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.
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
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.