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Yankee Panky #38: Roger Radar
2008-01-14 09:53
by Will Weiss
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

I typically don’t like to use this space as a ranting pad, but I’ve been observing a lot of things in the past 10 days that have bothered me, and I need to get them off my chest. First, though, allow me to rewind to my last post. I appreciate all the compliments, critiques, criticisms and suggestions for this year’s installments of the Banter. I apologize up front for the sporadic nature of the posts. Starting this week, I’m resolving to make Mondays the regular Yankee Panky day, barring a crowded schedule on my part, or my esteemed colleagues Alex and Cliff pre-empting the column for Breaking News alerts.

As for this week’s post, though I’m a bit hopped up about the media finding little else to talk about except “Days of our Lidocaines,” starring Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee, I’ll be sure to keep it brief and free of vitriol.

On to the blog …

Goose Gossage finally received his due last week, having been elected to the Hall of Fame with 85.8 percent of the vote. I was a big Goose fan; he was the first true “stopper.” His legacy is that future managers sought pitchers like him for their teams to ensure victories both in the regular season and the postseason. That impact on the game makes him a Hall of Famer, in my opinion.

But Gossage’s induction stunk of something right away. It was as if the voting members of the Baseball Writers of Association of America cut him a break to continue their crusade to “uphold the game’s integrity” by not voting for alleged performance-enhancing drug users. I’m happy Gossage is in, but I’m sure there’s a faction of writers who got into Goose’s Flying V this year, conveniently forgetting that he should have gone in jointly with Bruce Sutter two years ago. As for Jim Rice, I actually agree with the vote and consider him to be equal to Don Mattingly; great career, not long enough of a period of dominance. Hall of Very Good, not Hall of Fame. That’s what’s great about this game, though, is that you can debate this stuff until you get laryngitis. The BBWAA does exactly what we do, except they can mark a ballot that leads to a player receiving a plaque and on it, looking like Han Solo frozen in carbonite.

Many of you wrote me asking about minor league bits and team news. It occurred to me that I’d like to see some of that from the beat writers right about now, since pitchers and catchers report in four weeks. The occasional “Yankees still eyeing Santana” headline was sprinkled in, but the baseball universe wants to see this Roger Clemens situation resolved. Like the run to Super Tuesday, this may be a daily grind until the Rocket appears before Congress.

The “60 Minutes” appearance was laughable. Mike Wallace went from esteemed reporter emeritus to giddy baseball fan in 60 seconds. Edge of Sports’s Dave Zirin has a solid recap of the interview here. Wally Matthews took some jabs at Clemens also. Say what you want about Matthews, but in last Thursday's column I think he accurately stated what most of us believe. 

There’s a duality of stupid going on. On “Real Time with Bill Maher” Friday night, Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi, who’s on the campaign trail, was asked about the media’s role in creating the candidates’ perceptions. His response, “You can send any s--- up a flagpole and these people (the media) will f---ing salute.” He's right. It’s a matter of media members presenting information without full facts. And we’re never going to know the full and complete truth, because there’s too much up for interpretation. The media are buying their subject's garbage, and the majority of the public, it seems, fall in line like we live in some twisted version of Hamlin.

Reports have surfaced saying that other trainers disliked McNamee and didn’t consider him to be one of “their own.” Do we believe that? Should we? Brian McNamee knows exactly what went on between him and Clemens. So does the 354-game winner. When Clemens said, “Somebody’s got to tell the truth,” he was right. An erroneous report is released in the LA Times a year ago and we’re expected to exonerate Clemens. A tape of a vague, angry phone conversation between Clemens and McNamee is played and we’re supposed to choose sides.

Clemens hasn’t done anything to improve his standing in this case, or to sway public opinion to prove his innocence. The one thing the media has done well here is to allow the public to draw its own conclusions based on the reporting.

The only conclusion I’ve come to is that I want to read about baseball, not put Roger Clemens’ career into historical context because of the allegations against him.

Welcome to the 2008 season.

Comments
2008-01-14 10:05:33
1.   williamnyy23
I couldn't disagree more with the following:

The one thing the media has done well here is to allow the public to draw its own conclusions based on the reporting.

The media has pretty much convicted Clemens and reported all events as a guilty man trying to insist on his innocence. Objectivity has gone out the window...but I don't think today's media even pretends to uphold that charade.

2008-01-14 10:10:54
2.   rbj
I can see the media &/or the public being skeptical of Roger's denials, based upon all the other PED deniers then being unmasked, er, as it were. (Marion Jones, e.g.). I would like to see more investigation & evidence before anyone, including Roger (or even Barry Bonds) being presumed guilty.

Minor quibble Will, it should be "So does the 354-game winner." not "351"

2008-01-14 11:31:11
3.   Schteeve
I'm just glad that the Giants are giving me something to pay attention to, so I don't have to think about this Roger Clemens, George Mitchell, PED, nonsense.
2008-01-14 12:05:11
4.   Max
I have never been a huge fan of Clemens, but I think william has made the best points in regard to this whole situation.

From my vantage point, reporters, fans, and haters of all stripes have conflated a whole range of Clemens behaviors, personality tics, and incidents (bat-gate being Exhibit A) along with circumstantial evidence and their beliefs about "what is wrong with sports" to pretty much declare him guilty.

What Matthews says here:

"There was a time when Clemens could do it the right way, without help. But the evidence is strong that for him, that time passed about 10 years ago. Still, he clings to the conceit that somehow, he is better/more capable/more entitled than anyone else, because to admit otherwise would be owning up not only to his humanity, but his fraudulence."

pretty much says it all for me in terms of how the media has viewed this situation from the beginning. ("the evidence is strong" Really? Show me, please). This whole situation isn't about improving baseball -- it's about convicting a player they now find distasteful and dishonest, when he's doing nothing more than behave the way he's behaved his whole career. Meanwhile, reporters can't be bothered to cover this situation with the same nuance and consideration for "humanity" that they now somehow miraculously expect out of Clemens.

I never thought it was possible for me to sympathize with a bully like Clemens, but the media bum rush has been so one-sided that I'm wondering how many kittens he strangled to get everyone so apoplectic. All the while, the huge turd that is the Mitchell Report is being held out as some sort of shining path toward salvation for baseball and sports in general.

Personally, Goldman and Marchman at the New York Sun have been the only ones to really nail things in their analyses, and expose just how sad the whole Mitchell Report fiasco has been. To quote Goldman:

"The possibility exists that Clemens will now climb onto one of many witness stands and self-immolate, like some macho mirror image of Oscar Wilde in the dock. Yet, if it does come to pass that McNamee's attorneys are able to refute Clemens' testimony convincingly through solid, factual evidence, it wouldn't alter the truth of Mitchell's ineptitude."

2008-01-14 12:06:14
5.   Shaun P
3 Agreed.

I can sum up this whole mess very succinctly - Bud Selig is an idiot.

2008-01-14 12:09:54
6.   Shaun P
4 "From my vantage point, reporters, fans, and haters of all stripes have conflated a whole range of Clemens behaviors, personality tics, and incidents (bat-gate being Exhibit A) along with circumstantial evidence and their beliefs about "what is wrong with sports" to pretty much declare him guilty."

I tend to agree with you. Not to open a whole other can of (dead horse?) worms, I think you could replace "Clemens" with "Bonds" and "bat-gate" with "hitting 73 homers", and have the statement remain true.

2008-01-14 12:14:34
7.   RichB
I am very sick of the Roger Clemens nonsense, as well. I'm sick of it because I see no benefit to it. What will come of this? Anything? There's no actual proof that he did it and no clearly defined punishment even if there was proof. Roger will go up in front of Congress and the media will run their cameras and a year from now, will we be any better off? In any respect? Please, someone, explain to me how this is helping anyone. There is no way that we will learn anything new. All we will get to see is a new side of Roger and if we don't like that side we get to narrow our eyes, lean over to our pal and say "yeah, I think he did it." And Roger will be kept out of the Hall and no one will be better off. It won't keep kids off steroids, it won't help baseball develop their steroid policy, it won't help discover a test for HGH. It's a waste of time.
2008-01-14 12:23:29
8.   RichB
6 Indeed. Or replace "Clemens" with "McGwire" and "bat-gate" with "hitting 70 homers".

I predict Clemens testimony will include comments along these lines:

"Asking me or any other player to answer questions about who took steroids in front of television cameras will not solve the problem. If a player answers 'No,' he simply will not be believed; if he answers 'Yes,' he risks public scorn and endless government investigations.... My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family, and myself. I will say, however, that it remains a fact in this country that a man, any man, should be regarded as innocent unless proven guilty." - Mark McGwire testimony before Congress, March 17, 2005

2008-01-14 12:29:37
9.   JL25and3
0 I was a big Goose fan; he was the first true "stopper."

I'm not sure what you mean by "true stopper." I'd say that Rollie Fingers and Sparky Lyle both preceded Gossage in that role.

2008-01-14 12:33:39
10.   JL25and3
This horse was brutally flogged last week, so I'll keep it short.

We don't have any evidence that Clemens is lying. We don't have any evidence that McNamee is lying, either. So withholding judgment on one inevitably means passing it on the other.

McNamee is a sleazy character. On the other hand, Roger Clemens has never done anything to earn the benefit of my doubt. I'll wait and see how the testimony goes.

2008-01-14 12:33:47
11.   dianagramr
9

throw in Mike Marshall too ...

2008-01-14 12:35:03
12.   JL25and3
8 I suspect that Clemens will be given transactional immunity for his Congressional testimony. That means he can't take the Fifth.
2008-01-14 13:20:32
13.   RichB
10 "So withholding judgment on one inevitably means passing it on the other."

We're not passing judgement on McNamee. He admitted that he distributed steroids already - no need to judge further, he's guilty.

And, he's getting immunity from all charges. This is probably the only drug investigation in America that makes deals with the dealers to rat on the users instead of the other way around.

2008-01-14 13:37:44
14.   OldYanksFan
The article by Zirin was brilliant. Whether you agree with him or not, this is a guy who both knows how to write and entertain. Great stuff.

However, the Matthews article is another matter.
This has absolutely nothing to do with whether he did or did not use steroids, HGH or Preparation H. It has everything to do with the way he has reacted to being accused of it.

So, it's not important if Roger is guilty or innocent. Rather, it is the quality of the 'show' that Roger is putting on. Roger sucks in front of a camera. Roger is an egomaniac. Roger sweats and he blusters. Roger needs anger management.

My feeling is, even if he is innocent and this whole affair turns out to be a Fed induced witch hunt, I STILL think Roger should go to jail. I can understand PED use, but how do you forgive 'the way he has reacted to being accused'?

2008-01-14 13:43:42
15.   OldYanksFan
2 How can you say that? You mean because many men accused of rape were actually guilty, that the Duke boys were guilty too?

I'm not saying Roger is innocent. But how can you correlate that fact that others have denied the truth with whether Roger is denying the truth? Isn't even single case unique, and judged on it's own circumstances?

2008-01-14 13:45:57
16.   JL25and3
13 I was referring to judging their truthfulness. The steroid distribution charges aren't really relevant to that.

You're right about the backwards nature of the investigation.

2008-01-14 13:48:07
17.   JL25and3
15 A court has to presume innocence. We don't.
2008-01-14 15:47:31
18.   Max
14 I agree that the article by Zirin was fantastic, and I happen to agree with most of his points.

Without dredging up the dead horse again, my objections don't even have to do with "innocent til proven guilty" or Clemens' legacy or other such nonsense being peddled by the WorldWide Leader. It's the arc of the story being told that seems so distorted.

For example, many people latched onto Pettite's admission of usage as validating McNamee's credibilty, and how dare Clemens throw his "best friend" Andy under the bus during the 60 Minutes interview? Yet, when McNamee was reported (in an interview with SI's Heyman) as saying it was plausible that Roger didn't know Andy was using, I saw virtually no stories examining this curious twist, and what it meant for Roger/McNamee's credibility.

Also, what interested me was McNamee's claim in the same Heyman interview that "more than half" of players were using steroids between 1998 and 2000. I thought that was fascinating, because it made the Mitchell Report look even worse -- unless of course, McNamee wasn't very credible and his numbers were way off. But again, no examination of the weird contradictions brought about by this interview -- just more about how the poor guy and his sick kids were under siege by that lying sack of you-know-what a/k/a "Fraud-ger".

Also, I've seen very little serious in-depth analysis of Clemens' strategy for tackling these accusations -- just a lot of superficial, bat-gate laced armchair psychoanalysis about how Roger is heading for a tragic fall (because that's what happens to all the great ones befelled by the drug boogeyman, right?) It's sad to see that sports columnists don't even have the sophistication of your average dime story mystery novelist...even pulpy potboilers usually assume the enemy has an intricate strategy worth explaining a little.

I guess I'm incredibly annoyed at how such a flawed document (the Mitchell Report) and such a flawed set of individuals (Mitchell, the clownish politicians like Shays all trying to get a piece of the action) are somehow elevated in this process instead of being held up to the same harsh spotlight Clemens is. But there I go beating the horse again, I guess.

2008-01-14 16:35:24
19.   Will Weiss
2 Quibble fixed.
2008-01-14 16:44:02
20.   Will Weiss
18 The same could be said about Kirk Radomski, Bobby Alejo or any player working with a personal trainer that he keeps on the payroll. ... Your analysis speaks perfectly to my point that the coverage is leading us to draw our own conclusions and require more details on the situation. 10 JL, you said it beautifully. ... And Rich 7 , you could have a solid career writing 1-paragraph synopses of long-winded articles. Good stuff.
2008-01-14 17:20:29
21.   Max
20 Will, I hope people are requiring more detail so that they can draw their own conclusions. But much of the coverage I've read has a very strong undertone of presumption of guilt. For example, Lupica in his columns is careful to indicate that Clemens may not be guilty -- but there's no mistaking the undercurrent in his opinions of where he stands. Matthews' overheated style nicely captures a certain sense of outrage, but there is absolutely no perspective.

I just feel that this tone undermines the ability of people to draw their own conclusions, and has been much too one-sided, because the drama of Clemens' bull-headed bluster (again, conflated with the way he carried himself on the field) is too delicious to resist.

I'd just like the document that started all this to be put on trial as well, so that systemic issues can be examined...there's too much of a "lone gunman/rogue element" spin to the coverage so far.

2008-01-14 17:43:12
22.   Shaun P
21 I hope the trial of that document starts with the Congressional hearing . . . but I'm not expecting it. Congress is not likely to turn on one of its own (and I would think that even if Mitchell was a Republican, or Congress were still Republican-controlled). Gee, I wonder why Selig picked a former Senator to write the report?
2008-01-14 17:54:27
23.   JL25and3
22 I've always felt that the primary purpose of the investigation was to cover MLB's antitrust ass. I actually think that Mitchell was basically acting in good faith, but I don't think Selig and ownership were.
2008-01-14 18:04:03
24.   williamnyy23
22 More and more, I don't think Mitchell was acting in good faith. Basically, he seems to have been concerned with justifying his mega-million dollar report by coming up with a big name. There are so many things that Mitchell could have done to add integrity to his report, but instead he simply took McNamee's testimony and ran with it. If Mitchell wasn't presented to the public as such a sacred cow, you could really start to poke holes in his effort. I think only Olney has even touched on this subject.
2008-01-14 18:04:12
25.   williamnyy23
22 More and more, I don't think Mitchell was acting in good faith. Basically, he seems to have been concerned with justifying his mega-million dollar report by coming up with a big name. There are so many things that Mitchell could have done to add integrity to his report, but instead he simply took McNamee's testimony and ran with it. If Mitchell wasn't presented to the public as such a sacred cow, you could really start to poke holes in his effort. I think only Olney has even touched on this subject.
2008-01-14 19:57:18
26.   JL25and3
25 I can see that viewpoint. But I'm not sure what he really could have done to "add integrity to the report," since he didn't have much of anything to work with.

Remember, McNamee's testimony and the naming of Clemens was only a small part of the report. I don't see that "coming up with a big name" was his purpose at all; it's certainly not how the report reads, nor is it how Mitchell presented it. He wasn't the one who ignored everything else to focus on Clemens, everyone else has done that since then.

2008-01-14 20:29:16
27.   Shaun P
26 You're right, but someone as media-savvy - and as big a baseball fan! - as Mitchell would have to have at least suspected, if not known, how things would play out in the media. Few people were going to care about, say, Ryan Franklin or Nook Logan. (Its not like people stopped watching the Cards and the Nats.) The focus was going to be primarily on Clemens, and secondarily on the other named stars.

Look at BALCO. How many people today can tell you that the BALCO investigation exposed Randy Velarde and Marvin Bernard (among others) as PED users? Nope, the BALCO line starts (and usually ends) with Bonds.

IMHO, Mitchell should not have named names. Which leads me to . . .

22 I think Mitchell approached the task more as trying to do a favor for his good friend the Commissioner, as opposed to justifying his very expensive costing report. Did he bungle it, by naming names? Yes. Could he have added integrity by not including names unless he had proof beyond McNamee and Radomski and those checks? Yes. But then, what would the point of the report have been? "There are rumors about rampant drug use in MLB, the testing program should be fixed by doing X, Y, and Z, let's all move forward." Selig shouldn't have needed a report to tell him that!

The smartest thing Mitchell could have done would have been to tell Selig that this investigation was going to be a huge waste, that he (Selig) shouldn't do it, and that he (Mitchell) wouldn't do it. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

2008-01-15 03:13:32
28.   JL25and3
27 I basically agree on both counts. I just don't think any of that suggests bad faith on Mitchell's part.
2008-01-15 04:13:07
29.   ny2ca2dc
"pitchers and catchers report in four weeks" sweet music to my ears!
2008-01-15 06:09:52
30.   williamnyy23
28 I think it does suggest bad faith because Mitchell's mission was to be an impartial investigator of facts. Instead, it seems as if he resorted to unsubstantiated claims in an effort to make both himself and his employer (MLB) look good. I think that's bad faith.
2008-01-15 06:36:33
31.   horace-clarke-era
Dead Horse Alert! We do seem to be stuck with this for a bit, don't we, and once we see the Bud and Donald Show in front of Congress it'll go on. Could argue that NOT to discuss it is ostrich-like, that this IS the heart of baseball, sadly, right now, and all our pushing towards pitchers and catchers reflects some of the problem: that no one REALLY wants to address the issue.

I have said for awhile that if we want to dump on Selig and Fehr and cohorts, we need to look at fandom, too. They were giving us what we wanted. Records, and home runs. If we say they looked away from obvious corruption, so did we.

I confess I felt a lot of 'what he said' reading JL on this thread. I'll add only a couple of things. One is that it is both silly and wrong to say there is 'no evidence' against Clemens. Jeez, what else is direct participant testimony? It is fair to say 'no credible evidence' if you want, and get into a debate about credibility, but NO evidence? Please!

I also found McNamee's spontaneous comment, watching the 60 Minutes charade, that Roger might well NOT have known about Andy to be plausible and a credibility enhancer. Why would a supplier breach confidentiality among his clients? Damages his relationships with both, reduces trust. He ain't a doctor, but he was FUNCTIONING as a medical advisor, and note that BOTH players kept their relationship with him going for a long time after (to the present) to the point of steak-and-potatoes consulting! This, by the way, is part of what feels ugly about Clemens' lines about 'a troubled man' ... he was leaning on that troubled man a lot, and for a long time. Call it a messy divorce, but ...

I confess I cannot see how the Mitchell report makes 'himself and his employer look good' as William, so often savvy, alleges. You mean because he finds that steroids were part of baseball and many names, including big ones used and he tells what he was told? Would it have been better to say 'I can't find it?' Or, "Because my only sources are NY I will not name.' He DID find it, the unfortunate aspect is that it was localized to 2 sources (plus some San Francisco data) in New York. Really ... if McNamee names a bunch of people and one of them is Roger, is Mitchell supposed to keep Roger OUT because he's a big name and will draw all (or a lot) of the talk? Think it through. THAT would be shameful! Mitchell played the hand he was dealt.

2008-01-15 06:49:37
32.   JL25and3
31 What he said.
2008-01-15 06:58:14
33.   horace-clarke-era
Note please that any slanderous rumors that JL and I have been seen in bars concocting or drafting our posts on the currently-tabled subject are false, unverified, and actionable, and our lawyers (Fehr and Co.) will pursue all such allegations to the fullest extent of cyberlaw.

Ahem.

William, isn't it at least fair to note that 'unsubstantiated claims' when they become confirmed by the player (Pettitte, Roberts, others) offer at least some data that Mitchell's judgment was ... er, in the ballpark?

On a broader level, are criminal court standards the proper yardstick here? (Real question: we could say they are, and they do NOT seem to be the ones applied - hearsay in Roberts' case - though the evidence of McNamee would have been admissable and any jury COULD convict an accused on that, just as any decent lawyer COULD cross examine fiercely.)

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