It was a sad and pathetic scene. A game of “he lied, no he lied”. After over four grueling hours of grandstanding, scolding, lecturing and generally getting little accomplished, the House Government Oversight Committee grilled Brian McNamee and Roger Clemens, with no real results.
It seemed half the committee took McNamee’s side while the other half took Clemens’. There was the typical slobbering over a bigger than life baseball legend as well as some feigned incredulousness over who knew what and who was telling the truth.
While McNamee’s credibility is already in shambles, Clemens tried vainly to keep his.
Yet there remain some unanswered issues. Mitchell Report lawyer Charles Scheeler read an extract from a letter sent to the Players Union that listed all of the players and former players that were going to be mentioned in the report prior to its release. Yet Clemens claims he never was informed of this. Believable? He told the Committee that Andy Pettitte misunderstood his comments to him about taking HgH when he said in a statement to the same committee that Clemens had done so. Believable? He insisted that the most potent thing he took were B-12 injections. Sound like Barry Bonds?
McNamee is no victim here either. He has been caught so many times lying or telling half truths that nothing that exudes from his mouth can be taken seriously.
Is Roger Clemens a bad person? No. He was emotional at times especially when he talked about how proud he was to wear the USA uniform in the World Games. He spoke of how he worked with youth groups against use of enhancers.
But the question still lingers because he was not convincing enough to dispel this nasty allegation.
But still, someone is lying.
It was reported that four FBI agents and an IRS Special Agent sat in and that subpoenas may be forthcoming to see which one was committing perjury. That will be far more serious than any useless Congressional Committee meeting done more to benefit the committee members.
When the Mitchell Report was released and Clemens name was mentioned, I wrote a piece entitled “Roger, Say It Ain’t So”. Well since then he is determined to save his reputation, becoming highly visible with his denial, even appearing on 60 Minutes to do so.
The only thing confirmed by today’s hearing is that someone is lying and neither is backing out. For Clemens sake, I hope it is McNamee. This will not be the kind of legacy I want to remember about the best pitcher in the game the past 20 years.
Cartoon by Gary Varvel, Copyright: Indianapolis Star, Creators Syndicate
Perhaps the biggest bombshell to come out of the Mitchell Report was the naming of Roger Clemens as a purchaser of anabolic steroids and HGH. On the surface it shouldn’t be so shocking. Clemens, arguably the best pitcher of all time, pitched in an era of cheating. He undoubtedly felt he needed to ingest to stay competitive. It’s no surprise that on the same day the Report became public, Clemens issued a statement through his attorney that he did not take performance enhancing steroids. No mention of HGH. Now he is forced to defend his record and reputation even while yet again contemplating retirement.
As good as he has been (winner of seven Cy Young Awards, number 2 on the all-time strikeout list), if this report is true than he too should be banned from the Hall of Fame.
If Barry Bonds is the goose, then Clemens must be the gander. Even though Clemens has much more credibility than Bonds, there should be no exceptions.
Taking illegal substances is not acceptable under any circumstance.
There will be some Hall voters who will overlook all of this and vote them in anyway.
But there’s another side to this. Great players who were on the cusp of the era are now being voted in or are soon going to be on the ballot. Who’s to say that they didn’t use them? We may never know.
You can argue that the scandal of illicit drug use is as damaging as insider betting.
So as long as Joe Jackson and Pete Rose are banned then guilty steroids users should also be locked out; even one as good as Roger Clemens. It’s a darn shame since I contend that he would’ve made it regardless.
So the long awaited Mitchell Report was publicly released today with much fanfare but with little unknown information. Besides releasing names of 76 current and former players implicated as users, the overall exhaustive 402 – page report provides detailed background on the investigation and three key recommendations in moving forward.
While it has been known since at least the late 1980’s that illegal substances were being used, any attempt by Major League Baseball to address the issue has been resisted by the Players Association. Even now with all of the attention being paid to the issue, the PA refused to cooperate with Mitchell during its investigation. Every current player that was named as a user, except Jason Giambi, refused to comment and Giambi was coerced into doing so.
Among prominent current players being named were Gary Sheffield, the recently traded Miguel Tejada, the recently signed Eric Gagne and Paul LoDuca and the biggest surprises, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.
But there are many reasons to be careful here.
1. Even though players were named, there are many more users who were spared the public embarrassment. The investigation was limited only to those few suppliers who were willing to cooperate. It was stated in the report that as many as 5-30% of players were users at any given time.
2. Those who were named were accused of using as far back as nine years ago. There’s no way of knowing if they still use since the current testing program is a farce.
3. Because of this time lag, those active players named will probably be spared any discipline unless there’s a major new discovery involving any of them.
So what does the future hold as a result of this?
1. Commissioner Bud Selig promises swift and appropriate action on a case by case basis. There is little to be confident about here since he and the owners have been blind to this issue for years. It’s like closing the gate after the horses have fled.
2. The Players Association will continue to block any attempt to discipline beyond what is in the collective bargaining agreement of 2003. Since this agreement doesn’t expire until 2011 do not look for any major changes in the near future.
3. Corrective action was recommended in the report (paraphrasing):
a. Become more aggressive in investigating and taking action on alleged users
b. Dramatically increase the level of education to players on the harmful effects performance enhancing drugs
c. Develop a proactive year-around highly scientific testing program in conjunction with the Players Association
So the Mitchell Report is finally public but until players, owners and the union become serious about usage and its consequences little will change. Because of the power of the union, any progress will be gradual and on its terms. You can bet that any and all disciplinary action on players as a result of this report will be challenged by the union.
The reason that no player has stepped forward is because they know that once guilt is admitted it will be increasingly difficult to negotiate their multi-million dollar contracts. So the owners and GM’s have little choice than to proceed as if nothing has happened.
Also the continued use of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and any subsequent consequences is still an issue since HGH in undetectable in urine samples.
The final chapter on this sordid affair will be written only when those players still active from this era retire. It’s a contemptible legacy. One in which great players of the era won’t be judged as much for their on-field accomplishments as for whether it was enhanced through illegal means.
The report cites former major leaguer Todd Zeile telling USA Today : “The sad part is that the issues I hear discussed are whether (using steroids) is taking away from the level playing field or whether there are long term effects to this stuff. I never hear anybody talking about the morality or the ethics or the integrity of the game. It’s cheating in every sense.”
The sad fact of this comment is that cheating has become acceptable in today’s society. That’s why fans still flood the ballparks. They are not bothered by this troubling situation as they continue to shill out millions of dollars and idolize the likes of Barry Bonds. Perhaps this reflection of society is the real story here.