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.

Dexter Fowler: “I didn’t say anything wrong.”

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 20:  Dexter Fowler #81 poses for a portrait during St Louis Cardinals Photo Day at Roger Dean Stadium on February 20, 2017 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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New Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler was recently asked by ESPN’s Mark Saxon how President Trump’s efforts to institute a travel ban affected him and his family. Fowler’s wife is from Iran and Fowler said that he had reconsidered traveling with his daughter to Iran to visit her family. His wife’s sister also delayed her return from a business trip to Qatar as a result of Trump’s executive order. “It’s huge,” Fowler said. “Especially anytime you’re not able to see family, it’s unfortunate.”

Fowler’s statement was pretty bland as far as athletes wading into political waters go. He didn’t criticize Trump or conservatives, nor did he espouse support for liberals or Democrats. It was a simple statement that his life had been adversely impacted by an executive order.

The responses to Fowler’s comment were mostly awful. The @BestFansStLouis Twitter account highlighted this, as did Jeff Passan for Yahoo Sports and Will Leitch for Sports on Earth. Fans suggested that Fowler “shut up and play” because “nobody cares” and that Fowler is “property” of the Cardinals. The responses were so negative that Fowler tweeted about it:

Fowler, however, isn’t backing down. Via MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch:

“I didn’t say anything wrong,” Fowler said. “I think it was taken out of context [by other outlets]. I don’t think people read the article. I think people made their own [headlines]. The question was asked out of empathy to my family, and I appreciate that. If anybody is asking about my family, then I’m going to let them know that, ‘Yeah, obviously it affected my family. My wife is Iranian.’ … I think it’s kind of ignorant of people to just come at me like that and not read the article.”

[…]

“I’m always going to care for my family,” Fowler said. “And if a question is asked out of concern, I’m going to answer the question. And I’m going to answer it truthfully. It’s not to hurt anybody. It’s unfortunate that people think of things that way. I believe they’re sensitive. I’m not the sensitive one. I appreciate the ones that understood.”

Manager Mike Matheny has Fowler’s back. He said, “I think he handled it correctly. He was very clear that he was trying to make a statement about his family [and it] ended up becoming a political statement.”

Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA, also expressed support for Fowler:

“Baseball players are a microcosm of society, and I was a grown man before I was a baseball player,” Clark said. “If I have a view, I should be willing to share it, while understanding what I’m a part of and what my responsibilities are. Any player understands that when they take a particular position, it may not be a popular one.

“There may be pushback. That shouldn’t be a reason not to have an opinion. In this instance, it’s a very personal one to Dex. I respect the commentators that responded. I respect their freedom to respond to it.”

Indeed, Fowler had every right to say what he said and it’s good to see that both his manager and the head of the MLBPA support him fully. It would have been easy and politically safe to allow Fowler to hang out to dry.

Report: Extension talks between Mets, Neil Walker are “probably dead”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Neil Walker #20 of the New York Mets sits in the dugout before the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.

The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.