Roger Clemens has 4,652 career strikeouts, and now he will have to try to strikeout one more opponent in order to salvage his reputation.
As long as I have been a baseball fan I have truly loved Roger Clemens. When the Yankees came to play the Rockies, I was first in line to get my tickets to watch “The Rocket” pitch in person.
Now I will never be able to look at one of my heros the same way. After years of bashing Barry Bonds and praising Clemens, it is devastating to hear that Clemens was part of the steroid scandal. If it stopped there, I might still have been able to forgive my childhood hero, but sadly it does not. After taking about a month to figure out the best fairy tale he could put together, Clemens came out publicly and denied ever using steroids, losing my respect forever.
Clemens began working with trainer Brian McNamee in 1998 when McNamee joined the Toronto Blue Jays. Clemens was new to the Blue Jays, and was considered an overweight pitcher who was past his prime. However, in his two years with Toronto “The Rocket” was nothing short of spectacular. Clemens had a record of 41-13 and collected back-to-back Cy Young Awards. Along with his stellar performance Clemens continued to put on weight, but it all looked like pure muscle. This is the same time that McNamee claims to have injected Clemens with Human Growth Hormone, a commonly used steroid. Could it just be due to extremely hard work by the aging pitcher? I don’t think so.
“The Rocket” then came back down to earth with the Yankees in 1999 and 2000, posting a career worst 4.60 earned run average in the 1999 season. However, in the 2001 season, as a fresh-faced 39 year old, Roger Clemens had a record year once again, posting a 20-3 record and winning yet another Cy Young Award. It’s no wonder that this great season coincides with Clemens’ second stint at using steroids, according to McNamee.
So it is clear that there were spikes in Clemens’ performance at the times that his own trainer claims that the steroids were being administered. This knowledge, along with the fact that Clemens kept getting better and stronger well into his 40’s, demonstrates to me that my favorite pitcher was a steroid user.
I could even learn to deal with the fact that Clemens was a cheater, but what disappoints me the most is that he is apparently a liar. In a new report by Clemens’ agent he says, “Clemens’ longevity was due to his ability to adjust his style of pitching as he got older, incorporating his very effective split-finger fastball to offset the decrease in the speed of his regular fastball caused by aging.” While this statement may hold some truth, the fact is that Clemens’ fastball was still unnaturally dominant for a 40-year-old in a sport run by pitchers in their twenties.
This revelation gives me a completely different view of my long-time hero. For example, I once marveled at Clemens’ intensity when he threw half a bat back at Mike Piazza after an earlier pitch had narrowly missed Piazza’s head. Now I just see it for what it is: an obvious and immature act of roid rage.
Now Clemens seems to be displaying a different type of rage; the anger of being caught. “The Rocket” is hurling fastballs at his old trainer, calling him a liar and even taping phone calls that he makes with McNamee. But it just doesn’t make sense that McNamee would lie when Senator George Mitchell asked him what players he knew were on steroids. He had nothing to gain by tarnishing the image of Clemens, someone who he had a good relationship with for years. “For those who have suggested that I take some personal satisfaction in bringing down Roger Clemens, let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth,” said McNamee. McNamee has even claimed that he has old syringes that he administered to Clemens that will prove he took steroids.
Now both men have testified in front of Congress, telling their versions of what happened while McNamee was Clemens trainer. “The Rocket” had to face tough questions such as what he thought of his good friend and longtime teammate Andy Pettitte saying that Clemens had told him that he took steroids. Clemens responded, “Pettitte must have misremembered,” basically claiming that his former teammate and long-time friend has a feeble memory. While the whole steroid scandal is a battle of words, the teammate vs. teammate showdown of Clemens and Pettitte seems to be especially telling that Clemens used steroids.
Clemens even went door to door telling several congressmen that he didn’t take steroids, and signing a few autographs for them, a last ditch effort by my former favorite pitcher in an attempt to turn the public opinion back onto his side. However, Clemens is simply trying to ask us all to swallow too much. I am supposed to believe everything that “The Rocket” says, and to disregard everything that McNamee says.
Sorry Roger, autographing a few baseballs and saying you didn’t do it isn’t going to get you out of this jam.
The bases are loaded, nobody’s out, and I am going to have to bring in a reliever. Yes I will be in line to get tickets for the Rockies this year, but I will be there to see a new guy pitch. Jeff Francis, a tall skinny left-hander that no one could ever confuse with a steroid user.