Clemens' obsession with his image seriously threatens his liberty

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Earlier this year, the lawyers representing Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger advised him to put his image behind his liberty, advising him to say nothing about an allegation of rape lodged against him in Georgia.  Though Roethlisberger’s reputation took the kind of a beating not seen since Tex Cobb absorbed 15 rounds of jabs, roundhouses, and uppercuts from Larry Holmes, the strategy worked.  Roethlisberger ultimately faced no charges, and through the passage of time his Pittsburgh posture has improved a click or two above pariah.

In 2008, former pitcher Roger Clemens would have been wise to seek — and to heed — similar advice.  After word emerged that former trainer Brian McNamee told former U.S. Senator George Mitchell that McNamee had injected Clemens with steroids and hGH on multiple occasions, Clemens could have, and in hindsight should have, kept his head low and his mouth shut.  If compelled to speak on the matter, Clemens should have played the patent-pending “I’m not here to talk about the past” card, and he should have thanked Mark McGwire for blazing that particular path.

Cognizant of the P.R. hit men like McGwire took by taking the careful approach, the Angus-fed Texas boy opted instead to hurl clumps of bovine byproduct at Brian McNamee.  Not only did Clemens publicly call McNamee a liar, which eventually would get Clemens sued, but Clemens also sued McNamee for defamation.  And lawyer Rusty Hardin either recommended the approach or agreed to go along with it, presumably after his fees were paid in advance.

Though no lawyer possesses a crystal ball (and any that ever did surely closed up shop and headed to Vegas), Hardin should have had the experience and the wisdom to be able to lay out for Clemens the worst-case scenario resulting from a decision to sue McNamee.  Hardin should have told Clemens that the lawsuit easily could push the entire controversy to a higher level of national attention, and that it could very well culminate in Clemens receiving an invitation to testify before Congress.  And Hardin should have told Clemens that, once Congress invites him to testify, the options become fairly simple:  show up and risk an eventual perjury prosecution or decline the invitation and accept the fact that everyone will conclude that McNamee was telling the truth.

Once Hardin and Clemens opted to file suit, the die had been cast into the deep end of the Rubicon.  And the same tenacity that made Clemens a great pitcher meant that he would stick to the strategy for persuading the public that he didn’t take steroids, regardless of whether he did.

Two years later, Clemens’ lawsuit has failed, due in large part to the conclusion that McNamee’s statements to Mitchell, who was investigating steroid use in baseball with the cooperation of federal officials, created immunity from civil liability.  In turn, McNamee’s lawsuit against Clemens remains viable.  Most importantly, Clemens now faces the very real possibility of going to jail because he used Congress as a battlefield in his war against the man who claimed that Clemens cheated.
 
So, basically, Clemens disregarded his freedom in the hopes of cleaning up his image.  

And he’s well on his way to having neither.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.