Clemens' obsession with his image seriously threatens his liberty

9 Comments

Earlier this year, the lawyers representing Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger advised him to put his image behind his liberty, advising him to say nothing about an allegation of rape lodged against him in Georgia.  Though Roethlisberger’s reputation took the kind of a beating not seen since Tex Cobb absorbed 15 rounds of jabs, roundhouses, and uppercuts from Larry Holmes, the strategy worked.  Roethlisberger ultimately faced no charges, and through the passage of time his Pittsburgh posture has improved a click or two above pariah.

In 2008, former pitcher Roger Clemens would have been wise to seek — and to heed — similar advice.  After word emerged that former trainer Brian McNamee told former U.S. Senator George Mitchell that McNamee had injected Clemens with steroids and hGH on multiple occasions, Clemens could have, and in hindsight should have, kept his head low and his mouth shut.  If compelled to speak on the matter, Clemens should have played the patent-pending “I’m not here to talk about the past” card, and he should have thanked Mark McGwire for blazing that particular path.

Cognizant of the P.R. hit men like McGwire took by taking the careful approach, the Angus-fed Texas boy opted instead to hurl clumps of bovine byproduct at Brian McNamee.  Not only did Clemens publicly call McNamee a liar, which eventually would get Clemens sued, but Clemens also sued McNamee for defamation.  And lawyer Rusty Hardin either recommended the approach or agreed to go along with it, presumably after his fees were paid in advance.

Though no lawyer possesses a crystal ball (and any that ever did surely closed up shop and headed to Vegas), Hardin should have had the experience and the wisdom to be able to lay out for Clemens the worst-case scenario resulting from a decision to sue McNamee.  Hardin should have told Clemens that the lawsuit easily could push the entire controversy to a higher level of national attention, and that it could very well culminate in Clemens receiving an invitation to testify before Congress.  And Hardin should have told Clemens that, once Congress invites him to testify, the options become fairly simple:  show up and risk an eventual perjury prosecution or decline the invitation and accept the fact that everyone will conclude that McNamee was telling the truth.

Once Hardin and Clemens opted to file suit, the die had been cast into the deep end of the Rubicon.  And the same tenacity that made Clemens a great pitcher meant that he would stick to the strategy for persuading the public that he didn’t take steroids, regardless of whether he did.

Two years later, Clemens’ lawsuit has failed, due in large part to the conclusion that McNamee’s statements to Mitchell, who was investigating steroid use in baseball with the cooperation of federal officials, created immunity from civil liability.  In turn, McNamee’s lawsuit against Clemens remains viable.  Most importantly, Clemens now faces the very real possibility of going to jail because he used Congress as a battlefield in his war against the man who claimed that Clemens cheated.
 
So, basically, Clemens disregarded his freedom in the hopes of cleaning up his image.  

And he’s well on his way to having neither.

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

Getty Images
9 Comments

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

Getty Images
2 Comments

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.