So, will Clemens get convicted?


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. 

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.

*’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.