Clemens' obsession with his image seriously threatens his liberty

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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.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

Associated Press
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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”