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Doing It the Right Way

W. Ross Clites
Your City Sports- Cleveland

Cleveland--Your City Sports is a great company to write for. The emphasis of the site truly is the "C" of YCS. It is fun to put the focus on local coverage in hopes they will become national headlines. However, some storylines transcend geography. These moments are more about the greater "S" in YCS; the type where sportswriters with contrasting opinions have a unified stance.

This article is one of those topics. It stems from the inconspicuous retirement of Frank Thomas. As analysts began to evaluate his career one phrase kept appearing, "He did it the right way." In his press conference, Thomas never named names, but he clearly spelled out that he was unique in being a natural talent. The back of his baseball card supports an anomaly-free decline. You know, the way baseball statistics used to be.

As a baseball purist and a Cleveland fan, I was happy to see Thomas deteriorate. This was more of a welcome relief than it was maliciously anti-White Sox. Finally, a power hitter from the 1990s did not hit a second wind--and grow 2 hats sizes--after age 35.

Every ESPN baseball analyst who holds a Hall of Fame vote said they would vote for Thomas on the first ballot. Great call. Griffey, Thomas, and Thome should be the only ones to get in from their era of 500+ home run hitters. The precedence has been set forth by the writers that anyone linked to steroids will not get remotely close to the 75% of total votes necessary to get in. McGwire will definitely see his vote total decline, which transitively means there is no shot for Sosa, Palmeiro, or even Sheffield. They are all guilty by association.

What about the power pitchers of the decade? Their stats had similar unnatural inflation, maybe none more telling than the numbers on the radar gun of 40 year-old arms. Just because it was an offensive era does not give them a pass. Cheating to keep up with the cheaters you are facing is sympathetic, but still cheating. Hall of Fame voters need to draw the same line in the sand for these pitchers that they have with the hitters: No Sosa = No Clemens.

I revisited a 17-minute taped phone conversation from January 4, 2008 that should be administered as a steroids confession from Roger Clemens. If you have forgotten, the phone call was tapped by Clemens and a lawyer, and on the unsuspecting receiving end was his former trainer Brian McNamee. I wrote this letter to ESPN four days after the story broke to the news channels.

McNamee loved and idolized Clemens, and how could he not? Roger Clemens is the sole reason this ex-cop got an opportunity to work as a trainer for a Major League Baseball team and subsequently lived in a million dollar mansion. Things simply do not add up. McNamee sold out Roger Clemens to the infamous Mitchell Report despite being grateful for everything Clemens had done for him over the years. The begging question then becomes, "Why would he throw Clemens under the bus?"

In my interpretation of the call, McNamee proves his loyalties are still with Clemens. His repetitive “What do you want me to do?” inquests are like
a servant lowing himself at the feet of a master. Impressive how he says all the right things and has no idea he is being wire tapped. Clemens thought he could catch him in a lie or start a heated argument, but the submissive McNamee stayed true to form.

By not definitively responding to “What do you want me to do?” any of the 21 times McNamee presents the question, Clemens' silence spoke volumes. Not even suggesting a single thing means Clemens obviously wants him to do something that does not belong on a recording. I believe that Clemens wanted to respond to McNamee, "Lie for me and make these charges go away” but strictly off the record. Clemens had to be kicking himself for imposing the wire tap. He could have never expected McNamee to be so eager to do anything he said. Especially after this same guy turned him in to the MLB Commissioner's investigation; Clemens had to presume McNamee did it out of spite and his allegiance had flipped. What Clemens wrongly assumed was that McNamee talked to authorities on his own terms.

On several occasions, sources have mentioned that McNamee would have gone to jail and been forced to leave his son--with a terminal illness--if he lied to Senator Mitchell.
To me, this gives McNamee absolutely no wiggle room to lie. So if he told Mitchell that he injected Clemens with HGH I have no choice but to believe him. The context of the phone call suggests that McNamee was backed up against the wall and there was nothing he could do but sell him out. He desperately tried to put Clemens in his shoes.

In the taped phone conversation Roger Clemens informs McNamee that he is intending to do a press conference to “tell the truth.”
Before Clemens can get the whole thought out of his mouth, McNamee asks if he should be present. Why would Brian McNamee do such a thing?

His enthusiasm to be there tells me that, in McNamee’s mind, Clemens is prepared to have an Andy Pettitte-style press conference--coming forth that he is guilty but only on a couple of occasions. McNamee wants to be present to
assist Clemens in convincing the public that it was as infrequent as Andy Pettitte’s usage. So when he hears Clemens say, “I’m going to tell the truth,” McNamee is ready to spin the story and limit the damage of admitting HGH use. The last thing McNamee thinks Clemens means by "tell the truth" is to stick by his feeble lie. After all, why would Clemens have a press conference to deny steroid or HGH use? He had already been denying for weeks through several media outlets. How would a formal press conference change opinions, and why would McNamee (the opposition to his story) help his cause by being there?

McNamee knew what Pettitte's confession did for his image. His suggestion to attend a truth-telling press conference was because he believed that Clemens could come out the other side.

After a few minutes of phone conversation Clemens turned the spectacle into his prototypical P.R. train wreck.
Clemens manipulates the fact that he is being wire tapped and he was not talking to McNamee at all; he aimed his words directly at the public. The phone call was his soap box and he was preaching right to the news stations, “I am hurt. I just know that I didn’t do it. I’m just so devastated by this.” What is the point of these words; McNamee knows better than anyone what you did.

In the days before the phone call Clemens played the family card for pity points and even made his home movies, a clever way to speak out and not field questions. After giving the media the stiff arm for weeks Clemens finally sat down with
60 Minutes. He answered questions, but in the most defensive manner in history.
He aggressively asked Mike Wallace for an inch of respect; that he has earned the right for us to simply believe him. Funny how you strike out 20 batters in one game and now you are above the law. On top of that, Clemens painted himself the victim because the public accused him of something that could not possibly be true. I mean, no one else in that era of baseball was on steroids.

When questioned about records, being a hero, and all the statistics, Roger Clemens gives the classy comment of the year by saying, “I could give a rat’s ass about that.”
Funny, are you not the guy that wears the logo on your glove commemorating 300 victories and was that very same graphic not positioned over your shoulder in that "I have never taken steroids" video you posted on your website? The numbers mean everything to this man. Denying and lying are the only way he can preserve their integrity.

Lastly, there is the issue of waiting 25 days to fabricate, I mean reveal, his Vitamin B-12 and lidocaine story. Rather than saying something immediately, it took him weeks to recollect that McNamee did inject him, but not a human growth hormone. It was a necessary vitamin. Now, m
y father receives monthly B-12 shots, administered from a doctor because he has Crohn’s Disease. This is the same B-12 shot Roger Clemens claimed that he received on a rare occasion from his personal trainer. The necessity seems slightly disproportional.

In stating, on the record, “I’ve gotten shots from Brian McNamee” Clemens has confirm
ed the Mitchell Report findings. From there the prosecution should call any doctor with a brain to the witness stand. "First question: what condition does Roger Clemens have that requires an injection of B-12? Second question: why would a trainer administer the shot and not a physician? Third question: if he does need the vitamin for a specific ailment or illness, why did the injections cease or sporadically occur? No further questions.” Case closed.

When Roger Clemens says to Brian McNamee on the phone, “I can’t believe you would tell guys that I took steroids” all I hear is, “I can’t believe you would tell guys
our secret.” What surprised Clemens was not what McNamee said, it is the fact that he said it. He continues to express how hurt his family is by the big bad media for making this whole story up. It is going to be far more painful when his children realize their father is a cheater and a compulsive liar.

The line in the sand has been drawn by this sportswriter; Roger Clemens is a bad man and he should be resigned to post-professional baseball purgatory. Do not strip him of any numbers or awards but do not allow him back in the game in any capacity. No all-whatever teams, no ceremonial first pitches, no stadium appearances, no retired numbers, no Hall of Fame. Leave the joy of the game for those who do it the right way--people like Frank Thomas.

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