Day Three: The situation’s looking worse all the time for Roger

December 16th, 2007 → 12:41 pm @

Roger Clemens, through his lawyer, has been sticking with his Casablanca-evoking outrage that he was fingered as a ‘roids user. He shouldn’t be surprised, and neither should anyone else. (Compare this picture of a middle-aged Clemens to this one when he was in Boston. It certainly looks like his body went through a Bonds-like transformation.) I’ve been curious as to why more people weren’t asking questions about Clemens since last January, when Boston was in the hunt for his services.

In the last two days, the situation for Clemens has, remarkably, gotten even worse. There ex-big leaguers like C.J. Nitkowski defending Brian McNamee after he was called “troubled” by Clemens’ lawyer–a remarkable breach of the unspoken code of omerta among current and former ballplayers. There’s Curt Schilling, who looks up to Clemens as an idol, saying “I believe it” when asked about the contents of the Mitchell report. There’s the results of ESPN’s Jerry Krasnick’s informal poll of Hall voters–a full two-thirds of whom say they either wouldn’t vote for Clemens or are undecided.

And now there’s Andy Pettitte’s classy confirmation of McNamee’s revelations about his use of HGH. (Classy so long as his statement that there were only two times he used are, in fact, true.) Not only did Pettitte not say that McNamee was troubled, he confirmed exactly what McNamee had told investigators.

The steroid mess isn’t going to be one of those Watergate/Monica situations where the cover-up is worse than the crime…but it may be a case where the public, and the press, is a lot quicker to grant absolution to guys who come clean on their own. I’m willing to be dollars to doughnuts that Pettitte gets the biggest ovation of any player when the Yankees are announced on opening day at the Stadium.

Post Categories: Andy Pettitte & Hall of Fame & Roger Clemens & Steroids & The Mitchell Report

In defense of the Yankees dynasty

December 16th, 2007 → 12:18 pm @

The presence of Clemens and Pettitte–and, to a lesser extent, of the likes of Chuck Knoblauch and David Justice–has predictably caused some people to question the Yankees ’96-’00 dominance. I’ll add myself to one of the voices for the defense. No one will ever know what the Mitchell report would have looked like had there been a strength and conditioning coach in every clubhouse that talked, on the record, about what happened while they were with their respective teams…but it’s a safe bet that more teams would look like the Yankees, with more than a dozen players named, than like the Sox, who don’t have a single major player cited for actions during his time in Boston.

Post Categories: Roger Clemens & Steroids & The Mitchell Report & Yankees

What – you want more on the Mitchell Report?

December 13th, 2007 → 6:46 pm @

Lots and lots and lots and lots of actual and virtual ink will be spilled on the Mitchell Report, which is going to make life hell for a whole mess of people. I’ll resist added too much of my drivel and will instead limit myself to some few quick points on issues such as…

Roger Clemens. Why, you might ask, would a sure-fire Hall of Famer risk his reputation and legacy over these last five or so years by taking PEDs? People asked me that question again and again during the pre-season frenzies of last season and 2006. I have no way of knowing; for some reason, Clemens won’t talk to me. But I do have an idea: because he has never, in his entire life, had to deal with the consequences of his actions. He can act like a teenage mutant ninja freak and throw broken bats across the field and it’s chalked up to competitive fire. He can demand ludicrous contract clauses like Hummers and private transportation and he’s indulged. Why, after years and years of this, would he suddenly think that the rules applied to him? (Clemens is far from alone in this regard; this is something that crops up again and again in ballplayers, who are constantly reminded that the normal rules of society–stay faithful to your spouse, clean up after yourself, don’t eat McDonald’s for breakfast–don’t apply to them.

I Love (the fact that I’m not playing in) New York. Plenty of teams’ fans are going to be crowing/letting out a huge sigh of relief…so long as those fans aren’t rooting for the Mets and the Yankees. A quick scan of what is destined to become known as the list shows current and former New Yorkers including Kevin Brown, Paul Lo Duca, Mo Vaughn, Todd Pratt, Ron Villone, David Justice, Chuck Knoblauch, Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Lenny Dykstra. Does that mean that other teams–like, say, the Sox–are (or were) any cleaner? Hell no. It just means no-one else had a clubhouse attended that got popped.

The non-inclusion of any of the Idiots: Earlier today, what turned out to be a fake list was leaked; that one included names like Nomar, Johnny Damon, and Trot Nixon, along with other usual suspects like Pudge, Pujols, and Milton Bradley. (Later in the day, well-circulated rumor had Varitek also on the list.) Back in 2005, a member of the Sox’s front office physically shuddered at the thought of what would happen in Boston if news ever broke about someone on the ’04 team roiding up. It looks like that won’t happen…for now, anyway. That brings us to…

Eric Gagne. Gagne, as everyone now knows, was on the list, which can’t be a surprise to anyone. (Also included in the report is news that the Sox inquired about Gagne’s supposed doping before acquiring him at the deadline.) It turns out that the biggest favor Gagne may have done Boston is sucking ass for the second half of the season–now, at least, no one can point to him as one of the reason’s for the team’s success.

That’s all for now. I’ve written plenty about steroids in the past, including last August, when I wondered why no one was wondering about Roger, and way back in October ’06, when I mocked the press’s surprise that Clemens had been fingered in he Grimsley affidavit. I also tagged Jason Giambi a gutless punk, ripped into the Players Union for defending the players’ right to destroy their livers, lamented the fact that Jose Canseco seemed to be the only honest guy around, and talked about how Bill James compared steroids to going through a divorce. (Sort of, anyway.)

More later, I’m sure.

Post Categories: 2004 Playoffs & Eric Gagne & Jason Giambi & Jason Grimsley & Jason Varitek & Johnny Damon & Nomar Garciaparra & Roger Clemens & Steroids & The Mitchell Report & Trot Nixon

Who needs Clemens? We’ve got Wake…

May 7th, 2007 → 2:55 pm @

The Clemens news will — as it should — dominate the local headlines for a while. For the most part, I feel a sense of relief. As I’ve said before, I think there’s been a quasi-irresponsible lack of coverage concerning the various ‘roid rumors (and circumstantial evidence) that’ve been swirling around the Rocket for years. And my interest in the steroid issue has less to do with the sanctity of baseball or any of that crap than with the effect all of this idolatry has on kids, a subject I wrote about at some length in yesterday’s Globe Magazine. (The Times‘s Selena Roberts does focus on the issue in her column on the front of today’s Sports section: “The threat to the Yankees has nothing to do with Clemens’s age, but how he hasn’t aged at all on the approach to 45 when he once seemed kaput at age 35. Maybe Clemens has developed a natural youth potion, an organic Botox for his old bones. Certainly, Clemens deserves credit for his greatness — with a talent that is an understandable siren’s song for the Yankees — but he has also witnessed his aura undermined by a steroid whisper campaign.” Whatever risk that poses to the Yankees, it would have been magnified a lot in Boston…)

I also kind of think Roger’s a self-satisfied prick, and it sure looks from what’s come out thus far like Clemens and agent Randy Hendricks played the Sox in order to get a couple million more per New York. (Interesting fact: assuming his pitch count averages around 100 pitches per game, he’ll be making $8,000 bucks per pitch. Apparently the $120 million or so he’s made thus far in salary alone isn’t quite enough…) I also think his demands — to have the freedom to take off when he’s not on the mound (no emergency relief appearances for him) — wouldn’t have worked out all that well on the Sox.

But I digress. The real reason the Sox don’t need Clemens is because of the ace of their staff…Timothy Wakefield. Wakefield, who’s set to make $4 million a year in perpetuity (or approximately what Clemens will pull down per game), is going through another one of his brilliant, unhittable stretches: his 3-3 record is the result of nothing so much as the criminally low run support he gets, as evidenced by his 2.11 ERA and his .197 BAA(!). To put that in some context, Schill’s ERA is 3.28 and his BAA is .298; Beckett weighs in at 2.72 and .219. Wakefield is, in fact, at the top or near the top of virtually every metric that looks at opponents’ offensive averages.

It’s true that Wakefield goes through one or two lights-out stretches each year. It’s also true that, since 2004, he’s been the teams best starter. Don’t believe me? Look it up. In the last three years, Wake’s ERA is almost a half-run better than Schilling’s (4.13 vs. 4.55) and he’s thrown 55 more innings (403 vs. 348). The only reason his record isn’t better (26-26 over that time, compared to Curt’s 27-16) is because of aforementioned lousy run support.

I’m not, of course, saying that Wake is a better pitcher than Curt. To me, the real question is why Wake doesn’t get more consistent respect. My theory: the knuckleball. The knuckleball — and the knuckleballer — is seen as kind of a flakey, flukey pitch. When it’s on, who can say why? And when it’s not working, well, who can explain that one?*

But how is this really different from any pitcher (or any pitch)? Sometimes pitchers never get a good feel for the ball, or they never get in a good rhythm, or their mechanics are off. And sometimes the same thing happens to Wake. But if he’s not complaining, I shouldn’t be either; it’s the reason the Sox get away with paying him so little…

* Preemptive apologia: I may have read/heard something along these lines before; it’s also possible that I’ve simply thought this same thing to myself sometime in the past. I just can’t tell, but I’m not trying to steal anyone else’s thunder…

Post Categories: Curt Schilling & Knuckleball & Roger Clemens & Steroids & Tim Wakefield

The most undercovered aspect of the Roger Clemens love-in, 2007 edition

April 10th, 2007 → 9:48 am @

Yesterday, the Globe ran an article in which David Ortiz stood up for Sammy Sosa, his fellow Dominican slugger. Buried in the piece was this quote:

“It doesn’t matter what people say. People say [Roger] Clemens used steroids, people say Mark McGwire used steroids. People say a whole bunch of players used steroids, but nobody can prove that, you know what I’m saying?”

What’s notable (to me, anyway), is how few people actually asking whether Clemens’s remarkable endurance (some would say resurgence) is due to some kind of PED. After all, it’s not like there’s any shortage of red flags. Clemens is arguably one of two players — the second being Barry Bonds* — whose Hall of Fame career was (is) capped (being capped) by his most dominant years coming after the age of 35. Clemens has had four seasons in which his ERA+ has been more than 195…and two of those came in 2005 and 2006, when he was 42 and 43 years old. And the only other time in which Clemens put up three years in a row with ERA+ of more than 145 — as he’s done in the last three years — were from 1990 to 1992, when he was still in his twenties.

Over the last year, more people have started to question Clemens’s remarkable run, but even after the mini-imbroglio involving Clemens and the Grimsley affidavit, the vast majority of folks — fans, sportswriters, and team executives, and MLB officials — prefer to stick with their see-no-evil approach and hope the Rocket keeps on bringing fans to the ballpark. Look, I hope he’s not using as much as the next guy. But I wish more people found it fit to find out the truth.
* And for all those fun side-by-side photo comparisons of Barry from his days with the Pirates and now, doesn’t Roger’s body (and head) look a lot different from the days when he was pitching for the Sox?

Post Categories: Roger Clemens & Steroids

T-3 and counting…

March 30th, 2007 → 1:40 pm @

Only one more baseball-less weekend in 2007…at least until October. And sure, opening the season in Kansas City isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, although anyone who’ll actually be in Missouri should make sure to check out Posnanski and Bryant’s. Better yet, do both at the same time.

So to help get you through that final weekend, some thoughts about spring training, the upcoming season, and what to expect going forward…

* 38pitches. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Curt Schilling’s recently launched blog is always interesting, often entertaining, and usually informative. Feelings about Curt tend to run hot or cold; regardless of your take on the big righthander, you need to admire a pro athlete who actually takes time to answer questions sent in by the hoi polloi.

Actually, I guess you don’t need to admire it: Shaughnessy, in one of the meaner-spirited columns I’ve read in a while, painted the whole thing as one more way for Schilling to get his ass kissed. What’s surprising here isn’t that Shaughnessy is being a dick — he’s done that before — but that he missed the mark so completely. (This will surprise some people, but I actually think Shaughnessy is a very good columnist in that he’s great at hitting a nerve and is generally pretty fearless about public’s (and his subject’s) reactions. I often don’t agree with where he’s coming from, and I abhor some of what he’s done in the past…but that’s another story.+) As Daniel Drezner writes, Shaughnessy seems to betray some sort of primal fear: if athletes join the rest of the bloggerati, will the members of the tradition-bound fourth estate continue to lose readers? (It’s worth noting that Schilling provided the first official confirmation of Papelbon’s move to the pen…)

Drezner makes a good point. In this case, I think Shaughnessy’s also worried that he’ll lose access to one of the city’s most entertaining sports personalities. Schilling’s never been shy about expressing his disdain for Dan; in face, I’ve often wondered why Schilling spoke to him at all. Maybe now, he won’t…

(Schilling had a great response to Shaughnessy’s column, in which he referred to Dan as his nom de guerre, Curly Haired Boyfriend.)

Also worth nothing: starting Opening Day, Curt will run an 11-day contest; two winners a day will get the package. All you cable subscribers, take note…

* The NESN-Red Sox highlight clips controversy. (OK, fine, mini-controversy.) This is a story that’s definitely worth following; I’m surprised local stations aren’t making more of a fuss. A recent Globe article quoted NESN VP of programming Joel Feld as saying that “there is no plan in place to charge for highlights” in the future. There’s enough wiggle room in that statement to drive a truck through; I can’t imagine what other real rationale there could possibly be. I also found Sox spokesman Charles Steinberg’s comments on the issue to be laughable. Steinberg said the Sox don’t want “reduction in Red Sox presence in the marketplace” and that the team had nothing to do with NESN’s decision. “Sometimes people miss that the Red Sox and NESN are two entirely different companies with two entirely different management staffs,” said Steinberg. “They share common ownership but are independent companies.”

I call BS on that. The Red Sox and NESN are damn symbiotic. This isn’t a Times (and, by extension, Globe)-Sox scenario. Anyway, stay tuned. Or, you know, don’t. At least if you want to see in-game highlights.

* The Sox’s payroll. Earlier this week, Tony Mazz had an article on how to decipher to team’s payroll (and MLB’s formulas for determining payroll tax, etc.). If you’re going to be talking about the team’s offseason spending, check this out. You’ll sound smarter.

* Theo’s thoughts. In case you haven’t heard, Theo isn’t much of a fan of all of the attention the team gets.+ For that reason alone, the above article on his reflections on spring training is informative, not necessarily for the actual content but for what can (and should) be read between the lines. Theo’s incredibly smart, and he thinks carefully about the effects of what he says in public. (Take note any time this season when he steps up and says he needs to accept responsibility for a rough patch the team is going through; it’ll more than likely mean he thinks some pressure needs to be taken off of the players.) When Theo says “I think the thing I liked best about the club was that there were no real egos on display, as much as any camp I’ve been around,” there’s undoubtedly some truth there. I’d bet there’s also an intended (if subliminal) message to the press: the clubhouse is a placid place. Look elsewhere for your story of the day. Even if this kind of thing doesn’t have a huge effect — and the Boston press isn’t keen on playing down even the most minor of squabbles — if it helps for even a week or two, that one statement will likely have fulfilled its purpose.

* Manny and Roger. SI had a squib the other day about possible Manny-Ichiro trade discussions; it got virtually no attention…but I don’t think we’ll get through a season without a Manny flare-up. And, of course, when Roger decides he is, indeed, going to come back for one more season, the Sox will be in the hunt…

+ There is, of course, lots about Shaughnessy’s weird and wooly relationship with the Sox and the roots of Theo’s press and publicity aversion in Feeding the Monster, which is available from Amazon for only $17.16 (cheap!). And don’t forget: free signed and personalized bookplates are here for the asking. How else are you going to get ready for Opening Day?

Post Categories: Dan Shaughnessy & Manny Ramirez & NESN & Roger Clemens & Theo Epstein

Roger and ‘roids. (Another ho-hum day at the office.)

January 16th, 2007 → 9:33 am @

Boston area sports fan have another five days to discuss the immaculate reception which is a good thing…because there ain’t a lot going on in the land of Cochineal Stockings…unless, that is, you consider the not along going on in the J.D. Drew negotiations as actually meaning there’s a lot going on.

One interesting tidbit: the Herald reported the other day that Boston is still interested in Roger, and apparently for reasons other than bringing its payroll in line with New York’s. It certainly would be interesting, and a great coda to Clemens’s career. But it also could be a mess. Buried in a Times story that ran last weekend about sportswriters’ culpability in the steroid scandal, Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune was quoted as saying, “I don’t think we (I) know enough about this generation of players to separate presumptive cheaters from the hundreds who cheated more subtly or intelligently, or who have otherwise avoided scrutiny. Like, oh, aging power pitchers who display tremendous resilience and longevity, not that I’m thinking of anyone in particular, Roger.”

The Times is one of the more prominent outlets that has now printed what reporters and baseball executives alike have been whispering, sotto voce, for years. I have no idea if it’s true. But if it is, and if Roger gets nailed, and if that nailing takes place while he’s wearing a Red Sox cap…well, let’s just say it won’t be pretty.

Post Categories: J.D. Drew & Roger Clemens & Steroids