There's no crying in baseball. Just blaming, complaining and, if the accused is a dominating star like Roger Clemens, outraged denying.
In December the Mitchell Report on steroid abuse in the major leagues fingered the top players of the past two decades--slugger Barry Bonds and pitcher Roger Clemens--as having taken illegal substances. Bonds has dwelled mostly in sullen silence through the years of his charges. But Clemens, whose inclusion in the report was a jolt to fans, has taken the offensive, proclaiming his innocence against allegations by his former personal trainer Brian McNamee that he had injected the star multiple times with a banned steroid.
Like virtually all other players, Clemens refused to be interviewed by the Mitchell team. Now, though, he can't stop talking: on his website, to Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes and in a press conference that Clemens called, then stormed out of. All these were warm-up pitches for the Rocket's next big game, in front of a congressional committee on Feb. 13. McNamee has also been called to testify.
In his blog and with Wallace, Clemens was righteous and restrained. It was a fine performance--for a control pitcher like Greg Maddux. But Clemens' forte was always power: throwing a 95-m.p.h. fastball that could depilate a batter's eyebrows. That was the Clemens on display at his Jan. 7 press conference. Staring down reporters with the same intensity he lasered at Mike Piazza in 2000 (just before he beaned him), Clemens played the tape of a recent 17-min. phone call he'd had with McNamee. For revelations, this was no Watergate tape; neither side admitted to lying. The conversation had the edgy, intimate tone of an estranged couple's last chat before the lawyers take over.
Will McNamee rat out his old pal under oath before Congress, or will he turn strangely evasive, like Frankie Pentangeli in The Godfather: Part II? Will Clemens fess up or prove that he was clean? For all the testimony and countertestimony, the truth may never be known. The chemicals at issue, if he took them, would have passed from his body years ago. Unfortunately for Clemens, suspicion has a much longer half-life.