When one thinks about Kansas City baseball, the name that instantly comes to mind is George Brett. Brett is one of the best Royals players of all-time and baseball managers, if they had their choice of players, would pick Brett in the same light as they would Ted Williams and Willie Mays.
Brett was special and no one will argue the fact. Dick Howser once said he knew of no one who could hit like George. Reggie Jackson said Brett was the greatest left-handed hitter he ever saw. Gene Wojciechowski, while writing for the LA Times, said that it was possible that if Brett wanted to challenge Pete Rose’s hit record, he could have a chance. But in 1985, when asked if he could break the record, Brett replied "I've thought about 3,000 hits, but 4,000 has never even entered my mind. It's another...dimension." George has always had a good grasp of reality.
Unlike Brett, Pete Rose is not in the Hall of Fame. Rose's accomplishments in baseball warrant the Hall of Fame. So do Roger Clemens’ feats. Edmund Burke, a British statesman and philosopher, once said "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it." Clemens should know this history, and yet this recent mishap seems to be a potential repeat of it.
In a discussion on 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City, Brett said that Clemens and other steroid users will never make the Hall of Fame. Not only that, he's basically blackmailing the HOF. Essentially, he’s saying not to even think of putting performance enhancers in because if they do, the current Hall of Famers won't attend the induction ceremonies, thereby distancing themselves from association with the Hall. Brett is firm in his belief that none of these players will ever be in the Hall of Fame.
In 1989, the Dowd Report accused Rose of betting on baseball: claims he vehemently denied in interviews, on TV, on daytime talk shows. Rose asserted to the public that he was innocent. Finally, in 2004, Rose admitted that he bet on baseball and the Reds, the team he was managing.
Now fast forward to Roger Clemens. On December 13, 2007, the Mitchell Report, a 409-page, 21-month investigation of anabolic steroids in Major League Baseball, was released. Before its release, the names associated with steroids were people like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Jose Canseco. But, after its release, the primary name associated with steroids became Roger Clemens.
From the Mitchell Report:
Prior to my interviews of McNamee, he was interviewed by federal officials on several occasions, during each of which they informed McNamee that he risked criminal prosecution if he was not truthful. I was advised by those officials that on each occasion he told them about the performance enhancing substance use of Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Chuck Knoblauch. In order to provide Clemens with information about these allegations and to give him an opportunity to respond, I asked him to meet with me; he declined.
Just like Rose, Clemens has vehemently denied the allegations and has gone on record in interviews done on TV (e.g. 60 Minutes) as well as swearing on Capitol Hill that he did not use performance-enhancing drugs. Just like Rose, the evidence seems to be against the Rocket.
While on Capitol Hill, one of the politicians told Clemens that based upon the testimony of Andy Pettitte, Clemens' story is not as credible as that of Brian McNamee, the one who testified in the Mitchell Report that he had injected Roger Clemens with steroids from 1998 to 2001. Though innocent til proven guilty, the evidence on Capitol Hill has led many to believe that Clemens is following a similar road as Rose.
In a story on mlb.com, Evan Drellich writes that Rose has finally come clean and is making steps to make things right. Rose has reached out to Johnny Bench because Bench’s 1989 Hall of Fame induction was mitigated by Rose’s betting allegations. Giamatti encouraged Rose to “reconfigure his life’ and Rose finally understands it. Drellich goes on to write that Rose confessed it was his hard-headedness that prevented him from ever admitting his mistake.
Tony Perez, his former teammate, has seen the change in him and believes Rose truly wants to make things right with his teammates, Major League Baseball, and the public.
Had George Brett been hard-headed, he may not have had the ending to his career as he did. Brett was not just a great player, but he understood reality. Unlike Rose and Clemens, he realized he was not God, although some fans who dislike him might disagree. Brett could have continued his career with another team or come back and played out his contract, in which he would have received $3 million. Instead, he retired and went straight to the Royals’ front office, accepting a pay cut of close to 75 percent.
This year, both Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriquez played in the playoffs with almost no reference to their involvement with performance-enhancing drugs. When presented with the evidence, both came clean, admitting their guilt and asking for forgiveness. Had Rose and Clemens followed their example, they would likely not be in the news with such a negative spin.
In a recent article by Ross Lipshultz on the 100 most hated athletes, both Rose and Clemens were on the list. Pete Rose was at number 36 and Roger Clemens was number five. There is no doubt their refusal to admit their wrongs got them to this point. Rose has come clean and is taking steps to make amends for his wrong. In time, people will forgive and forget and maybe someday, Cooperstown will call.
Clemens, on the other hand, is on a road to destruction that will keep him out of the Hall of Fame and possibly lead to jail time. Roger must do an about-face. Whereas Rose seems to realize the world no longer revolves around him, Clemens has failed to come to the same epiphany. He desperately needs to stop this charade and follow Rose and Brett’s example.
Maybe it is time to put Pete Rose and/or George Brett on a plane towards Houston and talk some sense into the Rocket before it is too late. (Originally published in the Kansas City Star Sports Online).