Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Presumed Villian and an Inquisition

I do not like Roger Clemens. The guy strikes me as arrogant and full of himself, a selfish person whose first instinct is a mix of narcissism and greed. That is one reason I feel so odd defending him from the slime and slander being heaped by the media and now the Congress of the United States.

To read the newspapers and listen to the radio and television, Roger is apparently a cheat who is lying about using steroids and HGH to keep his edge as a pitcher. If true, that would be a pretty bad thing, I agree, and I cannot absolutely say that Roger did not use steroids or HGH, despite his repeated denials. But the present situation can not be properly described as a search for the truth, nearly so much as it is an obvious railroading of Clemens, simply because he is a big target.

Let’s run the timeline, but keep it simple. Clemens is a long-time veteran of Major League Baseball, starting with his selection by the Boston Red Sox in 1983. Clemens reached the majors in 1984, and won his first Cy Young award in 1986. In 1991, Clemens became (at the time) Baseball’s highest paid player. Clemens won his 200th game in 1997, and claimed his 3,000th strikeout in 1998. On May 22, 1999, Clemens set an AL record with his 18th consecutive victory (spanning two seasons). In 2001, Clemens won 20 or more games for the 5th time. He claimed his 300th victory in 2003. After that, Clemens came to the Astros and was instrumental in helping them go to their first-ever World Series. Clemens’ 1.87 ERA in 2005 was the lowest in the league, and that year he claimed his 4,500th strikeout. In 2007, Clemens claimed his 350th win, this time back with the Yankees.

The first allegations of steroid use by Clemens were made by Jose Canseco, which were followed by incorrect citations that an affadavit by Jason Grimsley implicated Clemens, a claim later proven false by the same judge whose court originally took the affadavit. That affadavit, however, led to charges against former Yankees trainer Brian McNamee. McNamee found himself in a lot of trouble, and soon after made claims against Clemens, for reasons which he claimed involved telling the truth, but which could more reasonably be explained by hopes that producing a bigger fish would reduce his prison sentence. Certainly, the fact that McNamee has lied to authorities before on numerous occasions should caution anyone from taking him at his word.

The Mitchell Report, Congress’ attempt to feel good about itself by ignoring the big problems so it can obsess with things that in no way affect the National Defense, Economy, or Public Welfare, mentioned Clemens 82 times. All of the citations, however, were hearsay or unsupported allegations. Deciding it needed to waste even more taxpayer money and time, Congress held hearings on MLB Steroid use and “invited” Clemens to appear and to testify under oath. This is roughly equivalent to the tender mercies of the Inquisition, which also “invited” defendants to appear before tribunals and unaccountable prosecutors. The last week has been filled with the exploits of men abandoning – yet again – their duties as public servants in order to pursue some personal vendetta or crusade. With one notable exception, however, the siege against Clemens has not changed anything about the known facts: The accusers have made charges, which Clemens denies. The accusers also have a clear motive to lie, but the media has clearly lined up against Clemens, assuming his guilt.

The exception is a creepy but significant piece; McNamee claims to have kept used syringes, bottles, and even bloody gauze which he claims prove Clemens was injected with steroids or HGH. In truth, the impetus of that physical evidence almost certainly cannot be used to prove Clemens’ guilt, but it can be used to prove McNamee is lying. First off, just how does McNamee explain keeping that stuff since 2000 and 2001, as he claims? There is, as Rusty Hardin (Clemen’s lawyer) only one immediate and obvious answer – that McNamee planned to blackmail, perhaps even frame, Roger Clemens. We know from McNamee’s own testimony to police that he had no moral problems with selling and injecting steroids … until he got caught.

Here’s McNamee’s problem: The physical evidence may or may not contain Clemen’s DNA, but even if it does, that does not rule out the strong possibility that McNamee could have tampered with the evidence – he held it for years for what definitely appears to be a hostile motive and bias against Clemens; the normal ‘chain of evidence’ rules would make it inadmissable in any court. But that evidence will far more likely be inconclusive, and may even prove McNamee a bald liar, if there should be DNA other than Clemens’ on the syringes, gauze, or bottles. To me, this looks like McNamee tried too hard to prove how clever he was, and this may well trip him up.

But I am concerned about the whole thing. Clemens may or may not have taken steroids, but the problem I have is how this was handled. Clemens has done a lot of stupid things in his career, but he never failed a drug test, he has never admitted using illegal substances, and no credible witness has ever testified seeing Clemens use illegal substances. Like it or not, there is no evidence that Roger Clemens used steroids or HGH. Yet the prevailing consensus is that he should be presumed guilty, that his career is “tainted”, that he might deserve to be denied the Hall of Fame, not because of what he is known to have done, but because of what he is rumored to have done.

A rumor. No proof, no presumption of innocence until admission or irrefutable evidence, just a whisper campaign started by men known to have broken the law, men who have admitted that they lied and cheated, and perpetuated by men too petty to make sure of the facts (geez, nothing learned from the Duke Lacrosse rape case, huh guys?), men who thought it was better to get a hot story running on a scandal, even if it was a pernicious lie, than to consider the damage such a rumor could cause an innocent man. After all, think about Roger Clemens’ situation for just a moment, and ask yourself, if he’s innocent, if he never used steroids or HGH, how does he prove it? It’s supposed to be a man is presumed innocent, because if he is guilty of something, the accusation can be proven, but even the most innocent man cannot prove a negative. No history of drug use, no admissions in his past, no evidence to speak of or credible unbiased witnesses, and yet the majority believe he is guilty, just because of a rumor. Why don’t people see why that is wrong?

This brings me to Congress. I alluded to the fact that whether or not baseball players have been taking steroids has pretty much zilch to do with the job Congress is supposed to be doing. I am unaware of any Al Qaeda plot involving doping up our pro athletes. Social Security is not imperiled if professional athletes have been using performance-enhancing drugs (PED). That bridge in Minnesota last year did not collapse because a jock stuck himself with a needle. When you get right down to it, Congress has no business sticking its nose in this.

Which reminds me, Congress is always going on about separation of powers, which basically is a rant about how they resent the President doing his job, using powers they wish they could grab for themselves. The hypocrisy of this is apparent as soon as we see someone being sworn in to testify to a Congressional “investigation”. These yahoos sure do like acting like judges, especially since they don’t have to follow the nominal courtroom standards – nothing like “inviting” someone to come speak to Congress, then treating them like a criminal and doing your worst to make them look guilty just for defending themselves from rumors and innuendo, especially if they dare to bring an attorney. “Contempt of Congress” can get you sent to jail, but from what I can see, for any reasonable person familiar with the Constitution and the behavior of these overpaid louts, “Contempt of Congress” merely describes the normal opinion a man of conscience should have of that group of liars and theieves.

Is Roger Clemens guilty of using steroids, HGH, or some other PED? I frankly don’t know, but as much as I dislike the man, I will take his word as sufficient to presume innocence unless and until a court proves otherwise; I will not condone or support a craven liar like McNamee just because the ratings are good for the story. I also find it easy and obvious to conclude that every Congressman involved in this “investigation” is guilty of fraud and malfeasance, as indeed is the natural state of any Congressman.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My one beef with your post: in a sworn statement Clemens best friend, and work out partner, Andy Pettitte confirmed that Clemens told him that he (Clemens) had used HGH. Why would Pettitte lie? Sure maybe Pettitte "misheard" or maybe Clemens is lieing. I will continue to believe the latter.