Witness against Roger Clemens: "Who's Roger Clemens?"

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Yesterday we heard that the feds have subpoenaed a guy named Jeff Blair, who allegedly had the steroids goods on Roger Clemens. Last night, the guy said otherwise:

A former gym owner in the Houston area says he never supplied Roger
Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs and is looking forward to
meeting with a grand jury investigating whether Clemens lied to
Congress . . .

. . . Blair said Thursday night that he’s never met Clemens, any
members of the Clemens’ family or anyone representing Clemens,
including personal trainers or attorneys.

“I did not supply Roger Clemens (with) growth hormone,” Blair said.

Possibilities:

(a) The feds forgot that the purpose of subpoenaing witnesses to a grand jury is to obtain evidence that helps their case, rather than hurts their case;

(b) The feds knew that, but realized all along that they really
don’t have a case at all and simply don’t want the grand jury to feel
like it was convened for nothing; or

(c) This Blair guy was going to spill the beans on Clemens, but then
Clemens and his lawyer showed up in the back of the hearing room with
Blair’s long lost brother from Sicily — Godfather II-style — after
which Blair decided to trot out this “I never knew no godfather. I got
my own family, senator” business.

Though the Godfather fan in me hopes that the Pentangeli option is
really what happened, I’m leaning (b) here. Sure, as is the case with
Barry Bonds I personally I think that Clemens did steroids and lied
about it, but I also think that for several reasons a perjury
prosecution of these two guys is both difficult and ill-advised.

In neither case — Bonds before the grand jury or Clemens before
Congress — did you have prosecutors actually asking concise questions
with an aim at truly figuring out what these guys knew. To the
contrary, they were exercises in P.R., and because of that the
questions that were actually asked to these men and the facts the
questioners had at their disposal were lazy and weak.

Go read the transcripts: Bonds played dumber than a bag of hammers,
despite the fact that he’s actually a fairly bright guy. Clemens went
on and on about his life story whenever he was asked anything
difficult. Neither was given particularly difficult questions which
they were required to answer in an unambigious fashion. To the
contrary, each was allowed to talk openly and loosely for long
stretches at a time.

Which may very well establish that they were being evasive. In order
to make a case of perjury, however, showing evasiveness is not enough.
A witness needs to be nailed down. To be given hard and unambiguous
followup questions. Neither of these guys faced any of those things
during their day in the spotlight, and their answers can be spun and
qualified in many ways by their lawyers.

That’s a black mark against the prosecution, and in light of it I’d
be shocked if either Bonds or Clemens ever go to trial, let alone gets
convicted of perjury.

More position players have pitched this year than ever

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Yesterday, in Milwaukee, utilityman Hernan Perez pitched two scoreless innings, and backup catcher Erik Kratz pitched one himself, mopping up in a blowout loss to the Dodgers. In doing so they became the 31st and 32nd position players to pitch this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most position players who have taken the mound in a season in the Expansion Era, which began in 1961. Presumably far fewer ever did so when the league had only 16 teams.

It’s pretty remarkable to set that record now, in this age of 13 and sometimes 14-man pitching staffs. That’s especially true when teams shuttle guys back and forth from the minors more often than they ever have before and when, due to the shortened, 10-day disabled list, it’s easier to give guys breaks because of “injuries” than it ever has been.

Pitcher usage is driving this, however. While teams carry far more relievers than they ever have before, they actually carry far fewer swingmen or mopup men who are capable of throwing multiple innings in a blowout to save other pitchers’ arms. Rather, teams focus on max-effort, high-velocity relievers who go one or two innings tops, thus requiring catchers and utility guys to help do the mopping that actual pitchers used to do.

I don’t know if that’s a bad thing necessarily — some of these backup catchers throw harder than a lot of pitchers did 30 years ago and it’s always kind of fun to see a position player pitch — but it is yet another way the game has changed due to a focus on specialization and velocity when it comes to pitchers.