Freezing out Clemens

I’m not Rogers Clemens’ biggest fan — never have been, dating back to the mid 80s, really — but I agree with Fred Faour that the ostracization of the Rocket has gotten a bit silly:

Ask yourself: Did you cheer Roger Clemens when he pitched? Barry Bonds when he homered? Did you celebrate Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in their roid-rage race to history? Did you buy tickets — and put money in the owner’s pocket — just to see them play?

Knowing what you know now, if they helped your team win, would you cheer them again? Answer that one honestly, and you’ll realize how silly it is to ostracize Clemens.

Yes, he is an arrogant jerk who would be much more sympathetic if he apologized. Many postulate that if he would just come clean, he would be forgiven.

Andy Pettitte gets a pass for his HGH use because he came out and admitted using it (sort of). Pettitte is just as big a liar and a cheat. Does anyone really believe those were the only times he used it? But a nice, “Aw, shucks. Sorry guys,” and he is off the hook.

Clemens refused to go that route, and he gets dragged in front of Congress so a bunch of idiots can be on ESPN. “Look, honey, did you see me ask a stupid question to Roger Clemens? Do you think he will sign my baseball?”

If I was his guardian angel I would take him back to December 2007 and give him the chance for a big do-over, because everything he has done since then has been pretty stupid, but I don’t really see the percentage in continuing to treat him like he killed people or something.

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  1. Redsauce said...

    I respectfully disagree (though I’m naturally inclined against Clemens as I’m a Red Sox fan). 
    If Clemens were using while he was on the Red Sox, I would have booed him. Heartily.  I bought tickets and gave money during the Sosa/McGwire home run race.  But if I’d known, I damn sure wouldn’t have. 
    And I think the Pettitte situation is just as hilarious—“I used, but only that once.  Oh, wait, you have evidence of me using X times…well, I used X times, but that’s it.  And for the good of the team.”
    As it is, I’ve got a little cognitive dissidence going on as I’m torn between going to games and giving MLB my money, but still believing that most (>50%) players use some sort of PEDs.  My guess is MLB players are like other sports’—the drugs are outpacing the drug tests in the detection department.

  2. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Red:  booing is fine. Hell, I’d probably boo him if he were pitching again.  What I’m talking about is treating him like a social leper.  Disinviting him from stuff. Taking his name off of things he donated money to make possible.  It’s just so sanctimonious and cowardly.

    Look, it’s a free country and people can do what they want to, but Clemens isn’t evil.  Once he figures out how dumb he’s been for the last year he’s going to go back to being a big rich bullheaded Texan that could probably do a lot of good in the right situation (charity work; informal coaching, etc.).

  3. The Common Man said...

    I’m inclined to take the non-hysterical position on most issues, so I honestly cannot understand why fans get so angry about steroid use.  Of course, steroids should be banned from the game, and users should be pursued and punished aggressively.  But I’d ask the shrill voices who want to continue to hurt and punish and ostracize guys like Clemens how, dear God in heaven, these players have hurt you so bad that you are so bitter, so angry, and so disillusioned by it?  I mean, you’re not nine years old.  Grow up.

  4. Chris H. said...

    I agree with the Common Man.

    And ultimately, I do think it really boils down to the attitude more than the PED use.  Pettite gets a pass because he did the aw-shucks-I’m-sorry routine, and because he’s always come off as something of a nice guy.  Clemens and Bonds deny, and they’ve always come off as tools.  When players have always come off as tools, the fans look for any excuse to rip them; the fact that they are unrepentant just makes it that much easier.

    Oh, and Redsauce?  You didn’t know during the McGwire/Sosa race?  Really?  Because it actually was talked about; remember the whole Andro thing?  Remember Sammy with the Flinstone Vitamins?  I know people now like to say that everyone turned a blind eye—and I suspect there was a lot of that going on—but at least here in Chicago, there was plenty of discussion on how huge Sammy had gotten compared to his early days, McGwire’s acne, etc. etc.

    Was there “proof?”  No.  But despite the lack of fire, there was plenty of smoke.

  5. John Henning said...

    I agree with the Common Man in that the people who take the stance that they have somehow been personally wronged by players who used PEDs are a bit absurd. But as for Clemens, my real issue with the guy is the whole Mindy McCready, seduction of a teenager part of his life. He seems to be a man who thinks he can do whatever he likes without facing consequences, a man driven by ego and greed and hubris. He seems to be pig-headed, fool-hardy and unapologetic. Maybe for all that he does deserve to be ostracized.

  6. Craig Calcaterra said...

    The McCready stuff is certainly his worst behavior.  Indeed, despite my comment above that Clemens wasn’t “evil,” I recall writing a post last year about him and the McCready allegations entitled “Monster.”

    To be fair (or, rather, legal) I feel I must point out that McCready has said they didn’t start having sex until she was over 18.  We can believe that or not, but even if we do, it still makes him an adulterer and someone who, at the very least, messed with the mind and emotions of a very young and apparently very damaged person.

    Querey, however: would Roger be disinvited from spring training, have his name taken off of a hospital and, presumably, denied the Hall of Fame if we had the McCready allegations and nothing about steroids?

    I kind of doubt it.

  7. The Common Man said...

    That’s an excellent point, and I had been leaving McCready out of the equation because this had become a conversation about steroid users, not about Clemens in particular.  As to Craig’s question, it’s hard to imagine Roger being turned away for infidelity.  But given the sad story of McCready’s downfall, the questions about the role he may or may not have played in her instability, and her age when their relationship began (obviously cultivating a sexual relationship, even if it didn’t culminate until she was 18), I don’t know that this is a typical case of ballplayer infidelity.

  8. Redsauce said...

    Chris H:  Um…I was 15 during the McGwire/Sosa race & no, I’m sorry, I didn’t know.  I didn’t read about the andro thing at the time—I’ve never read newspapers or watched TV to any great extent.  But then again, whom am I to say what I knew when you are so confident about what I know?

    I am disinclined to take the “everyone was doing it, it’s not a big deal” argument.  Or the “it’s bad, but so what?” argument.  Just me.

  9. John Henning said...

    That’s a good point. I doubt the sordid McCready stuff is going through the minds of the men and women who are disinviting him to spring training/other events, taking his name off of hospitals and otherwise turning him into a baseball pariah. So in that regard, I absolutely agree that it doesn’t make sense to treat him like he killed people. But wouldn’t it be nice if the people in the public eye—athletes, entertainers, POLITICIANS, etc—could just be, ya know, good people?

  10. ubu48 said...

    As has been already said, Clemens’ affair/exploitation of the teenage McCready is far worse than his probable PED use. 
    Things like the beaning of Mike Piazza made him a hateful and unpleasant figure, to me, long before the Mitchell report. 
    I’m more personally concerned/saddened by memories of the great A’s teams of the late 80’s/early 90’s, featuring a juiced Canseco and McGwire (among others?).  I was fan of those squads, but now look back and wonder if it wasn’t an even worse case of stealing history?

  11. The Common Man said...

    @ John,

    I think that a lot of ballplayers and celebrities and even some politicians are good people.  But the nature of their fields also invites narcisistic, megalomaniacal jerks.  But the truth, and I’m reminded of this as I learn more and more about Carl Pohlad (who I long viewed as a cross between Scrooge McDuck, Ebeneezer Scrooge, and Mr. Burns), is that people are more complicated than just either good or bad.  None of us do the right thing all the time.  And few of us do the wrong thing every time.  It’s just the way the world is. 

    I mean, sure, Albert Pujols is by all accounts a wonderful and generous man who hits a baseball like few others have ever done before.  And that makes him admirable.  But you’ll be disappointed if you build him up to be some kind of personal saint.  He’s just a guy who happens to hit baseballs very, very hard and has done some nice things.  Trust me, I grew up with a golden idol of Kirby Puckett.

    @ Redsauce

    “I’ve never read newspapers or watched TV to any great extent.”

    Being ignorant is hardly a defense.  And no one (here) is saying that steroids aren’t a big deal.  They are.  Baseball should make every possible effort to rip them from the game.  But let’s not pretend that the majority of baseball fans weren’t totally excited by the steroid era, and that the majority of fans did not have access to information that should have made them suspicious of the game and its players.  I cheered very loudly from the stands of the Metrodome in 1998 as McGwire hit his 35th HR off my beloved Twins.  And I followed Bonds’ march toward 73 every day.  And just because I have found out that those players cheated doesn’t mean that I had any less fun in 1998 or 2001. 

    Yet, people who are angry and vocal about steroid abuse act as though these ballplayers were doing something to them, akin to kicking their puppies.  They vilify and ostracize and shut down dialgue.  Meanwhile, a rational and even approach to attacking steroids and handing out punishment will a) prevent injustices and b) do more to educate fans and kids about the dangers of steroids. 

    Let’s not keep the McGwires from the game.  Let’s invite them back and ask them to tell us about what they did, why they did it, and what effects taking supplements and/or steroids have had on their body, mind, and life.  I think we’ll all be better for it if we allow ourselves to become better educated.

  12. dtro said...

    Listen, I’m as tired as everyone else about the whole steroids thing. It made me mad as hell a few years ago, but the overreaction of sportswriters to it, the congressional wastes of time over it, its being ignored in other sports, etc. has basically forced me towards apathy towards PEDs in baseball.

    I can’t find it in myself to still be mad at McGwire and Bonds and Sosa and Palmeiro and most of the rest. There are 2 exceptions:

    Roger Clemens is a stupid, overgrown Knoblauch-looking, Yankee hick bastard who threw a pitch into Mike Piazza’s skull. So ostracize away folks!

    And Guillermo Mota. Oh, so now you got a 2-year contract suddenly you’re too GOOD for steroids?

  13. VanderBirch said...

    On the PED issue:

    One thing that doesn’t often get mentioned is the whole peer pressure/comparative advantage dynamic that surrounds steroids. In many ways, baseball’s 90’s drug culture is somewhat reminiscent of cycling issues with drugs prior to the Festina affair in 1998.

    In 90’s cycling, the main governing body wasn’t interested in actually catching anybody, so users were given carte blanche. Riders who didn’t use were looked down on because they weren’t giving their all to help the team. The Festina riders were got caught were pretty scathing of the few riders they knew who were clean.

    Now baseball has never had the drug culture that cycling had/has but I do think such a pressure existed in some way. I mean, if you knew your teammates could improve their performance just by taking a few injections in an environment in which they couldn’t really get caught, wouldn’t you want them to take drugs?

    Considering the circumstances in which baseball’s drug culture developed, I have a hard time holding it against guys like Clemens or McGwire to too great an extent. Not that Clemens wasn’t an all-around jackass.

  14. Soxrocker23 said...

    My opinion is we WOULDN’T cheer them now….or pay to watch them. That’s why Bonds is still unemployed and Giambi had no better offer than Oakland, where nobody goes as it is.
    To me Bonds and Clemens symbolize ripping off the public….both then lying about it to Congress. Of course nobody wants anything to do with them!!

    To my knowledge, there are no Pete Rose Cancer Wards or Shoeless Joe Charity Golf tournaments, either. That’s just the way it goes when you publicly disgrace yourself and your profession.

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