Roger Clemens is looking forward to his day in court

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I once had an argument with my colleagues at the law firm about the public relations tack to take with a criminal client. I told them that the whole “our client is looking forward to his day in court” stuff was tired and no one ever bought it.  Better to say nothing or to come up with something new at least, I argued, because that old line was pretty close to saying “man, our dude is guilty, but maybe we can sucker 12 rubes who don’t read the newspapers into going all O.J.-jury on us!”

Of course, because I was a peon, I was told to go back to reviewing documents.  They used the old reliable statement. Our client was found guilty. A better statement wouldn’t have changed that, but at least it would have been more fun.

Anyway, I had this in mind when I heard Roger Clemens’ latest statement about his upcoming trial:

“You almost hate to say you’re looking forward to it, but we’re looking forward to it … We’re going to have our say in a fair setting. I’ve been great about not talking about it, and we’re going to handle it the right way. You’ve got to deal with it, and that’s the way I look at it: We’re going to deal with it.”

It’s not too different, but at least that’s better than the straight stock answer.

I gotta tell ya, though, that whole “we’re going to have our say in a fair setting” thing is funny. Take yourself back to late 2007/early 2008, and remember that the stuff that got Roger Clemens in the most trouble — the stuff that truly set this whole insane business off — was Clemens speaking in decidedly unfair settings. Unfair in his favor.

He gave press conferences orchestrated by his lawyer. He did 60 minutes with a strangely softball-throwing Mike Wallace. He issued reports that spun his career achievements in the most ridiculous ways.  The net result of all of that was an invitation to a Congressional hearing that never would have happened had he not blustered forth so stridently, and in which his own public statements were used against him. Now he’s facing criminal charges.

Roger, dude: I love you man.* But given how bad your own P.R. spectacles have come back to bite you on the ass, a “fair” setting is likely to absolutely murder you.

*May not be true.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.