Commentary

Clemens has given feds plenty to work with

Updated: February 27, 2008, 3:52 PM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

Depending on how all this shakes out, some lucky warden might have one helluva prison baseball team.

Barry Bonds at DH. Miguel Tejada at shortstop. Roger Clemens on the mound. Knowing Bonds, he'd insist on solitary confinement and never warm up with the rest of the cons, but what else is new?

Anyway, this is what happens when the feds think you've lied to them. They go Terminator on you and don't stop until you're getting deloused in a holding cell.

[+] EnlargeRoger Clemens
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Susan WalshRoger Clemens as he faced a congressional committee on Feb. 13.

Bonds has been charged with four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. His defense team wants the case dismissed because there was a typo in the government's recent legal filing. If that doesn't work, Bonds' lawyers will accuse the feds of ampersand laundering.

Tejada is the subject of a preliminary federal inquiry into allegations that he lied to a congressional committee. The Houston Astros, who collect these guys like baseball cards, immediately announced plans for a "Plea Bargain Night" promotion.

Clemens, who is used to pinstripes, is next on the Justice Department's to-do list. On Wednesday, Congress asked the agency to investigate whether Clemens "committed perjury and made knowingly false statements."

Clemens has only himself to blame. In less than three months, Clemens has y'all-ed his way into more corners than a folded flag.

Remember a movie last year called "Reservation Road"? The poster tagline read: "To find the truth, you have to find who's hiding it."

Clemens hid the truth. He didn't hide it very well, which is why IRS special agent Jeff Novitzky of BALCO fame is now Clemens' worst nightmare. Let the lip licking begin.

Novitzky is a grinder who has already put away Olympian Marion Jones and former NFL defensive player of the year Dana Stubblefield. So the idea that Clemens will "eat his lunch," as Team Clemens attorney Rusty Hardin so ham-handedly put it, is beyond hilarious. Clemens got his clock cleaned by little, gavel-waving Rep. Henry Waxman of California. Just wait until Novitzky starts dumpster diving into his life.

Clemens hasn't given the feds much of a choice. Every time there's smoke, Clemens seems to be standing there with a blowtorch. And Hardin has been brilliant in his role as the hot-air machine who says the absolute wrong thing at the absolute wrong time. (Memo to Rusty: You can pretty much forget about that Texas Bar Journal cover shoot.)

The truth hiding began in early January. Clemens told CBS' Mike Wallace that if he had known Brian McNamee had accused him of performance-enhancing drug use, he would have met with Mitchell report reps "in a heartbeat."

Not true. Clemens' agents knew about McNamee's allegations eight days before the report's Dec. 13 release. Clemens testified he knew about the claims by at least Dec. 9. That's four full days of heartbeats during which he could have contacted former Sen. George Mitchell.

When Wallace suggested it was impossible for a middle-aged pitcher to have Clemens' kind of success, Clemens said, "Not impossible. You do it with hard work. Ask any of my teammates."

So the feds did. They asked close friend, teammate and workout partner Andy Pettitte. Pettitte distinctly recalled a 1999 or 2000 conversation in which Clemens said he used human growth hormone.

"I think he misremembers," Clemens told a congressional committee on Feb. 13.

Really? He just sort of "misremembers" his close buddy telling him he took HGH? According to Pettitte, Clemens later said he was referring to his wife's HGH use.

Not true. Debbie Clemens wasn't injected with HGH by McNamee until 2003, at least three years after the initial Pettitte-Rocket conversation.

Congressional investigators asked Clemens several times during his deposition if he had ever discussed HGH or steroids with McNamee. Each time Clemens said no.

Not true. Clemens later testified in the congressional hearing that he and McNamee had a heated exchange after Debbie Clemens suffered an adverse reaction to an HGH injection.

During Clemens' Feb. 5 deposition, Team Clemens lawyers Hardin and Lanny Breuer blasted the Mitchell report for its supposedly sloppy investigative work. They were especially upset about McNamee's claim that Clemens attended a June 1998 party at then-teammate Jose Canseco's house. The party was the alleged birthplace of Clemens' involvement with PEDs.

"We will be able to establish categorically, without question, that our client wasn't there," said Breuer that day.

Clemens chimed in too. "And second of all, I never was at the party."

"You weren't at this party?" said a congressional attorney.

"That's correct," said Clemens.

Categorically and without question, huh? Then what about the alleged photo of Clemens and a Canseco neighbor posing together at the party? What about the Clemens nanny telling congressional investigators that Clemens was at Canseco's house that day?

Clemens, with a considerable assist from committee member Rep. Tom Davis, tried to undermine the former nanny's credibility by suggesting she could barely put a noun and verb together.

"And her English, as I understand it, is not that good," said the helpful Davis.

"It is not that good," confirmed Clemens.

Not true. A spokesperson for a congressional attorney who took part in a recent telephone interview with the nanny, told The New York Times that she spoke with an accent, but was otherwise completely literate.

In his opening statement at the congressional hearing, Clemens said, "I have tried to model my baseball career, and indeed my entire life, on the premise that 'your body is your temple.'"

Not true. By Clemens' own admission, the temple has ingested painkilling Vioxx pills "like they were Skittles," (by the way, Clemens said he had no idea who prescribed them) and been injected with assorted painkilling shots. And those injections were administered by everyone but a stadium hot dog vendor.

During his deposition, Clemens scoffed at McNamee's impact on his legendary workout sessions and suggested the personal trainer was a clubhouse mole.

If true, then why did Clemens continue to employ him?

Clemens told Wallace, "If [McNamee is] putting that stuff up in my body … I should have a third ear out of my forehead."

Or an abscess from an improperly administered steroid injection by McNamee.

"I'm going to Congress and I'm going to tell the truth," said Clemens in his Jan. 7 news conference in Houston.

Pettitte and McNamee would disagree. So might the Justice Department, which now has the matter in its hands. But other than throw him into prison for perjury, is there anything the feds can do to Clemens that he hasn't already done to himself?

Pettitte, an admitted HGH user, said recently, "The truth will set you free."

But first you have to quit hiding it. That's a lesson apparently lost on Clemens.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.

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