McNamee, federal authorities, reporter trying to bury Roger Clemens

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Given that the Roger Clemens case is one in which a syringe-hording drug dealer who once lied to the police about an alleged sexual assault is accusing a philanderer with anger-management issues of illegal drug use, we probably shouldn’t be surprised when things get even more seedy. But they have gotten more seedy: McNamee now says that Clemens used his charity foundation to pay for his performance enhancing drugs.

That’s interesting and all, but I find the context and the reportage of this story far more interesting. For example, despite the big headline — “Clemens’ Foundation Comes Under Scrutiny” — the fact that McNamee could produce no documentary proof of his allegation when asked to by investigators is not mentioned until the seventh paragraph. Given that McNamee is a guy who actually wrote a 100% fraudulent editorial in the New York Times defending Clemens against drug use several years ago, I am shocked that the Times would bury this little fact as deeply as they do. The Times has first hand experience being burned by McNamee’s lack of credibility, and yet they are not at all critical of this allegation.

It’s also worth noting that the anonymous source of this story is almost certainly a federal agent or attorney (i.e. a person “briefed on the investigation” who can’t be seen as the one revealing the information).  In light of the fact that Clemens can be convicted of perjury based merely on proof of drug use irrespective of the source of payment, what’s the purpose of this new information being leaked? To make Clemens look like a bad, bad man who would use a children’s charity to pay for dirty, dirty steroids. Or at least it would if there was actually any evidence that he did so, which there appears to be none.

I’m not exactly Roger Clemens’ biggest fan, and I think there’s a pretty decent chance his butt is going to be in a sling over his Congressional testimony and probably should be, but this story strikes me as a hit job. McNamee is offering unsubstantiated garbage to the feds, the feds are leaking it to the press in order to make Clemens look like more of a slimeball than he is, and the reporter is, at best, being far too credulous in passing it all along.

At the risk of hyperbole, allow me to say that I can’t point to a single person involved with this investigation who has behaved decently.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.