Let's be honest: Sportswise, this isn't shaping up to be the best summer ever. Maybe it's just the post-Stanley Cup hangover talking. Moving past the hockey season is proving to be one of those half-a-bottle-of-Bayer-plus-some-hair-of-the-dog brain killer. The Red Sox, thankfully, have put that played-out interleague contrivance in their rearview and are in decent shape. But it's still midseason baseball, and beyond the annual pointless exercise in phony controversy that is the All-Star voting, there's really not a lot to get worked up about. The big debate on "PTI" the other night was “NFL lockout vs. NBA .ockout,” arguably the worst sports argument since Peyton vs. Eli in the Double Stuf Racing League playoffs. And beyond that, it's Women's World Cup.
So, until football starts for real or the pennant races heat up (whichever comes first ... shudder) our crops are growing out of some pretty fallow ground here. Fortunately for me personally, though, the Sports Gods have blessed me with one event that has the potential to fill my heart with as much joy even as Zdeno Chara floating down Causeway Street with the Cup over his head:
The Roger Clemens trial begins Wednesday.
I don't mean to suggest I'm one of those pathetic, Nancy Grace-obsessed, shut-in, Court TV-addicted trial geeks. Because I'm not. One of the great things about the Casey Anthony verdict for me was realizing I hadn't squandered a single minute of my precious, valuable time following it. But this Clemens thing is different. I've got skin in this game. When they call this case “The People vs. Roger Clemens,” I consider myself one of those “people.” And just the thought that this trial could play out in such a way that I might get to scratch “See Roger Clemens get hauled off in handcuffs” off my bucket list? Well, it's more excitement than I can bear. Truly, it'll make my summer.
But from the outset I want to make it clear that my beef with Clemens has nothing at all to do with him taking performance-enhancers. I honestly couldn't care less if any ballplayers did. At this point, any major leaguer who says he juiced ought to be treated like a candidate who says he smoked pot in college. There might have been a time when that was shocking, but the time should be long since past by now.
(Note: I do have to include the one exception of Curt Schilling. Schill has been so vociferously outspoken against juicers that if he ever fessed up it would be truly shocking. The equivalent of Mitt Romney coming out and saying he used to wake and bake with Hindu Kush every morning when he was at BYU.)
I know the steroid era warped the baseball record books beyond all recognition, and that's regrettable. I used to love seeing MLB records be broken as much as anyone. But just like when I found out that Santa, the Easter Bunny and Shania Twain's boobs weren't real, I was upset for a while but I got past it.
It isn't about him cheating or setting some fraudulent records. And obviously, someone getting charged with a crime for lying to Congress is laughable. As Michael Corleone said, “We are all part of the same hypocrisy, Senator.” No, my grudge against Roger Clemens is entirely more personal than that.
I remember hearing the brilliant philosopher Bill Lee once get asked about what should happen to Pete Rose, and he said, “Rose should be hung upside down on meat hooks from his Achilles tendons. But not for gambling. Just for being an [expletive].” That's my take on Clemens, worded better than I ever could.
I want to see him shackled and doing the perp walk for a hundred reasons, the least of which are steroid use or perjuring himself to a panel full of professional liars. But if that's what they have to charge him with for me to get my wish, so be it. They got Al Capone on tax evasion. O.J. Simpson killed two people and went to jail for stealing back his own bobbleheads. I'm sure all those shut-ins would've been fine with Casey Anthony going to jail for tearing the tags off of mattresses, just so long as she went for something. And that's exactly how I feel about Roger.
I've got my own list of grievances against the Rocket. Unfortunately, they're all things you can't send someone to jail for. So whatever the feds charge him with will have to do. But just to be thorough, here's my own six-count indictment:
Count 1: During his last four years in Boston, Clemens mailed it in.
From 1993-96, the greatest pitcher in Red Sox history (to that point, pre-Pedro) went 40-39. He was fat. He was indifferent. He had lazied his way from dependable, dominant workhorse into a middle-of-the-rotation starter. His apologists (he actually had some then) always tried to lay it at the feet of the bullpen like they were costing him Cy Youngs. But that wasn't Heathcliff Slocumb in Clemens' uniform throwing in the upper-80s and getting pulled in the sixth every night.
Count 2: He didn't start juicing until after he left.
Magically, crossing the border added 10 mph back on his fastball. (Maybe it was the exchange rate? Metric conversion?) Twice in his two seasons in Toronto he won the pitching Triple Crown, leading the AL in wins, strikeouts and ERA. In his last two years with the Sox, the team finished first and seven games back, respectively. All we can do is dream about what the Sox could've done with a 'roided up ace at the top of their rotation.
Count 3: His general scumbaggery.
It's hard to recall now, what with Terry Francona running Camp Koombaya every spring training. But every season, you could set your calendar to Clemens bringing his patented brand of narcissistic turmoil to Florida every year. When he wasn't griping about players having to carry their luggage, he was angling for a new contract or just plain showing up late just because he could. Remember the rest of the club trying to put a shine on the sneaker one year by leaving a sign at his locker that read, “Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules”? His Highness was not amused. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then that pathetic video of poor, hapless, rookie manager Butch Hobson jogging after Clemens — who wouldn't acknowledge him or even deign to take off his damn headphones — said everything we ever needed to know about the man.
Count 4: He insults our intelligence.
Fact: Clemens never signed a contract that wasn't for top dollar. Which is fine. Greed ... for lack of a better word ... is good. So, just admit it. Just level with people paying the freight and say you're a capitalist who wants to maximize his earnings. There's no shame in it. There is shame however in the dog and pony show he put on every time his contract was up, saying it was about everything EXCEPT the money. He went to Toronto because he wanted to be closer to home. (Note: Huh?) He went to New York because of his limitless respect for Joe Torre. He signed with Houston to see his sons play ball. He re-upped with the Astros because of his immense love for Andy Pettitte. Then it was back to New York so that he could spoon in the dugout with Pettitte, and so on. The fact that his emotional life decision always coincided with the maximum contract being offered him was mere coincidence.
Count 5: He made the media weak in the knees.
I'm a huge Peter Gammons fan. There's no one who's not a huge Gammons fan. But Peter, like so many other media types, bought Clemens' PR spin and regurgitated it in a way that would've made Ari Gold need a Silkwood shower. Remember all that talk about what a great teammate he was? Or how Astros owner Drayton McLane was like a father figure to him? How many times we heard he was retiring so he could be a dad to Kobe, Kory, Kiki and Koko? Only to then be dragged back into the game by his non-monetary love of (fill in the blank)? How about Suzyn Waldman's on-air orgasm when his fifth unretirement was announced. Wait. What about the phrase “legendary workout regimen”?
Count 6: His own towering arrogance.
How easy would it have been for him to make it so none of this ever happened? To just level with the world. To say, “Look, I'm a competitor. You all know that. I was the best in the game. Then I saw myself getting surpassed by pitchers I KNEW weren't as good as me. I started getting hit by guys I used to own. And it was the worst-kept secret in the world that more and more guys were using something. Hell, there wasn't even a rule against it. So I tried it and it worked for me. I felt 10 years younger. Steroids tipped the playing field back in my favor and I was the best again. I won more Cy Youngs and signed a bunch of huge-money contracts. I feel bad about it now, I'm sorry, I hope you understand and that this won't tarnish my whole career.” What if he'd said all that? He wouldn't have been dragged before Congress, he wouldn't have had to keep lying to protect the lie, and he'd probably be on his way to Cooperstown instead of the Stoney Lonesome (God willing).
Again, it would be great if we could put Roger Clemens on trial for these much more important charges. But unfortunately, we can't. All we can do is hope the prosecution convinces a jury that he's the lying, duplicitous, phony, money-grubbing, perjuring creepface we all know him to be. And if the prosecution does, my summer could be capped off by watching the Rocket go to jail. I hope and pray.
My only request is that if he does end up in the slammer, they send him in a duckboat. It's only fitting.
Follow Jerry on Twitter @JerryThornton1. Angry complaints are welcome.