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For as long as I can remember watching Red Sox baseball, I only had room in my heart for one player. Whenever a player leaves the Sox, I usually switch my spotlight to another. In the past, this spot has been held by former outfielder Trot Nixon and looks to be soon taken over by the man who got me a free taco, Jacoby Ellsbury. When once asked if I could meet one celebrity and why, I answered Roger Clemens because of the way he performed on the field and the way he carried himself off the field.
When the Mitchell Report came out, I was surprised and not surprised at the names mentioned. If you know me and how much I love players with great OBP (on base percentage), then you know I was crushed to read Jack Cust’s name. To say I was shocked to see “Roger Clemens” all over the report would be an understatement. A man I have heralded as a hero was for the first time looked at through my eyes with seeds of doubt.
However, I will stand my ground. I firmly believe that Roger Clemens has never taken steroids, HGH, or and other performance enhancing drugs. McNamee says he injected Clemens himself in 2000. If all the claims that HGH and other performance enhancers are the reason for Roger’s turnaround and ability to prolong his career, then surely the numbers would reflect such a claim. In 2000, Clemens was 13-8 with an ERA of 3.70. The next season he won the AL Cy Young with a 20-3 record and a 3.51 ERA. In 2002 his ERA went up to 4.35 and in 2003 it was 3.91. All of these numbers were below his career ERA which is 3.12. So after his supposed injection, the only season you can point to that may have been positively influenced by the injection of HGH is 2001 and that season his ERA was .39 above his career mark.
Then you can point out the years he spent with the Astros where he won another Cy Young and posted sub 3.00 ERA’s in all 3 seasons. During these seasons, Clemens turned 42, 43, and 44. Your immediate reaction is to cry foul play. However, if we can give the benefit of the doubt to Clemens, you can realize that Clemens is not the first pitcher to switch leagues. When a pitcher has pitched his whole career in the AL and begin to fizzle out, it is not uncommon to see them go to the NL and thrive on hitters who have not faced them before (the same goes for going from NL to AL). Look at Randy Johnson. The year he was traded mid-season to Houston in 1998, Johnson posted a 9-10 record and an ERA of 4.33 for the Seattle Mariners. Then when he played in the NL for the rest of that year, he was 10-1 with an ERA of 1.28, over three runs less. From 1999-2002, Johnson would average more than 17 wins and strike out over 330+ per season while winning four Cy Young awards and a World Series. So like I stated, when an aging pitcher switches leagues, he can flourish again.
What would a baseball controversy be without Jose Canseco? Canseco’s name was mentioned in Wednesday’s hearings because there was a report of Roger Clemens attending a party at Canseco’s house. Clearly the intent of the allegation was to imply that Clemens was involved in some sort of drug deal. Clemens swears he was never there. Now if anybody can speak the truth, it is Canseco. When his controversial book, “Juiced” was released in 2005, Canseco made some accusations that people refused to believe. Most famously was that Rafael Palmeiro had used steroids. Palmeiro even told Congress that he had never used steroids. Months later Palmeiro was found to be lying and it was confirmed that he had used steroids in his once Hall of Fame career. In Canseco’s book he states the following about Roger Clemens:
Here’s something you probably don’t know about Roger Clemens: He’s one of the very few baseball players I know who never cheated on his wife. I was amazed by him, to be honest. His wife should be very proud of him. You see all these other guys – oh, my God, every chance they got, they would be hitting the strip clubs. They would have extra girls staying in the team hotel, one room over from their wives, so they could go back and forth from room to room if they wanted. They would have their choice of woman in damn near every city imaginable.
Roger was the exception to that. I went out with him a bunch of times where there were beautiful women around, and he had a lot of opportunities and never took them. I was with him enough to realize: This man never cheated on his wife. He was one of the rarities, the anomalies in baseball, I can hardly thing of anyone else who never cheated on his wife. I wish I could count myself as an exception, but I can’t.
This story is what solidified my love for Clemens. In addition to his great ability as a ballplayer, he was also an outstanding, moral human being. What makes it more credible is the fact that Canseco himself wrote it. Canseco has stated before that steroids were the norm in baseball and as mentioned above, so was cheating on your wife. If Clemens is full of enough morals to not cheat on his wife when everyone else was doing it, then why would he subject himself to taking steroids or HGH if it was what every other ballplayer was doing?
Roger Clemens is innocent. Odds are an investigation will not follow these hearings. McNamee has been called a liar by members of Congress and Clemens has been told he can not be trusted by other members of Congress. When it is all said and done, the good name of Roger Clemens will forever be tarnished. Maybe we will not find out what is ultimately the truth behind these accusations but, what is for certain is that Roger Clemens the hero has now been replaced by Roger Clemens the steroid user. I however will choose from now on and until the end of time to stand behind the hero.