Brian McNamee

Will there be sordidness in the Roger Clemens trial? Oh yeah, there will be

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I’ve been pretty clear about not being a big Roger Clemens fan. I’ve also been pretty clear in thinking that the case against him is going to be stronger than the case against Barry Bonds for the simple reason that, unlike in the Bonds case, the jury will hear from someone who claims to have direct knowledge of the situation that Roger Clemens did, in fact, take steroids.  That person is his former trainer, Brian McNamee.

What I haven’t said a lot about lately, but which I wrote about extensively three years ago when all of this was first bubbling to the surface, is that Brian McNamee has his own problems as a witness and will be subject to a pretty rigorous cross-examination. Cross-examination on the most fundamental and potentially damning basis on which any witness can be crossed: his credibility.

The facts are these: McNamee is an admitted liar.  He lied for years about Clemens steroid use, protecting his position as Clemens’ personal trainer and protecting his neck as an illicit drug distributor. In that process he famously wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times in which he denied Clemens ever took steroids.  Prosecutors will have no choice but to deal with that from the get-go, establishing that, yes, he was once untruthful regarding the matters on which he will testify in this case, but now he is being honest. The defense, of course, gets to ask the best question any lawyer can ever ask any witness: “so, were you lying then or are you lying now?”

But there’s another matter which touches on McNamee’s credibility. It’s far more complicated and potentially explosive, however, and late last night it exploded into this case when Clements’ lawyers filed a motion on the subject: McNamee was once suspected of and questioned about drugging and raping a woman in a Florida hotel pool when he worked for the Yankees in 2001. No charges ever resulted from the incident. But the critical takeaway was that the police suspected — and noted in their reports — that they believed McNamee lied to them during questioning.

Clemens’ lawyers want that stuff admitted into evidence during Clemens’ trial. Prosecutors, of course, want no part of it in there. Clemens’ lawyers likely want to paint with a broad brush, touching on the credibility angles, but wouldn’t mind a bit if it all gave the jury the impression that McNamee is a rapist who somehow slithered free. Prosecutors would like it all avoided, because it “could become a ‘sideshow’ that would unfairly prejudice the jury against their leading witness.”

It strikes me that the incident has to come into evidence in at least some limited fashion due to that credibility angle. That Clemens’ lawyers should be able to establish that, when questioned by law enforcement in 2001, McNamee was believed to have lied, thus suggesting the possibility that, when questioned by law enforcement during the course of the Mitchell Report, he lied once again. How much latitude Clemens lawyers should get in bringing up the underlying facts of the investigation (i.e. the alleged rape) as opposed to bringing up the lying stuff is the line the judge will have to walk. And it won’t be an easy line.

So no, the Clemens trial will not be solely about illicit drugs, hotel room injections and abscesses on Clemens’ buttocks. There will be some ugliness in there too.

Orioles are eying Welington Castillo as their primary catcher target

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 25: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up prior to taking an at bat against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 25, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.

Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.

For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.

Report: Phillies agree to minor league deal with Daniel Nava

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 12:  Daniel Nava #12 of the Kansas City Royals bats during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.

Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.