Monday, June 18, 2012

Some Thoughts On The Rocket, PEDs, and Baseball

Hey folks, excuse my hijacking of the blog, but the good folks running Astros County dropped me a note and asked if I would be willing to share a few thoughts on the supposed meaning of the Clemens verdict. So...

So the Roger Clemens case is finally over. The jury's reached it's verdict, and it found him non-guilty of all charges. None of the charges dealt with whether he actually used steroids, HGH, or any other PED, so ignore any Rusty Hardin comments saying that Clemens' name has been cleared. All that has actually been decided is that Clemens was not actually guilty of obstructing a constructional investigation into his use of steroids, HGH, or any other PEDs.

In the coming days there'll be a lot of sports folks writing high-minded pieces about what this all means. There'll be outrage expressed to the costs of the trial. I'm sure Rusty Hardin will be praised to the high heavens by some -- remember though, it was primarily Hardin's actions before Congress that got Clemens in this mess in the first place, so go easy on the praise. And for the most part, the writers/bloggers/reporters/columnists, etc. will get it all wrong.

They'll get it all wrong because there's no way of knowing what it means at right this very moment. The verdict's not going to make things any easier on Roger Clemens -- really, is there any sane person out there who thinks he didn't use PEDs?  Just as things haven't eased up for Barry Bonds. Rafael Palmeiro's never been charged with anything, and he still denies using PEDs, and he's still mentioned mainly as a punchline. And look at what Ryan Braun's dealing with this season.

It would be interesting to start discussing some other things. Why is Andy Pettitte still considered to be such a great guy? An honest guy who wouldn't lie? Clemens didn't call him a liar, he just said that Pettitte misremembered. Yet Pettitte admitted to using HGH. On multiple occasions. After telling reporters for years that he did not take HGH. And not only is he considered a hero and an outstanding role model, he's been readily re-accepted back in baseball. Alex Rodriguez admitted to PED use, and he's a pariah. What's the difference?

Jeff Bagwell was not named in the Mitchell Report, and he never failed a PED test. Yet he's supposedly a PED abuser who should not be allowed anywhere near the Baseball Hall of Fame. And look what is happening with Ryan Braun? Why is he not accepted like Andy Pettitte? What makes Pettitte so much more special than all of the others? Brian Roberts of the Orioles admitted to using steroids after he was named in the Mitchell Report, and his reputation has suffered no harm. But no team would attempt to get near Clemens or Bonds were they to attempt comebacks. But Pettitte's one of the supposed feel-good stories of this season.

I always thought the outrage about PED use was manufactured outrage. For over 50 years MLB players used PEDs without baseball giving it a second thought -- just look at the use of greenies in baseball, and look at the names of some of the players who have admitted to using greenies. They used greenies for the same reason players used steroids and HGH. They thought the greenies improved their game.

Will this stop the show trials of athletes? Who knows. But the problem with the Clemens trial as it was with the Bonds trial was that there was no real tangible evidence. At some point, if you're a prosecutor going after a high-profile person with money, you actually have to have tangible evidence.

And those are my rambling thoughts on what the Clemens verdict means to baseball. Except for this last, final thought: why is the outrage always about baseball and PED usage? How come the same outrage is never expressed over football players?


Mike Castleman Jr. said...

Two answers...

1. Generally the "free pass" that you lament for Pettite and Roberts relative to the others in my view is related to a combination of "high mindedness" and vehemence with which the others "denied" PED usage. Pettite and Roberts essentiallly confessed in a manner that came across as "relief" this isn't burdening my soul any longer. (In Pettite's case...I would believe that sentiment)

2. Baseball vs. Football...Football is a game, generally speaking, that validates brute strengh/raw power/physical dominance of some sort. There is very little "statistical history" by which the game is judged. Does anyone know what it really takes to become a HOF'er? Baseball on the other hand is a game where players can be judged and are judged related to the historical authenticity of the game in it's entirety. More importantly, baseball at it's very roots is an "everyman" game in it's real (and mythic) origins. Football is for gladiators. Baseball is considered and assessed more for it's totality (i.e. seasons and years)...Football is often relegated to the memory of an event. (I.e. Do you remember that game?)

There is only one pathway to scoring a run in baseball...You can get into the end zone just about any ol' way

Anonymous said...

Great observations. Simple human prejudice is my answer to your first question. Being equitable and honest is hard for s humans, but keep shining the light.

Previous comment nailed question two.