Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Bull On and Off the Mound

I don’t care if Roger Clemens took steroids.  I really don’t.  There is no way that I will be throwing down $20 to buy the upcoming book (supposedly detailing his use), off of, and I probably wouldn’t even bother to waste my time reading it if it were free.  I don’t care if there are pictures of Brian McNamee holding up a current newspaper, while injecting Clemens with steroids while A-Rod looks on.  I’m not saying the book wasn’t worth writing, or that no one should read it, I’m just not interested. 

Do I think that he took steroids?  Yes, and he should probably be charged with perjury for lying about it, which is an actual crime, where as taking steroids is a BS crime, like jay-walking or drinking alcohol when you are 20 years old.

There are a couple of reasons for my lack of interest in Clemens’s alleged drug use.  First of all, he is retired.  If it were Johan Santana or Zach Greinke who were alleged to have used steroids, I may give it a look, but only because there would be actual ramifications for Major League Baseball if that were to come to light.  In Clemens’s case, he is out of the game, and seems to have no intention to overstay his welcome and come back, so there is really nothing that can come of finding out if he juiced. 

There is one question that keeps coming up when discussing the supposed ramifications of finding steroid use amongst retired players:  will they get into the hall of fame?  Let me go ahead and answer this asinine question; YES!  For f***s sake yes.  I hate Clemens as much as the next guy (assuming the next guy finds Clemens to be a smug, semi-illiterate douche), but of course he deserves to be in the hall.  Even though he was a backstabbing whore, Clemens was the most dominating pitcher in baseball for almost 15 years.  On top of that, steroids were not banned for most of his playing career.  To keep him out, even if he is found guilty, is stupid.

The second reason that I don’t care is also another reason why he should be in the hall.  I am sick and tired of people making it out to seem like the guys who did it clean “back in the day” did what they did because they worked their tails off despite being given the same physical gifts as anyone else.  That is crap.  Nolan Ryan was great because he was born with a million dollar arm, and so was Clemens.  Cy Young never touched a weight in his life, probably never did any sort of plyometrics, drank booze and smoked cigs.  Same for the hitters he faced, for that matter.  Babe Ruth was fat (they also never faced an African-American or Dominican player).  I’m not saying that using steroids is right or fair, but we need to take a step back and look at what really makes a pitcher great before we say that today’s numbers are “tainted.”

(2 side notes on that subject, first of all, this is especially true for pitching.  Sure, training can get you to the next level, but anyone who has seen Rich Garces or Bartolo Colon knows that it is at least 95% “who was born with the best arm.”   Also, if I hear one more person say “pitching was stronger back then” I’m going to throw up.  The number of people playing baseball was less than half of what it is today, meaning there are more arms to choose from, and therefore you have to be better now than you did then to make it.  On top of that, people know twice as much about mechanics, strategy etc, and ten times as much about arm conditioning than they did in the 50’s and 60’s.  The splitty wasn’t invented until the 80s for Christ sake.  I could go on, but suffice to say today’s athletes are better than ever before in every sport.  I can’t believe this is even up for debate.)

Having gotten sufficiently carried away about all that, it is time to bring it back around.  If I am so unconcerned with this Clemens book, and his subsequent interview (which I heard in its entirety on Mike and Mike), why am I wasting 1800 words on him?  Is it just because I wanted to take the opportunity to call him a “semi-illiterate douche”?  Yes and no.  Yes, in that I definitely wanted to take that opportunity, and no in that there is another reason.

I don’t know if Clemens thinks that everyone who follows sports is dumb.  Maybe he does, or maybe Clemens is just a certifiable moron.  Either way, he said something that is a) incredibly stupid and b) borderline insulting when he was on ESPN Radio Tuesday morning. 

Sure, athletes are no strangers to slips of the tongue, but this is not Drew Gooden overcoming a lot of diversity, Mike Tyson fading into bolivian (B?olivian) or Manny Ramirez making his own destination.   What Clemens said made Allen Iverson’s rant on practice sound like a masters dissertation on psychology. 

Clemens was explaining why he never could have taken steroids.  His reason was a family history of heart disease.  Of course there is somewhere between a 100% and 100% chance that this line was fed to him by the PR firm which he freely admitted was the reason he was talking to the press, but it didn’t take Dr. Cal Lightman to tell that he may have been less than genuine.

What Clemens said was this: “our family has a history of heart conditions…my stepfather died of a heart attack.”



One more time.

“our family has a history of heart conditions…my stepfather died of a heart attack.”

Ok, I’ll give Roger the benefit of the doubt here, and…(searching)…(trying to think of an angle)…(reading the quote a 15th time)…yeah, screw that, there is no way I can give him the benefit of the doubt.  Also, who am I kidding, I have no desire to.  Really, it comes down to one of two things, and neither is kind to Clemens.

The first possibility is a little bit farfetched.  That is that Roger Clemens doesn’t believe in genetics.  Okay, maybe he believes in them, but he has an extremely limited understanding of how they work.  Sure, Clemens’s step father was the primary “father figure” in his life, but Roger would have to be pretty dumb to think that this somehow transferred his health issues down to the rocket.  Then again, Roger was dumb enough to think that it was a good idea to go on a nationally syndicated radio show in order to refute a book that had received basically no press, when he was hardly getting any attention because of the revelations about Manny and A-Rod, thereby making it the number one story in the news cycle, and reminding everyone that he is a pompous, arrogant… well I think I have made my point.

Alas, as amusing as it would be for Roger to be ignorant enough to actually believe that his step father had somehow transferred his heart condition, there is a much more logical explanation.  Roger has lived a life of what we will call bulls*** (although you can feel free to substitute the second half of that term in your head as you read this).  You are probably thinking to yourself, of course he has, we know that he took steroids, and he has been lying to us about that for years, but it goes deeper than that. 

In fact, bulls*** isn’t exactly the same thing as lying.  A Princeton professor summarized the difference by saying:

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bulls*** requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bulls***er, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.”(Frankfurt, 1986)

(no joke, he even wrote a paper…here it is, I swear I’m not lying, or even…nah, that would be too easy)

Does this not sound like a perfect description of the last 10 years of Roger Clemens’s life?  He retired, only to come back and sign with another team not once, not twice, but three times.  Was Clemens lying?  Not really?  Was he telling the truth?  No.  The fact is, when he said he was retiring, he was just bulls***ing.  It wasn’t that he was deliberately not telling the truth when he said that he was gone; he was simply unconcerned with whether or not it was true.  I am convinced of this.  You can have a change of heart once, sure.  Twice, even.  But three times?  I, for one, am not buying it. (I, for one, am also aware that I use that phrase too much)

This is the saddest part about Roger Clemmens’s career.  The entire time that he was playing in the Majors, he could have cared less about the fans.  Obviously, I don’t know how he actually feels about the people that pay his salary, but almost everything that he has done suggests an utter disdain.  Clemens left Boston, and never looked back, signing with their most bitter rivals just a few years later.  After that, he retired, as a “Yankee,” only to weasel his way into an Astros uniform.  He couldn’t have been happier to play in front of the hometown fans, the only base that didn’t, on some level resent him, the only fan base that was really happy to have him, near his family no less, so when he came back out of retirement he... well, actually he signed with the Yankees because they offered more money. 

To Roger, telling fans that he was never involved in steroids was never a big deal.  It didn’t matter that it probably wasn’t true, because he didn’t have enough respect for his fans to feel as though he owed them the truth.

Saying that he had a family history of heart problems, when the examples he gave were either not related to him (the step father), or occurred after his alleged steroid use began (his brother, who, according to Clemens “had a heart attack in his 40s”), the fact that there was no way that this was a legitimate excuse never even occurred to Roger, and if it did, he probably dismissed it.  He wasn't lying, he just didn't care, and that is much worse.

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