In a battle of Hall of Fame egos, Roger Clemens and the members of the House Governmental Oversight Committee started the exhibition season Wednesday. They participated in a hearing that, much like a a spring training game, served little useful purpose, but was fun to watch.
Clemens misguidedly wanted to state his case in public under oath. He only succeeded in making it more likely that he will be prosecuted. Given his demonstrably limited vocabulary, maybe Clemens could not read the newspaper accounts reporting that Barry Bonds is being prosecuted for perjury, not a drug offense. He should have taken the Fifth Amendment.
To dispose of the merits, it is difficult not to believe that the Rocket used illegal drugs. If Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch confirm Brian McNamee's stories about them, what reason is there not to believe him about Clemens? Clemens did nothing to help himself, constantly ignoring the actual question to tell the Committee how hard he worked at his trade or to issue a general denial. He seemed to think that adding a few MPH to his answers would fool everyone into thinking he actually was addressing the issues posed.
The people who looked the worst were the members of the Committee, particularly the Republicans who mostly decided to take Clemens side, making the hearing a bit red vs. blue. Making former Yankee trainer and N.Y.P.D. officer Brian McNamee look like a liar is easy, even for a dumbass like Rep. Dan Burton, who was last seen shooting a watermelon to prove that Vince Foster did not commit suicide, but that does not get Clemens off the hook.
These hearings had no legitimate purpose. They were purely grandstanding by Chairman Henry Waxman and his posse. They say they are determining whether the government should impose drug oversight on baseball, but that cannot possibly depend on whether McNamee shot up Clemens, or only Pettitte and Knoblauch.
There is no transcript yet, but from my intermittent watching, here are a few lowlights:
• A discussion of whether an MRI of Clemens butt showed an abscess caused by a steroid injection gone wrong or, as Clemens insists, the result of a B-12 injection. I'm sure that by covering Clemens name on the MRI, the Committee prevented the expert from realizing whose butt was pictured.
• A question from Rep. William Clay, D-Mo about which uniform Clemens would wear into the Hall of Fame. Newsflash: Clemens isn't going to the Hall of Fame as things stand now. That is kind of the point.
• The revelation by McNamee, denied by Clemens, that Clemens would bleed from his rear and started carrying band-aids around.
• A dispute over whether Clemens, and/or his nanny attired in a green bikini, were at a party given by Jose Canseco.
• Rep. Burton cross-examining McNamee by stating, "Gee whiz, are you kidding me? My goodness."
• D.C. representative Eleanor Holmes Norton telling Clemens that he will go to heaven.
Of course, the Mitchell Report is pretty ridiculous in it own right. Mitchell got his hands on the BALCO case, two trainers required to talk to him through plea bargains and the records from a raid on a Florida "rejuvenation center." This is random evidence.
There certainly were many other centers of drug supply where other players received drugs. The names revealed by Mitchell are just the ones that got caught. For each of these, there are many more who have not been fingered. We did not need Mitchell to tell us that steroid use was rampant. Jose Canseco and the amazingly increasing performances had already done that.
As for HGH, the topic of the hour, baseball did not even ban it until 2005 and Mitchell is reduced to arguing that players did not obtain it from a physician, although they presumably could have, and that it was a off label use. This is very thin broth indeed.
Baseball is addressing the problem for the future, nothing can be done about the past and these people, to quote Bill Clinton, should "get back to work for the American people."
Disclosure: I am an Athletics fan and have yelled at Clemens on many occasions, both on TV and in person.