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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Clemens, and the Act of Denial




      By Ross Newhan

      I am thinking back to 1982, late in the season, the Angels headed to a division title, the first post-season for manager Gene Mauch during a career, to that point, in which he had taken undermanned teams in Philadelphia, Montreal and Minnesota much farther than he was ever credited.

     In 45 plus years on the baseball beat, Mauch was definitely the most intense manager I ever dealt with and probably the most intelligent. He seldom used a cliché and almost always paused before answering a question, leaving the reporter to wonder if he was going to get his head bitten off or receive one of Mauch’s thoughtful and insightful answers.

    As the Angels moved closer to clinching the ’82 title, I sat alone with Mauch one afternoon in Texas and asked him whether it was difficult controlling his emotions, what he was thinking about after so many frustrating seasons in those other times and places, to now basically have the post-season within his grasp.

   There was the usual pause, and then this:

   “I don’t see a shingle hanging from your door, so I’m not getting on the couch for you.”

    I wasn’t sure how Mauch knew what I had hanging from my door, but he was right. Not then or now do I have a shingle reading “psychologist” or “psychiatrist”. I have only the opinions and theories born of experience and research, which I offer now in the matter of Roger Clemens, who has been indicted by a federal grand jury of lying to Congress in regard to his 2008 testimony that he had never used a performance enhancing substance.

    As a seven time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens was certain to be elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Instead, he faces a possible prison sentence, his reputation shattered as he continues to insist he never used steroids or human growth hormone despite an array of evidence and testimony that he did.

    In my tenure on the baseball beat, Clemens and Pete Rose probably stand out as the most competitive of competitors---Clemens a workaholic driven to 354 victories and Rose unyielding as he closed in on Ty Cobb and ultimately surpassed his status as baseball’s all-time hits leader.

    Clemens and Rose simply let nothing stand in their way—an opposing batter of the Mike Piazza stature who was always fortunate to be wearing a helmet when facing Clemens or a catcher like Ray Fosse blocking the plate in an All-Star game and sent flying and reeling by Rose.

    That drive, that obsession, that degree of arrogance, to my thinking, played out off the field as well.

    Admit to Commissioner Bart Giamatti that his investigator, John Dowd, was right and he gambled on baseball while managing the Cincinnati Reds?

    No way, Rose insisted year after year until realizing that his chances of being removed from baseball’s ineligible list and reaching the Hall of Fame were continuing to fade and he finally admitted that yes, Dowd had it right, and how much better would it have been for him if he had acknowledged that from the start, if he had simply said he had made a mistake in judgment and was sorry?

   That wasn’t Rose, and neither is it Clemens.

   Forget Brian McNamee and all of those DNA and PED pocked syringes that he saved after injecting Clemens while personally training the pitcher? Sure, it was just lidocaine.

  Forget Andy Pettitte testifying that Clemens had admitted to him that he had been injected with HGH? Good buddy Andy must have “misremembered.”

  As for that Congressional committee, Clemens might ask, "who is Henry Waxman, anyway?"

  The Greek gods had a word for it: hubris.

  Hubris, they said, comes about when men think they can act like god.

  And isn’t that the inexcusable aspect?

  Or as Harvey Dorfman, now consultant and sports psychologist to the Scott Boras Corp. and longtime consultant to several teams and players, put it via phone:

  “The missing component is character. I’ve known many driven players who knew right from wrong. I mean, drive doesn’t excuse the absence of moral borders and boundaries or the act of denial when truth is demanded.”

 Perhaps, Clemens will plea bargain his way out of these charges.

 However,that would call for the missing character, the absent act of remorsefulness.

 In the meantime, for all his apologists, for anyone insisting that the felony act of lying to Congress isn’t worth the Department of Justice’s time and money, I would recommend they first get a shingle.

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