So, will Clemens get convicted?

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As I said earlier today: an indictment is one thing. A conviction, well, that’s something else entirely.  With the massive, massive caveat that I haven’t seen the indictment yet, my gut tells me that Clemens stands a good chance of walking away from these charges a free man.

Why?  His accuser, mostly.

There will certainly be more to the feds’ case than Brian McNamee’s word against Roger Clemens’ word.  There may be some DNA evidence on the syringes McNamee kept. There will likely be testimony from Andy Pettitte, Jason Grimsley, Jose Canseco and others. It’s not going to be a two man show. But Brian McNamee is the most important prosecution witness, and his credibility is more than a bit shaky.

McNamee is an admitted drug dealer. Worse for his credibility as a witness is that he has a history of lying or being suspected of lying, and on at least one occasion, it occurred in some seriously seedy circumstances.

While employed by the Yankees, he was caught having sex in a hotel pool with a woman
who was basically passed out
. Witnesses told police that they believed
McNamee drugged the woman. Police asked McNamee about it and he denied it.
The police reported reflected their belief that they believed McNamee was lying to them, but ultimately charges were never brought due to lack of evidence. More germane to this particular case is that McNamee once wrote an editorial for the New York Times defending
Roger Clemens against accusations of PED use. He later admitted that the whole thing was made up.

While McNamee will certainly be able to say that (a) the lack of charges in the pool thing back up his story; and (b) that he lied in the New York times in an effort to protect his employer, the fact is that, at a trial, he will be asked the one question ever lawyer waits his whole career to ask of an adversarial witness: “Mr. McNamee, were you lying then or are you lying now?”  Defense counsel — if they have a lick of ability — will pummel McNamee, far more so than most prosecution witnesses get pummeled in cases like this.

None of which is to say that McNamee is lying now.  Having closely followed the Mitchell Report and the Congressional hearing and everything before and since, it’s my gut feeling that he’s telling the truth.  But juries are outrageously sensitive to questions of a witnesses credibility, and McNamee will come under serious fire on this score.

Many will cite the success rate of federal prosecutors in handicapping this case. It’s something like 90%.  But it’s less in perjury cases and even less in cases involving well-heeled defendants with fancy defense counsel who fight the case hard — as Clemens no doubt will — as opposed to copping a plea.

Throw in the very damaged credibility of the government’s primary witness, and I think Clemens has a puncher’s chance. 

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.