Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Roger Clemens

Alright, I need to take time out from the top 40 countdown to get back to the steroids issue. I was beginning to believe that it was becoming less and less likely that Roger Clemens' name would ever be cleared, and possibly even more unlikely that he was, in fact, innocent of the accusations. Andy Pettitte's admission of HGH use not only makes it seem more likely that his best friend in baseball was also using, but also gives some creedence to the word of Brian McNamee.

Then, Clemens issued the following statement yesterday:

"I want to state clearly and without qualification: I did not take steroids, human growth hormone or any other banned substances at any time in my baseball career or, in fact, my entire life."

There's no clever phrasing here that could be used to defend himself from being called a liar at a later date. He has stated unequivocally that he is innocent of all accusations.

So what does this mean? I don't know for sure, and I certainly am not ready to say that I believe him. I want to believe him, but I'm still skeptical. However, I hold firmly to my opinion that he needs an opportunity to present his side of the story, i.e. to refute the charges.

He also stated, "I plan to publicly answer all of those questions at the appropriate time in the appropriate way." I don't have a problem with this, although some are criticizing him for it, saying he needs to defend himself publicly rather than by issuing statements. But, this is a complicated matter, and just as the defendant in a trial has a right to not talk to the press about his case, Clemens has the right to expect that he should be given the appropriate forum.

So, what is Clemens going to do? I don't know the answer to that question, but I have what I think is an ingenious idea about what he should do.

He should announce that he's not retiring, and sign a one-year contract with the Yankees for the major league minimum. He should make it clear that he plans to pitch an even smaller portion of the season than he did last year, maybe only the final two months; That he plans to stay in shape and then begin training in the Yankees' minor league system between one and two months prior to this, or however long it takes.

Of course, this contract will be a highly incentive laden contract that pays him generously should he crack the Yankees' rotation and make it back to the major leagues. He should state publicly that he is well aware that the Yankees, as constituted right now, have six capable starting pitchers competing for five spots and there is no guarantee that he will be able to unseat any of them. But, of course, that will be his goal, that and to help the team make it back to and win another World Series.

Why would he do this when it seems ever so obvious that now is the time he should retire for good? To defend and protect his legacy, that's why. By doing so, he will be forcing Bud Selig's hand to take action based on the allegations in the Mitchell Report or not.

Selig has already stated publicly that he plans to investigate each active player named in the report and decide on any possible disciplinary action on a case-by-case basis. So, should he suspend Clemens for his involvement with steroids, Roger will utilize baseball's appeal system to its fullest extent. That will be his forum, his "appropriate time and appropriate way", to attempt to clear his name, preserve his legacy and ensure his place alongside baseball's greats in Cooperstown.

Should Selig decide not to take action, this will not allow Clemens the opportunity to make as strong a statement as if he does, but his defense will be that Major League Baseball didn't even seek to punish him for what the report claimed he was guilty of. Therefore, they determined that the case against him was weak. Why was the case against him so weak?...Clemens will ask rhetorically. Because the allegations are false, will be his answer.

Will this erase the doubts in everyone's minds, in the so-called "court of public opinion"? No, but he will have done what he said he would do, "...publicly answer all of the questions...", and it will be a much stronger statement than anyone has made in response to the steroid allegations. More importantly, it will eliminate any clearcut case against electing him to the Hall of Fame, and ensure his place in baseball history...on the basis of his performance rather than his enhancing.

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