You are still allowed to think that Roger Clemens is innocent of it all, that he didn’t use steroids or HGH, that the conversation Andy Pettitte says they had about HGH really concerned Debbie Clemens, even if she didn’t start using the stuff until years later. You can think that Clemens is telling the truth and Pettitte is lying and Brian McNamee, their former trainer, is lying through his teeth. You can think that the feds sweated McNamee into telling the truth about Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch and lying about Clemens.
You can think that the government has targeted Clemens all along, even if it never did anything of the kind.
But if you believe Clemens is lying, then here is a good question, for him and for you:
What should he do now?
“Change lawyers, for one thing,” one New York defense attorney who has watched this play out to its inevitable conclusion said Friday. “Rusty Hardin is the kind of lawyer who gets you out when your time is up.”
This particular lawyer isn’t looking to score himself points by having his name in the paper, and doesn’t have any particular desire in seeing Clemens taken down because of what is essentially a baseball drug rap.
But he believes truly that Clemens, even as far down the road as he is, should go try to make a deal with the government now.
“Under the federal sentencing guidelines,” the lawyer said, “you get credit for going to them sooner rather than later. The whole thing here is to avoid an indictment. Once there is an indictment, it’s more difficult to negotiate a plea. Clemens won’t do this, but he should go to the Justice Department right now and say, ‘I’m sorry for all the things I’ve said, but please don’t indict me.’ Justice probably won’t go for that. But there’s a chance that they might indict and not give him jail time if he did that right now.”
The lawyer then added this: “You have to remember something: When the Mitchell Report came out, Clemens wasn’t facing a criminal probe. He created this himself.”
He did it by talking like a drunk on a crying jag. Rusty Hardin did it by talking right along with him, as if it were a contest. Hardin says they knew all along that Clemens would be investigated the way he’s being investigated right now by the FBI, by IRS special agent Jeff Novitzky, by Matt Parrella, an Assistant U.S. Attorney out of northern California. But it might never have happened if both Hardin and Clemens hadn’t embarked on an insane legal and public relations strategy that began even before the Mitchell Report was released.
Clemens knew for a week before the release of the report that he was in it. But instead of talking to Brian McNamee and then voluntarily talking to George Mitchell, here is what Clemens allowed Hardin to do: Send two of Hardin’s investigators to tape an interview with McNamee. Tapes like that are forever. The way photographs of parties at Jose Canseco‘s house are forever. And syringes. And tapes of phone conversations between Clemens and McNamee.
And even Andy Pettitte’s memory about things.
The truth is, Clemens never acted as if he were worried about protecting himself from the government or from prosecution. He was only worried about two things: His image and his Hall of Fame legacy. And while all this was going on, Rusty Hardin wasn’t doing something that good lawyers are supposed to do, which is protect their clients from themselves.
He was too busy calling McNamee names and calling out the government to remind Roger Clemens that this might not just be his baseball career on the line, it might be his freedom.
Which is where we are now.
Maybe Clemens could never have talked George Mitchell off McNamee’s version of all this, just because we now see what a bad witness Clemens is, how he is as bad an advocate for himself as Hardin has been. Still: according to Mitchell there was at least one other ballplayer who went in and met with Mitchell and was compelling enough to talk himself out of that report. Clemens had to at least try.
Instead his man Hardin – who may not even be around at the end of this because he briefly represented Pettitte, too, and might get his chirping self disqualified – ran his own rogue investigation on Brian McNamee. So his guys taped McNamee. They taped that phone conversation and played it for the world and demanded their public hearing in front of Congress even when Rep. Henry Waxman talked about calling it off.
Michael Vick never thought he’d have to cop a plea, either. He now wishes he’d done it sooner, because it would mean getting out sooner.
* * *
You watch Thomas’ amazing career in New York play out, you watch what the way he has now buried Eddy Curry – for whom he only gave up two lottery picks – and you continue to ask yourself the same question:
Who wouldn’t Isiah Thomas sacrifice to save himself?
Not only does Thomas say he is burying Eddy because the league is getting smaller, it’s because it’s getting quicker, too.
That must be why he thought Curry and Zach Randolph would play so well together on offense.
As one NBA coach said this week, “Those two guys couldn’t have played together when the league was still walking the ball up.”
You think David Stern has ever picked up the phone since the end of Anucha Browne Sanders‘ sexual harassment suit against the Garden, apologized for the way she was treated by what used to be one of his league’s premier franchises?
The Yankees better start getting younger with pitching, because it’s sure not happening with the team they put on the field every day.
If Carlos Delgado is Plan A in the middle of the batting order, who’s Plan B?
Let’s just say that if “24” isn’t coming back until January of ’09, my Monday nights have opened up in a big way.
Chris Paul in one game is more interesting than the entire Knicks’ season.
Don’t worry, we’re happy here at the News to continue to provide content on steroids coverage – all the way to gyms in Texas – that other media outlets can then appropriate.
Sitting in the TD Banknorth Garden on Friday night and watching the Celtics play the Bobcats – mostly because the NBA couldn’t find a real team for the Celtics to play – I was reminded once again that no big man in the NBA has ever worked harder or moved around more than Kevin Garnett.
* * *
Heinz was the greatest living newspaper correspondent from World War II, and as great a sportswriter as this country has ever produced, in newspapers or magazines or books.
“I wanted to be doing what he was doing,” Elmore Leonard said the other day, explaining why he wrote a fan letter to Heinz after reading “The Professional,” one of the best novels about boxing or sports ever written.
It was an honor to get to know Bill Heinz over the last decade of his life, until the phone calls finally stopped coming last fall.
I called him after Sept. 11, asking him what it was like for him to come back to sports after being with the First Army during the war, what it was going to be like for us when the games started up again.
He said, “I feel people will be drawn to what they have always been drawn to in sports: The beauty of it, the brotherhood, the search for excellence, even the art. I believe these things never change.”
And this is the way he wrote from the U.S.S. Nevada once for the New York Sun, on the 20th of June, 1944:
“In their bunks now the men are breathing heavily and in shower stalls there is the sound once again of running water and everywhere there is this music: for this is the music with which a great ship, a great ship from a Pearl Harbor grave, is bowing out from the first phase of the invasion of Europe….”
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