bizarre moment his greatness shines through: in that game he pitched
      a two-hitter with 9 strikeouts in eight innings of shutout ball, a
      performance that effectively silenced the Mets and led to Clemens'
      second World Series ring with the Yankees. This followed his one-
      hit shutout with 15 Ks in the ALCS, in the greatest postseason
      pitching performance besides Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956
      World Series. Clearly, he was the true Yankee hero of their last
      World Championship.

      And so it is this background that makes his inclusion on the
      Mitchell Report so tragic. What makes it even worse is his sad and
      sorry response. He could've owed up to his cheating (cheating that
      is apparent in evidence detailed below) in a tearful confession, a
      move that would've earned him long-term sympathy for honesty. Or he
      could've simply declared "no comment" and disappeared from public
      view for awhile. Instead, Clemens demanded a Congressional hearing
      to deny his usage of steroids. And, as Oscar Wilde would warn, when
      the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.

      At first, it actually seemed like a good strategy: pit Roger Clemens
      word and character mano a mano against his former trainer, Brian
      McNamee. After all, if Canseco is, for all the accuracy of his
      books, a dubious character, he's got nothing on the shadiness of
      McNamee, a man who has since admitted lying even on the testimony
      that implicated Clemens. It seemed likely that, given the choice
      between believing McNamee against the word of Clemens, Clemens would
      win. He even tested this strategy somewhat successfully on 60
      Minutes in an embarrassing suck-up fest "interview" by Mike Wallace.

      The problem with this strategy, it turned out, is it wasn't just
      Clemens V. McNamee. It was Clemens V. McNamee, Andy Pettitte, and
      Chuck Knoblauch, two other players who McNamee outed as drug
      dopers. Both of them have since confirmed under oath what McNamee
      told Senator Mitchell. Pettitte added Clemens had admitted to him
      in 1999-2000 that he had received HGH injections. Clemens insists
      that Pettitte "misremembered" the quotes.

      Not only was it Clemens V. McNamee, Pettitte and Knoblauch, it was
      literally Clemens V. Clemens. It was revealed by McNamee (in a
      rather sleazy moment) that he had injected Clemens wife Debbie with
      HGH for a Sports Illustrated pictorial, a claim she would later
      confirm. So according to Roger Clemens, Pettitte, Knoblauch and
      even his own wife were injected with performance enhancing drugs by
      his own trainer, but Clemens himself, despite his own deserved
      reputation for being ultra-competitive, wouldn't even dream of the
      doing the same.

      Besides the testimony, there was physical evidence to back the
      charges against Clemens. McNamee may be a weasel, but he sure is a
      sharp weasel, saving vials, syringes and gauze pads involving his
      injections of Clemens, evidence McNamee handed over to prosecutors
      in February.

      It is interesting to note how the actual Congressional hearings
      went. The Democrats on the committee, almost to a man and woman,
      pounced on Clemens' admittedly flimsy defense with glee. Perhaps it
      was because the case Clemens made was so beyond dubious. It
      certainly didn't hurt that, after Kobe, Bonds and Michael Vick,
      finally there was a sports scandal this decade where liberals could
      proclaim outrage without politically correct fears of being called a
      racist. But perhaps the biggest reason for the Democratic Party
      pounding of Clemens was due to him being a friend of the Bush
      family, most notably Bush Senior. As it turned out, GOP members at
      the hearing not-so-coincidentally seemed to go out of the way to
      defend Clemens and bash McNamee, making this into a partisan
      battle. Of course, this only inflated the circus-like nature of the
      hearings. In the end, neither party really won: the GOP looked like
      shameless defenders of outwardly deceitful testimony, while the Dems
      looked like a sniveling group of cowards who could only press a case
      in the most frivolous of causes. (Perhaps the hearings are a
      perfect metaphor for the last eight years on the Capitol.)

      Frivolous or not, the Democrat's conclusions seem pretty solid: that
      Clemens did indeed take performance enhancing drugs and then
      perjured himself repeatedly on the issue. Despite this, it seems
      unlikely there will be any prosecution of Clemens over this, and
      even if there is, rumors are floating that Bush Jr. would pardon him
      at the request of his daddy. (Of course, this pardon would hardly
      match Scooter Libby's on the Outrage-o-meter.) In any case, it is
      telling to contrast the Clemens saga results with the vendetta
      against Bonds, and wonder, politically correct or not, if race is
      indeed a factor for the discrepancy.

      Clemens may not face the long arm of the law, but in the court of
      public opinion, he has suffered the biggest loss of his career. He
      may be the greatest living pitcher, but five years from now (when
      the recently retired Clemens first becomes eligible for Cooperstown)
      he will likely be snubbed from Baseball's Hall of Fame over the
      scandal. That may the least of his worries: after filing a
      defamation lawsuit against McNamee, claiming his stellar reputation
      had been tarnished by his former trainer's allegations, reporters
      uncovered evidence of multiple adulterous affairs by the Rocket,
      including one with former country music star Mindy McCready. (When
      asked about the news allegation, McCready replied: "I cannot refute
      anything in the story.") Needless to say, besides putting obvious
      strain on his marriage, such revelations undercut his claim that his
      family man image has been unfairly tarnished by the steroid scandal.

      It appears the fallout of the recent steroid revelations will soon
      go beyond Clemens, Bonds and others. Of special note: in
      Vindicated, Canseco outs current New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez as
      someone who asked for help in finding a trainer that would supply
      steroids. Rodriguez, a three-time AL MVP and a likely candidate to
      surpass Bonds in the career home run derby, has been hyped as a
      player who could supposedly restore the integrity of the game.
      While the charge has been hysterically denounced in the sports media
      in a repeat of the Juiced controversy, it is important to repeat
      that Canseco has a proven track record of telling the ugly truths
      that are eventually admitted as such.

      But hopefully the steroid scandal will go beyond the current
      scapegoating of ballplayers. Of special note: in February, former
      relief ace (and infamous racist ranter) John Rocker claimed MLB
      commissioner Bud Selig knew he failed a drug test for steroids in
      2000, and that doctors for both management and the players'
      association advised him and other Texas Rangers on how to
      effectively use steroids. (Among the other players were Rafael
      Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez and, of course, Alex Rodriguez.) But the
      real issue here isn't if A-Rod, Rocker and others were drug cheats:
      it's that it was known and sanctioned from the highest levels of the
      team, the players' union and even the league itself. This is the
      kind of scandalous conclusions that George Mitchell, for all his
      meticulous work, evaded in his report. Hopefully, this complicity
      in the doping scandal will soon no longer be ignored.

      In any case, we salute Roger Clemens as Beast of the Month.
      Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Roger!!!


      Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com, ESPN.com, MLB.com,
      SportingNews.com and SportsIllustrated.com for help on this article

      Canseco, Jose. Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How
      Baseball Got Big. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.

      Canseco, Jose. Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars, and the Battle to
      Save Baseball. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

      Fainaru-Wada, Mark and Williams, Lance. Game of Shadows: Barry
      Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional
      Sports. New York: Gotham Books, 2006.

      Gammons, Peter. "Ample Living Proof of Clemens' Greatness." ESPN.com
      1 May 2006 <http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?

      Mitchell, George. Report to the Commissioner of Baseball of an
      Independent Investigation into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other
      Performance Enhancing Substances by Players in Major League
      Baseball. 13 December 2007.

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