The Clemens trial resumes, featuring … Roger Clemens

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After five days off, the Roger Clemens trial resumed today with the prosecution calling its first witness.  He’s Phil Barnett, who was the staffer for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee which led the steroids hearings/depositions at which Clemens is accused of lying.

Smart witness to call first in my view. Because what’s the number one comment anyone around here has when this topic comes up?  Yep: “why is the government wasting its time on this?”  Since we all ask that all the time, you can bet the jury is asking it too, and if they don’t have that answered for them at the outset, they’re going to discount everything the prosecution says with an underlying “so what?” even if it doesn’t matter, legally speaking, if the hearings were a good idea.

That’s not to say that this witness will necessarily convince anyone on the jury that there was a legit reason for the hearings. But it’s certainly worth a shot to try, because if the prosecution can’t get early buy-in that this all matters, they’re gonna have a bad time.

Also this morning: Roger Clemens testimony.  No, not live. He’s not taking the stand I wouldn’t imagine. But they are playing his taped deposition testimony from early 2008.  In it he explicitly says he didn’t take any drugs at all. No wiggle room with “to my knowledge” or “that I recall” or any of that.

Which makes this all the starker a choice for the jury:  believe Brian McNamee, and Clemens is toast. Don’t believe him, and he’s gonna skate.

Finally, if you’re a junkie about this stuff, I highly recommend that you give T.J. Quinn’s Twitter feed a follow. The ESPN writer is at the trial, basically live-tweeting it.  I’ll warn you, though: it’s VERY thorough, so you’ll want to steer clear unless you want frequent updates.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉