Roger Clemens brought this on himself

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We can argue — as many have in the past — that Congress should never have been involved in the steroids business in the first place. Personally, I think their primary interest was grandstanding and I found it all distasteful.

But the hearings that led to Clemens’ testimony and now his indictment were certainly within Congress’ broad powers.  More importantly, however, it was Clemens who made himself such a fat and inviting target for their opportunism, and it has led to his downfall.

Congress’ interest in Clemens came on the heels of weeks of denials by
Clemens of the allegations against him contained in the Mitchell Report.
Specifically:

  • Within days of the December 13, 2007 report, Clemens lawyer, Rusty
    Hardin, attacked the credibility of Brian McNamee, Clemens’ primary
    accuser, calling him “a troubled and unreliable witness”;
  • On January 6, 2008, Clemens appeared on “60 Minutes,” vehemently denying that he ever took PEDs;
  • The following day Clemens filed a defamation suit against McNamee,
    claiming that his statements to Mitchell and his investigators were
    lies. The lawsuit was subsequently dismissed, with said dismissal being
    upheld by an appellate court earlier this year;
  • On that same day, Clemens held a bizarre press conference in which he
    played a recorded telephone conversation with Brian McNamee which, it
    appeared anyway, Clemens was trying to make McNamee out as a liar or a
    shakedown artist.
  • On January 28, 2008, Clemens’ agent, Randy Hendricks, released an
    18,000-word statistical report purporting to establish that Clemens’
    baseball career was subject to a typical year-to-year variation in
    performance, with the implication being that Clemens did not take PEDs (my analysis of that report here);

You could not have made yourself bigger piece of wriggling Congress bait if you took a year to draw up a plan to do so. George Mitchell is a former colleague of those guys. By so loudly declaring him to be incompetent (which Clemens was, in effect, doing) Clemens all but ensured a subpoena. 

And yes, I’ve heard it before: “but what if he really didn’t take PEDs!”  I get that, and I don’t think someone who didn’t do something should cop to it simply for PR purposes. But even if Clemens found it intolerable to admit to taking PEDS, he could have issued a simple denial and said a few words about how, while suing to clear his name was tempting, the benefits to such a course were minor (“I don’t need a court to tell me what I already know”) and the hassle extreme (a few choice — and true — words about how hard it is for a celebrity to sue for defamation would have done the trick).

But the Rocket protested too much, either because he received bad advice or because he was too bullheaded to see the pros and cons of various courses of action.  As a result, he was hauled before Congress.  As a result, all kinds of seedy muck from his personal life came out into the open.  All of this could have been avoided.

“Not giving in” is a mantra you hear from all of the best starting pitchers. And Clemens was certainly one of the best to ever have played the game.  But what makes one successful on the baseball diamond does not necessarily make one successful off it.  And Clemens is learning this the hard way.

Lou Whitaker snubbed from the Hall of Fame again

Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
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Long time Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker has long been one of baseball history’s most underrated players. He and Hall of Fame shortstop Alan Trammell formed one of the best up-the-middle combos ever, teammates since Whitaker’s debut in 1977 to his final year in 1995.

Trammell is actually a great jumping-off point to support Whitaker’s candidacy. Here are their career counting stats:

  • Whitaker: .276/.363/.426, 420 doubles, 65 triples, 244 homers, 1084 RBI, 1386 runs, 143 stolen bases, 1197 walks (9967 plate appearances)
  • Trammell: .285/.352/.415, 415 doubles, 55 triples, 185 homers, 1003 RBI, 1231 runs, 236 stolen bases, 850 walks (9376 plate appearances)

Whitaker also had slightly more Wins Above Replacement over his career according to Baseball Reference, besting Trammell 75.1 to 70.7. FanGraphs’ version of WAR puts both players slightly lower but with Whitaker still in the lead, 68.1 to 63.7.

Trammell, like Whitaker, did not make the Hall of Fame through initial eligibility on the ballot voted on by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, beginning five years after their retirement. Trammell was elected two years ago on the Modern Era ballot. Whitaker fell off the ballot in his only year of eligibility, earning just 2.9 percent of the vote in 2001. Whitaker was again snubbed on Sunday night, receiving just six of the 12 votes necessary for induction. Trammell became eligible on the BBWAA ballot in 2002 and had a 15-year run, with his support running as far down as 13.4 percent in 2007 and peaking at 40.9 percent in his final year in 2016.

Trammell and Whitaker critics cited things like never leading the league in any important categories and never winning an MVP Award as reasons why they shouldn’t be enshrined. That last reason, of course, ignores that both contributed to the Tigers winning the World Series in 1984, but I digress.

Trammell should have been elected to the Hall of Fame on the BBWAA ballot. And, since the distinction matters to so many people, he should have been inducted on the first ballot. Among Hall of Fame shortstops (at least 50 percent of their games at the position), Trammell has the eighth-highest WAR among 21 eligible players. He has ever so slightly more WAR than Barry Larkin (70.4), who made it into the Hall of Fame in his third year of eligibility with 86.4 percent of the vote.

Now, what about Whitaker? Among Hall of Fame second basemen (at least 50 percent of games at the position), Whitaker’s 75.1 WAR would rank sixth among 20 eligible second basemen. The only second basemen ahead of him are Rogers Hornsby (127.0), Eddie Collins (124.0), Nap Lajoie (107.4), Joe Morgan (100.6), and Charlie Gehringer (80.7). Whitaker outpaces such legendaries as Ryne Sandberg (68.0), Roberto Alomar (67.1), and Craig Biggio (65.5). Sandberg made it into the Hall in his third year on the ballot; Alomar his second; Biggio his third.

Among the players on the 2001 BBWAA ballot, the only player with more career WAR than Whitaker was Bert Blyleven (94.4), who eventually made it into the Hall of Fame. Dave Winfield (64.2) and Kirby Puckett (51.1) were elected that year. Also receiving hefty support that year were Gary Carter (70.1 WAR), Jim Rice (47.7), Bruce Sutter (24.1), and Goose Gossage (41.2) and each would eventually make the Hall of Fame.

WAR is not, by any means, a perfect stat, so the WAR argument may not resonate with everyone. Dating back to 1871, there have been only 66 players who hit at least 400 doubles and 200 home runs while stealing 100 bases. The only second basemen (same 50 percent stipulation) to do that are Whitaker, Hornsby, Morgan, Sandberg, Alomar, Biggio, Chase Utley, and Ian Kinsler. Additionally, Whitaker drew more walks than strikeouts over his career, 1197 to 1099. The only second basemen to do that while hitting at least 200 career homers are Whitaker, Morgan, Hornsby, Bobby Doerr, and Joe Gordon.

Whitaker was not without accolades: he won the 1978 AL Rookie of the Year Award. He was a five-time All-Star and took home four Silver Sluggers along with three Gold Gloves to boot. Trammell took home a similar amount of hardware: though he never won a Rookie of the Year Award, he did make the All-Star team six times. He went on to win four Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers.

In a just world, Whitaker would have been on the ballot for the then-maximum 15 years. In a sentimentally just world, he would have gone in side-by-side with Trammell in 2002. Whitaker’s candidacy certainly shouldn’t have fallen to the Modern Era ballot, and it shouldn’t have been further fumbled by a committee that gave him as many votes as Steve Garvey.