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.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.