I'd like to remember Roger Clemens' split-fingered fastballs, not the Feds fingerprinting him. I'd like to recall how he always seemed to make great pitches when he was behind in the count, not the one count of obstruction of Congress, two counts of perjury and three counts of making false statements that he now faces.
"I never took HGH or Steroids. And I did not lie to Congress. I look forward to challenging the governments accusations..." Clemens said on his Twitter account after pleading not guilty at his federal arraignment Monday. I understand challenging good hitters, but I don't know why you'd openly challenge the Feds. Their batting average hovers near one thousand.
ESPN baseball analysts have likened Clemens' dedication to clearing his name to the ultra-competitiveness he wielded during his 23-year career in the big leagues that made him one of the best right-handed pitchers of all time. Every time I hear this argument presented I cringe. That's like comparing Tiger Woods' ability to collect golf trophies to his knack for accumulating mistresses.
The saddest part of Clemens' situation is that he did not even have to testify in front of Congress in 2007. It was his choice, a personal need to clear his name that now has him facing the possibility of decades in prison. Just how large is Clemens' ego? I didn't have to go past the "Rocket Man" wallpaper on his Twitter page to find out. He's to ego what McDonalds is to hamburgers.
The strangest part of the Clemens case is the key witness, Andy Pettitte, a man who Clemens calls a great friend. Pettitte and Clemens were the staple of a rotation that won two World Series titles for New York Yankees, and then joined forces again in 2004 to pitch for the Houston Astros. They were both named in the infamous Mitchell Report, but the way that each man chose to handle the situation is where their similarities end.
Pettitte admitted that he used HGH to recover from an elbow injury. There was buzz about Pettitte's admission of guilt for about a day, and then he went on with his life. Pettitte has once again returned to the New York Yankees, and has an excellent chance to add to his collection of World Series rings this fall.
Clemens, on the other hand, has become a hollow shell of the hero he once was. He expects us to believe that Andy Pettitte "misremembers" hearing Clemens tell him that he used HGH, a defense that only Clemens seems to believe at this point. Even Homer couldn't have imagined this kind of hubris.
Very rarely do I feel much compassion for multi-millionaire professional athletes, but I do have some compassion for Clemens. I took so much joy as a young baseball player watching Clemens pitch, and trying to emulate his dominance on the mound. I never could throw the Rocket's fastball, but the fire inside me burned just as hot when I pitched. I still look back on the games I pitched in high school as some of the best times of my life, and I have Clemens, once my role model, partially to thank for that.
I don't care if he's guilty. Even though the spiky highlights in his hair make him look much younger, Clemens turned 48 last month. He's not a pitcher anymore, and after this self-generated debacle, he'll probably never have the opportunity to be a coach either. I just hope that he becomes enlightened, admits his mistakes and avoids prison time. Based on his approach to this situation so far, it's fair to assume Clemens has more issues than he can handle already.
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