Not always a Yankee, Rocket now a Yankee problem

Clemens testifies in front of Congress on February 13, 2008. The indictment stems from his testimony that day. Credit: AP Photo, Pablo Martinez

Roger Clemens’ six season with the Yankees were, in the annals of his career, mostly unspectacular. He stole a Cy Young from his teammate Mike Mussina in 2001 and captured two World Series rings, but his numbers — a 4.01 ERA/114 ERA+ with strike out rates below his career norm and walk rates higher — show that the Roger who was in the Bronx was more hype than substance. He was, after all, pitching in his age 36-40 seasons and made his Yankee encore at age 44.

Still, the post-baseball Roger Clemens — the one embroiled in a PED scandal and facing an indictment for perjury — will forever be linked to the Yankees. Unfairly or not, Roger Clemens’ problems will cast a shadow over Yankee past and could impact Yankee present and Yankee future too. This nagging issue comes about because Andy Pettitte, it seems, is key to the Justice Department’s case against Clemens.

Once upon a time, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte were very close friends. They wintered together in Houston; their kids grew up together; they trained together; and they, according to Pettitte, shot human growth hormone together. Clemens said that Pettitte “misremembered,” but in the he said-he said war, Congress and the Justice Department have seemingly sided with the current Yankee southpaw.

As former House Representative Tom Davis said late last week, Pettitte was the House’s key witness. In a phone call with ESPN New York’s Ian O’Connor, Davis spelled out the Congressional case against Clemens and highlighted Pettitte’s importance. “If it was just Roger versus McNamee, it’s a different matchup,” he said. “We didn’t call Andy Pettitte, we deposed him, and he supported McNamee and that was a problem for [Clemens]. Without Pettitte, neither McNamee nor Clemens was that articulate or credible.”

Pettitte has yet to address Clemens’ situation and, if the case goes to trial in three or four years, Andy will likely be called as a witness. It will create an uncomfortable situation for the two men and for a Yankee organization trying to live down the Mitchell Report accusations. “Andy Petttitte didn’t want to testify against his friend,” Davis said to ESPN. “But when he raised his right hand, he told the truth. It would’ve been different without him. Roger was a great pitcher who’s done a lot for the community, and McNamee’s had other issues.”

Today, Clemens and Pettitte seem cordial at best, but their intense friendship has long since cooled. In an interview with Boston’s WEEI last week, the Rocket commented on Pettitte. Clemens, who must repeatedly deny any PED use, said he and Andy no longer speak. “My boys went out to a game quite a bit,” he said, but we don’t.”

While the perjury case may rest in part on Pettitte’s shoulders, Clemens’ lawyer is being aggressive — some would say overly so — in his case. He rejected a plea deal that would have required Roger to admit PED use in exchange for no jail sentence, and Rusty Hardin seems willing to let this drama play out in an open court room. “The government made a recommendation [for a plea agreement] and we declined,” Hardin said to ESPN. “I will tell you the recommendation they made was a very good one if he was guilty. And if he was guilty we would have jumped on it.”

Hardin too is engaged in his own he said-he said debate with Representative Davis. The former House member claims they gave Clemens ample opportunity to avoid testifying for Congress but that Clemens wanted to clear his name. “We’re sitting around, and they were deciding whether to go through with the hearing or not,” Davis, who insists that Congressional representatives urged Clemens to be as forthcoming with the truth as possible, said. “This wasn’t a mandatory hearing. We weren’t hanging [him] out to dry. We were only giving him an opportunity to refute the Mitchell report and to tell his side of the story.”

Hardin refuted that take. “So Tom Davis,” Clemens’ attorney said, “who I saw on TV last night, comes down to us, calls us aside and urges us to have Roger testify. And now that son of a bitch is on TV saying that Roger insisted upon it.”

It’s a nasty, nasty business, and Clemens has found himself embroiled in a royal mess. By the time this case goes to trial, Andy Pettitte will have likely retired. He’ll be called upon to rehash his own PED testimony, and he’ll have to again talk, under oath, about the conversations he had with Roger Clemens while both were on the Yankees. The era may be in the past, but the legal percussions will echo into the future. As Joe Torre, the man who managed a team hiding some steroid users, said, “It’s sad.”

email

Roger Clemens under indictment perjury

Clemens testifies in front of Congress on February 13, 2008. The indictment stems from his testimony that day. Credit: AP Photo, Pablo Martinez

Update (5:25 p.m.): A federal grand jury has filed an indictment against former Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens facing a federal indictment for perjury in connection with his 2008 testiomy to the U.S. Senate. The 19-page indictment, unveiled today, charges the disgraced hurler with three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury. While the Department of Justice will not seek to arrest Clemens, the Rocket’s legal troubles are just beginning.

Michael S. Schmidt of The Times has more details on the incidents out of which the indictment arises:

Clemens’s allegedly false testimony came in a public hearing in which Clemens and his former trainer Brian McNamee, testifying under oath, directly contradicted each other about whether Clemens had used the banned substances.

“Americans have a right to expect that witnesses who testify under oath before Congress will tell the truth,” United States Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said in a statement announcing the indictment. “Our government can not function if witnesses are not held accountable for false statements made before Congress. Today the message is clear: if a witness makes a choice to ignore his or her obligation to testify honestly, there will be consequences.”

The congressional hearing at the heart of the indictment came just two months after McNamee first tied Clemens to the use of the substances in George J. Mitchell’s report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. After Mitchell released the report, Clemens claimed McNamee made up the allegations.

Clemens joins Barry Bonds as the two most prominent former players to face perjury charges in connection with statements concerning PED use. Bonds is scheduled to go to trial in March, and the two will appear together on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot.

The Feds, as Schmidt reports, investigated Clemens after Congressional leaders raised concerns over his testimony. Still, there are elements of a witch hunt here as Congress and the Justice Department have gone after only the two biggest names to be accused of drug use. If convicted, Clemens could face a sentence of 15-21 months, but my guess is that this case doesn’t get that far. Because Clemens allegedly never failed a drug test, the government’s evidence rests on the testimony of Brian McNamee, a former Clemens confidante who turned informant to avoid federal drug charges. McNamee claims to have old syringes that reportedly tested positive for both steroids and Clemens’ DNA.

The Rocket this afternoon issued a statement via Twitter denying the charges. “I never took HGH or Steroids,” he said. “And I did not lie to Congress. I look forward to challenging the Governments accusations, and hope people will keep an open mind until trial. I appreciate all the support I have been getting. I am happy to finally have my day in court.”

Click through for an embedded copy of the indictment, courtesy of Maury Brown’s Biz of Baseball. The unnamed Strength Coach #1 is widely believed to be Brian McNamee. [Read more…]

Jeter, Rivera could be dragged into Clemens/McNamee fray

As Brian McNamee and Roger Clemens continue their “he said/he said” spat, most people — and particularly the Yankees — would prefer it if this mess would stay far, far away from the Bronx. McNamee, however, has other plans.

According to the Daily News, in a brief filed on Friday and not yet available to me via the PACER system, McNamee has named a handful of current Yankees as potential witnesses in Clemens’ defamation suit against McNamee. Nathaniel Vinton has more:

The Yankees have never relished the destructive defamation suit former pinstripe hero Roger Clemens brought two years ago against his accuser, former Yankee trainer Brian McNamee, but bigger headaches for the club may yet lie ahead according to a new appeals-court brief issued by McNamee’s defense attorneys.

A footnote deep in the 60-page brief lists current Yankee stars Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter as witnesses McNamee might call to the stand for sworn testimony about Clemens’ purported use of steroids and human growth hormone. Also listed among potential witnesses for McNamee is Angela Moyer, an alleged mistress of Clemens who tended bar near the Upper East Side apartment where McNamee said he visited Clemens after Yankee games to inject the pitcher with steroids and human growth hormone (Clemens has testified he thought the syringes contained vitamin B12).

The brief, which McNamee’s attorneys sent Friday to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, portrays Clemens’ defamation suit as nearly dead in the water. It comes in response to Clemens’ appeal of a lower court’s ruling last year that eviscerated the suit, which Clemens first brought against McNamee on Jan. 6, 2008, three weeks after a report by former Senator George Mitchell first publicized McNamee’s accusations. Mitchell was also listed as a potential witness. He and the others could also be summoned to testify as part of a defamation countersuit that McNamee himself brought against Clemens last year in a federal court in Brooklyn — and will likely pursue, at least in order to recover his monumental legal fees.

If McNamee’s brief is as convincing as the Daily News says it is, the Yankees could be free of having to send their star players to testify. McNamee’s side could file for summary judgment and hope to get the case’s original dismissal affirmed. However, McNamee will continue to push his countersuit in Brooklyn, and only a settlement would stave off a trial.

For the Yankees, Spring Training steroid stories are becoming old hat, and the Roger Clemens mess has been lingering like a bad taste in the back of the team’s mouth since the Rocket’s ill-fated 2007 return to the Bronx. Hopefully, this story will just go away, but then again, we’ve all been hoping that for years with no end in sight.

Interviewing the Rocket reporter

On Friday, we were completely unsurprised when the news “broke” that Brian Cashman knew about Jason Giambi‘s steroid use. This story came out in Jeff Pearlman’s latest book on Roger Clemens, the Yankees and PED, and it constitutes as obvious a “duh” moment as one could imagine. Despite that, Pearlman has done a thorough job putting this sordid tale together, and he recently answered 20 questions from Jason at IIATMS. Pearlman takes about Clemens, Pettitte, the work behind the book and PED use today. Check it out.

Pardoning Roger Clemens

As I write this post, there are just 36 hours left in the presidency of George W. Bush, and baseball fans might be watching closely. Pardon rumors surrounding Roger Clemens just won’t die.

On Friday, the Daily News’ I-Team blog, run by the paper’s sports investigative team, noted that Dana Perino, White House press secretary, basically shot down the idea of a Clemens pardon. Meanwhile, yesterday, Buster Olney hypothesized on the prospects of a pardon. In the end, the ESPN scribe didn’t believe a pardon would be forthcoming.

For the most part, baseball on the whole is sick of the Clemens-Bonds-steroids saga. It’s become far more about catching a big fish in a lie or half-truth about something they did five or ten years ago. While George Mitchell tried to gloss over the shortcomings of his report by half-heartedly suggesting ways the game should look forward, once he named names the report became a useless piece of sensationalistic reporting instead of a series of serious recommendations.

The Bush pardon question, though, and Clemens’ potential culpability raise some interesting questions. If Bush were to pardon Clemens, in a way, this part of the saga would be over. No longer would we have to listen to he said, he said fights between Clemens and McNamee as the game of baseball tries to move beyond the cloud of steroid.

Olney summed up the argument for a pardon in a nutshell:

He probably has already suffered the greatest punishment he will receive: the diminishment of his reputation and legacy. In the past month, a golf tournament removed Clemens’ name from its title, as did a hospital funded by the pitcher’s money. It’s possible he will never be inducted into the Hall of Fame, despite putting up the most daunting numbers of any pitcher in his lifetime.

Why bother running Clemens through the public spectacle of a trial, basically?

Well, the flip side of that argument is a good one. It’s possible that Clemens lied to Congress, and as Olney writes, if Bush pardons his friend Roger Clemens, he may have to do the same for Barry Bonds. At that point, millions of government dollars and thousands of man-hours would basically have gone to waste. Of course, many people already think the money has gone to waste, and a witch hunt for Bonds or Clemens won’t make anyone feel better.

In the end, a Clemens pardon is probably, as Olney said, a headline-grabbing event that Bush seems to be trying to avoid in his final day in office. He’s taken heat for the Isaac Toussie pardon and seems much less trigger-happy on the pardon issue than Bill Clinton did during the waning days of his presidency.

So the steroid circus will continue. While I’d hardly advocate for pardoning Clemens or Bonds, part of me thinks the health of baseball and the continued success of the game would benefit from the opportunity to put the Steroid Era behind us once and for all.

Roger Clemens is not a lot of things

According to this ESPN.com article, Roger Clemens is not unhappy with the Yanks for the perceived final game snub. He’s not looking to play any longer. He’s not too keen to talk about that whole PED issue, and he’s not going to be joining the Astros to fulfill his personal services contract any time soon. I wonder if, in four years, we’ll be saying that he’s not going to the Hall of Fame either.

Also absent from Stadium celebration: Roger Clemens

One of the notable stories from yesterday was the absence of Joe Torre and Don Mattingly from the pre-game ceremonies on Sunday. Since they’re both with the Dodgers, it’s understandable why they did not appear in person. Donnie got mentioned along with the first basemen, though not announced by Kay or Sterling, and Torre’s name wasn’t uttered. Yet there was another Yankee from the dynasty years who went unnoticed last night: Roger Clemens. Why would the Yankees snub a player who is only one year removed from his last stint in Pinstripes?

They were afraid the fans would boo him.

“They didn’t want boos to be the last memory of Roger at the Stadium,” a source familiar with preparations for the last game told the Daily News.

While I’m not one for blindly trusting an anonymous Daily News source, this seems likely. Most people I know aren’t too fond of Clemens right now, be it because of his breakdown late last year, or because of his grandstanding amid steroid accusations and perjury charges. So there had to be legitimate concern over the reception he’d receive from fans.

When asked, Brian Cashman wiped his hands of the situation:

“Roger was a great Yankee and did a tremendous job here and we’re proud of the work he did here,” general manager Brian Cashman said Monday. “I can’t speak to why he wasn’t involved in the video tribute. I wasn’t part of any meetings.

“There’s a lot of controversy surrounding him right now, but that doesn’t change the kind of person he was when he was here. He’s special in my book, whether they showed a video clip of him or not.”

Team spokesman Howard Rubenstein also attempted to defuse the situation, saying that the snub of Torre and Clemens was not intentional:

“A lot of great Yankees were not mentioned,” Yankee spokesman Howard Rubenstein said of Clemens and Torre. “There was no slight intended and perhaps both of them should have been mentioned during the celebration.”

Sorry, but I’m not buying that one bit. To lump Clemens and Torre in with Yankees not mentioned just isn’t fair. Say what you will about Clemens, and I know there will be differing opinions, but you can’t just say that some people weren’t mentioned as an explanation for Joe Torre. And yes, perhaps both should have gotten a mention for their contributions to multiple World Championships.

Honestly, do you think that the fans would have booed had Clemens been present, or even recognized? I’m not sure that would have been the case. Fans might hold contempt towards the man, but Sunday night was not one rife for booing. I assume fans would have clapped out of respect for the man and his achievements. Booing would have just been out of place.