For those of you who have had the unfortunate experience of listening to the deafening duo of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman attempt to provide commentary on a baseball game, the date May 7, 2007 should hold some level of significance. Just a few days after T.I. performed for Slope Day, Waldman nearly burst into tears as she bellowed out the unforgettable words: “Roger Clemens is in George’s box and Roger Clemens is coming back. Oh my goodness gracious, of all the dramatic things I’ve ever seen … Roger Clemens standing right in George Steinbrenner’s box announcing he is back.”
As we move forward to the present day, it’s become increasingly more likely that the Rocket has found himself a new — albeit more confined — box to play around in than the one he graced during the seventh inning stretch that afternoon at Yankee Stadium three and a half years ago. However, the blame for Clemens’ impending jail time can be placed on no one but the seven-time Cy Young Award winner himself, and the outrageous hubris he showed when he stood before Congress in Feb. 2008.
In spite of being named by his former trainer Brian McNamee in the MLB-commissioned Mitchell Report a few months earlier, Clemens would have faced no legal trouble if he had just admitted to his wrongdoing and asked for forgiveness. Former teammates Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch all took this route and have not only avoided legal issues, but actually managed to receive forgiveness from the media and the fans. Three of these four men still play today, with A-Rod holding the title of being the game’s highest-paid player.
Examining how far Clemens has fallen since he sat before Congress and claimed that Pettitte and everyone else misremembered (still not a word) his steroid use is truly a fascinating experience. Even from my limited experience in studying the law (read: taking ILRLR 2010), I can’t believe that any lawyer would recommend the course of action that Clemens has taken since the Mitchell Report was released to the public.
The report states “No truthful statements can be used against McNamee … if, however, he should be untruthful in any statements made … he may be charged with criminal violations, including making false statements, which is a felony.” Basically there was no reason at all for McNamee to lie, as he could only do damage to himself by telling anything less than the whole truth. When both McNamee and Clemens stood before Congress and told their stories –– only one of which could be true –– it was obvious to everyone watching and the House committee members that the Rocket had perjured himself.
But the question remains if it was so obvious to everyone else, why couldn’t Clemens see this coming? My favorite theory comes from former Phillies outfielder Doug Glanville, who explains in his must-read book The Game From Where I Stand that Clemens is a victim of “the man on top of the mountain theory.” Glanville explains that no price was too steep for the Rocket in his goal to be the best pitcher that ever lived — no matter how many meaningful relationships he had to throw away in order to attain this feat. However, by the time Clemens finally made it to the top of the mountain he had pushed everyone away, and nobody was there to provide reason in his distorted world.
Last month Clemens pleaded not guilty to three counts of making false statements, two counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of Congress. The Rocket claims that he’s looking forward to having the opportunity to defend himself, as he feels he has been wrongfully accused once again. Prognosticators have estimated that the man who won over 350 games in 23 years — arguably the greatest pitcher in the modern era — will spend 15-21 months behind bars for continuing to avoid telling the truth. The Rocket’s new box won’t have champagne, hors d’oeuvres or Waldman and 50,000 fans cheering for his triumphant return. Instead his new home will feel like he’s on top of a mountain with only his own voice continuously echoing a false notion of truth that has become his reality.