Phil Garner, former Clemens teammates are testifying for the defense

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As the Roger Clemens case drags on, the defense is trying to dazzle the jury with star power!  Well, Phil Garner, Charlie O’Brien and other Clemens teammates anyway:

Roger Clemens lost something off his fastball in his 40s but still succeeded by pitching smarter, his former manager testified today.

“He continued to have great success, but for different reasons,” said defense witness Phil Garner, who managed Clemens with the Houston Astros from 2004-2006. “He didn’t just overpower teams; he outsmarted teams … He wasn’t as domineering as he was earlier.”

Scrap Iron went on to rave about Clemens’ work habits and drive and all of that.  Yesterday former Clemens catchers Charlie O’Brien and Darrin Fletcher testified. Here’s O’Brien:

“I don’t think he’d cheat,” said former journeyman catcher Charlie O’Brien, who caught Clemens’ games for much of the 1997 season with the Toronto Blue Jays. O’Brien portrayed Clemens as such a stickler that he’d refuse to throw scuffed baseballs because he considered it cheating.

Two things:

(1) How DARE they call the former personal catcher of the great Greg Maddux — and the inventor of the hockey-style catcher’s mask — a “journeyman catcher.”  He is a genius and a saint and shall ever be thus; and

(2) Even if he is a genius and a saint, dude ought to be prosecuted for perjury right now for saying that Clemens refused to throw a scuffed baseball.  Because that’s crazy. Not saying he scuffed them, but if a scuffed one was inadvertently returned to him rather than be replaced by a fresh ball, I would bet my children’s lives on him or any other pitcher throwing the thing.

Fletcher’s testimony sounded almost fanboy-esque. He did say that Clemens would purse his lips on the mound when he wanted to throw a curveball. Which is a new one to me. I guess the death stares and game-rage he usually displayed were him asking to throw the heat and the splitter.

Anyway, at least the trial sounds more interesting than it was before. Because, you know, Phil Garner and those guys.

Cardinals encourage players not to hide injuries

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In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.

Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”

Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.

I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.