Roger Clemens: Where Did He Go Wrong and Is He at Fault?

Royce JeffreyContributor IIIJuly 14, 2011

BOSTON - AUGUST 31:  Roger Clemens #22 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Boston Red Sox on August 31, 2003 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Yankees defeated the Red Sox 8-4. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Roger That

While the nation collectively holds its breath regarding our current financial crisis, Roger Clemens is breathing a sigh of relief as his perjury case was recently declared a mistrial. 

Many still scratch their heads while trying to figure out why a money-strapped country found it necessary to try seven-time Cy Young award winner Clemens for perjury during a 2008 congressional hearing.  The amount of money and resources being directed towards this trial is surely enough to run a WNBA franchise for the next decade or so.  But enough about sports where athletes' annual salaries are nearly matched by stadium ushers.

Though a mistrial was announced on the basis of inadmissible evidence presented by the prosecution, the case may be reopened at some point in the future.  For now, it seems that Clemens is walking away a winner.

Usually, pitchers frown upon walks and yearn for strikeouts.  As we all know though, Clemens struck out with the public the minute he began to walk down the long road of denial.  While we all fume over not only the prevalence of steroids in baseball, but the blatant fabrication of events by Clemens himself, we must ask ourselves: Is he really at fault?

To his credit, Clemens—despite winning the award for most outrageous quote of 2008 when he claimed that he should have a third ear growing out of his head if he ever took steroids—has never wavered from his assertion that he never used performance enhancing drugs.

This third ear may have come in handy for Clemens because it may have allowed him to listen to the voice of reason; a voice which has presented all the evidence necessary for a player accused of steroid use to simply admit rather than refute. 

The media and the public don’t need mahogany-lined courtrooms and fancy legal procedures to conclude that the man nicknamed “The Rocket” is guilty.  By the age of 36, the Rocket was running out of fuel, and Clemens was seeing his stellar career slowly plummet back down to earth.  His average earned run average for the next two years was well over four—the highest it had been for any two-year span in his career. 

Then, all of a sudden he was a 20-game winner again and picked up two more Cy Young awards. 

Smell fishy?

Statistics like this combined with more telling evidence such as testimony from his trainer, other players and discarded needles with traces of Clemens’ DNA and steroids on them, have essentially sealed Clemens’ fate in the eye of the public. 

But if we all see this so clearly, how could Clemens be so blind?

I believe that most athletes are taught from day one that quitting is not an option.  They have already beaten all the odds due to nothing else but their hard work and talent to reach the highest level of professional sports by beating out all other competition.  Who is to tell them that they can’t beat steroids charges as well?  Don’t we teach athletes to go down swinging?

Not only that, but as long as an athlete is long in the pocketbook, there will be plenty of jackals around him or her, salivating over the idea of financially benefiting from the athlete.  Why would Clemens’ legal team tell him to admit to steroid use when they could stand to make a killing in representing him in court as well as racking up billable hours in meetings with him?

The arrogance of an athlete, which to be fair makes many of them the successes that our children race to plaster on their walls in poster form, has been the downfall of Clemens.  Combine this with poor advice from his inner circle, and one has the recipe for disaster that Clemens has spent so much time marinating in while the public slowly cooks his reputation—and possibly his shot at the Hall of Fame.

Clemens should take a page from Roberto Duran’s book and just say “no mas.”  Quitting on one’s stool seems a far better option than sitting in court.  Instead, Clemens continues to try to sell his tarnished product to a nation of weary buyers still reeling from the recent admissions of performance enhancing drug usage after initial denial from superstars such as Alex Rodriguez and Mark McGwire. 

All of this begs the questions: Will athletes who admitted to steroid use, as opposed to those who still deny it, be granted entry into the Hall of Fame?  Will a country that values truth and honesty smile upon athletes who admit to mistakes in an error-laden era of baseball?  Furthermore, what is to become of Clemens?

One of the most popular episodes of the seminal sitcom "The Simpsons" involves a hypnotist who convinces Roger Clemens (voiced by Clemens) that he is a chicken.  It looks like he did a particularly good job.