Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sometimes karma throws that broken bat right back at you

Roger Clemens has been indicted by a federal grand jury. On six counts, including perjury and obstruction of justice. Oh, I knew today would be a good day when I woke up this morning!

Clemens, throwing a broken bat at Mike Piazza
during the 2000 World Series. Stay classy, Rocket.
Clemens is only one of this generation's legends that have been tainted by the steroid scandal that have tainted baseball with the steroid scandal -- Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds form the other two points of this pathetic triangle. McGwire has been ostracized by the baseball community, kept of out the Hall of Fame, and will likely finish his career as coach a half-remembered punchline. Bonds will have his day in court in March, having also been indicted for making false statements. And now Clemens.

I hope he goes to jail.

Of course, he should -- he lied to Congress. He committed perjury, several times. Those are felonies, and he should go to jail for them.

But those crimes are not why I hate Roger Clemens.

Roger Clemens is not like Mark McGwire, who took steroids as a way to boost his performance and instill his name is the record books. He's not like Barry Bonds, who did it to assuage his massive ego, and make sure that everyone on the planet finally gave him the attention he thought he'd deserved his whole life.

Roger Clemens took steroids because he's a bully. He's a mean, savage bully, and steroids were a way to make him bigger and stronger and meaner. I supported the man when he played for the Astros (prior to the outbreak of most of this steroid mess), but even then, he was a nasty, despicable bully -- he strutted around the team, making outrageous contract demands that the fawning ownership was only too happy to accept. He arrived in Houston convinced that he was King of the Goddamned World, and let no one suggest otherwise. But of course, he was a cheater. All of that money, all of that adoration, all of it, earned by cheating.

"Cheater" is just one word I could use to describe him. Another: thief. Those tens of millions of dollars were earned under false pretenses. He is a fraud.

When his name came up in the Mitchell Report, what seems like a thousand years ago, his first response wasn't to deny anything. It wasn't to vehemently defend himself against the allegations. No: his first response was to pout. "I am disappointed that my 25 years in public life have apparently not afforded me the benefit of the doubt," he said at the time, as if he had become bulletproof to the slightest suggestion of impropriety. I'm too famous to be a cheater, I guess he wanted us to think. Yes, how dare we even think about thinking he could do wrong! "Twenty-four, twenty-five years....You'd think I'd get an inch of respect. An inch." Oh, poor Roger. Poor, put-upon, perfectly innocent Roger. You don't deserve the whips and scorns of an ungrateful public!

No. You deserve to go to jail.

He won't. Of course he won't. We know that. We know how our society works. There will be a deal. He will walk. And he will never admit the truth. Every sharp stone that gets hurled at his fat, oversized-thanks-to-steroids head will be another brick in the They Hate Me wall. And baseball's open sore will keep festering.

It's beyond festered at this point, actually -- I think the sport has become gangrenous, and needs to be amputated for its own good. Alex Rodriguez, who at least had the temerity to admit taking performance-enhancing drugs, hit his 600th home run a short while ago, and the world at large could not possibly have cared any less. ESPN met the feat with barely more than a shrug. Baseball expert Buster Olney showed up to say he'd be voting for A-Rod for the Hall of Fame, despite his known PED use, just as he'd voted for McGwire and would vote for Bonds. Because there's no way to known who cheated and who didn't, let's just ignore the issue and move on.

No. We cannot just ignore the issue. I don't care how widespread their use was. I don't care how great an athlete Barry Bonds was before the steroids. I don't care that A-Rod only used them for a short time and believed they didn't enhance his performance. I don't care.

They cheated. Period. They did it on purpose. Period. They don't get into the Hall of Fame. They don't get acknowledged by history. They don't get to put themselves on the same level as Ruth, as Aaron, as Gibson, as DiMaggio, as Musial, as Matthewson, as Jackson, as Clemente. They are liars, cheaters and frauds. They should be banished.


Baseball has always been my favorite sport. Part of what attracted me to the game was its connection with its past: each game, each season, it felt like a piece of a constantly shifting, living history. Every moment was tied with those that came before.

And now, an enormous part of that living history is stained. Baseball's lifeblood has been poisoned. And those who did it don't seem all that torn up about it. They don't seem all that bent out of shape that they ruined the very sport that made them the rich superstars they are.

In 1919, eight players from the Chicago White Sox accepted money from gangsters to throw the World Series. While there's little-to-no evidence the players actually did lose on purpose -- especially the star, "Shoeless Joe" Jackson -- baseball could not tolerate the perception that the great game was anything less than legitimate. The eight players were tossed from baseball and barred from it for life. The taint from the scandal so damaged the game that, from that moment, anyone involved in baseball caught gambling on it -- like all-time hits leader Pete Rose -- was given a similar treatment.

The steroid users have done baseball a far greater disservice. The Black Sox threw one series; these cheaters have ruined decades of the sport, and done it all under a shroud of lies and unprovable allegations. And yet...Mark McGwire still works for a Major League team. Their names will come up on Hall of Fame ballots. Alex Rodriguez has yet to pay back any of the quarter billion dollars he's earned under fraudulent pretenses.

I don't expect Roger Clemens will actually go to prison. But I hope he will. I have to.

Because sometimes the bullies get their due.

Don't they?

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