Beast of the Month - May 2008
- Please send as far and wide as possible.
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
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
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
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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