Witness against Roger Clemens: "Who's Roger Clemens?"

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Yesterday we heard that the feds have subpoenaed a guy named Jeff Blair, who allegedly had the steroids goods on Roger Clemens. Last night, the guy said otherwise:

A former gym owner in the Houston area says he never supplied Roger
Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs and is looking forward to
meeting with a grand jury investigating whether Clemens lied to
Congress . . .

. . . Blair said Thursday night that he’s never met Clemens, any
members of the Clemens’ family or anyone representing Clemens,
including personal trainers or attorneys.

“I did not supply Roger Clemens (with) growth hormone,” Blair said.

Possibilities:

(a) The feds forgot that the purpose of subpoenaing witnesses to a grand jury is to obtain evidence that helps their case, rather than hurts their case;

(b) The feds knew that, but realized all along that they really
don’t have a case at all and simply don’t want the grand jury to feel
like it was convened for nothing; or

(c) This Blair guy was going to spill the beans on Clemens, but then
Clemens and his lawyer showed up in the back of the hearing room with
Blair’s long lost brother from Sicily — Godfather II-style — after
which Blair decided to trot out this “I never knew no godfather. I got
my own family, senator” business.

Though the Godfather fan in me hopes that the Pentangeli option is
really what happened, I’m leaning (b) here. Sure, as is the case with
Barry Bonds I personally I think that Clemens did steroids and lied
about it, but I also think that for several reasons a perjury
prosecution of these two guys is both difficult and ill-advised.

In neither case — Bonds before the grand jury or Clemens before
Congress — did you have prosecutors actually asking concise questions
with an aim at truly figuring out what these guys knew. To the
contrary, they were exercises in P.R., and because of that the
questions that were actually asked to these men and the facts the
questioners had at their disposal were lazy and weak.

Go read the transcripts: Bonds played dumber than a bag of hammers,
despite the fact that he’s actually a fairly bright guy. Clemens went
on and on about his life story whenever he was asked anything
difficult. Neither was given particularly difficult questions which
they were required to answer in an unambigious fashion. To the
contrary, each was allowed to talk openly and loosely for long
stretches at a time.

Which may very well establish that they were being evasive. In order
to make a case of perjury, however, showing evasiveness is not enough.
A witness needs to be nailed down. To be given hard and unambiguous
followup questions. Neither of these guys faced any of those things
during their day in the spotlight, and their answers can be spun and
qualified in many ways by their lawyers.

That’s a black mark against the prosecution, and in light of it I’d
be shocked if either Bonds or Clemens ever go to trial, let alone gets
convicted of perjury.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.