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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted at 12:17 a.m., Thursday, February 14, 2008

Baseball: This Rocket crashes to earth in hearing

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
The Dallas Morning News

Roger Clemens' days as a Texas legend are over. Nolan Ryan will have to pass the torch to someone else.

Soon, the endorsements will vanish. Clemens will still have more money than he can spend in a lifetime, and when you're a living legend life comes with perks like free rounds of golf and sideline passes to watch his beloved Longhorns.

Who knows the last time Clemens paid for a meal in the Lone Star State?

Obviously, some will be sympathetic to Clemens' plight, but his days as an American hero have ended.

He can certainly forget about ever getting a plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It will never happen just like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro won't ever get plaques.

It's yet another sad day for baseball as the fallout from this sordid Steroid Era continues.

For Clemens, it had to be the worst day of his life. Yes, even worse than the day the Mitchell Report was issued.

At some point during the hearings, it should have become clear to Clemens that the 25 years he spent forging a reputation as a ruthless competitor and the greatest power pitcher of our generation were erased during 4 hours of riveting testimony at a congressional hearing.

Before the hearing, you never could have convinced me anyone could look worse than Mark McGwire repeating time after time that he was not here to talk about the past. That occurred about three years ago, the last time congressional hearings were held about steroids in baseball.

Clemens managed to do it.

He looked worse. Much worse.

Whether he was using strange words like misremembered or stammering while explaining inconsistencies in his testimony or searching for ways to gently discredit his good friend, Andy Pettitte, Clemens never sounded credible.

For the record, Clemens insists he never used performance enhancing drugs; Brian McNamee insists he injected Clemens with them numerous times. You have to sort out for yourself whom you believe.

For me, it was easy.

The 4,672 strikeouts. The 354 wins. The seven Cy Young Awards.

Much of it is tainted now.

There are just too many inconsistencies in Clemens' testimony to believe all of the allegations about his use of steroids and human growth hormone were false.

"We have found conflicts and inconsistencies in Mr. Clemens' account," said Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "During his deposition, he made statements that we know are untrue."

It doesn't matter whether you think the Mitchell Report will hold up in a court of law. Or whether you think McNamee is a dirtbag.

Focus on the facts. Ignore the denials. After all, Clemens is trying desperately to save what's left of his reputation.

He's desperate, so he's going to say and do whatever he must to protect himself. Hey, Pete Rose lied for more than a decade before finally coming clean about gambling on baseball.

McNamee is no saint. He lied and told half-truths to investigators at various points throughout this process.

Bottom line: McNamee said he injected Chuck Knoblauch with performance enhancing drugs and Knoblauch corroborated the story under oath. McNamee said he injected Pettitte with performance enhancing drugs and Pettitte corroborated the story under oath.

Why would he tell the truth about them and lie about Clemens?

But you don't have to believe McNamee. Pettitte implicates Clemens himself.

Pettitte said in an affidavit that he asked Clemens in 2005 what he would do if asked about performance enhancing substances. Pettitte said Clemens responded by saying Pettitte misunderstood an exchange in 1999 or 2000 in which Clemens admitted to taking human growth hormone, and that, in fact, Clemens had been talking about HGH use by his wife in the original conversation.

"One day I have to give an account to God and not to nobody else of what I've done in my life," Pettitte said in a sworn affidavit. "And that's why I've said and shared the stuff with y'all that I've shared with y'all today that I wouldn't like to share with y'all."

Then there's the infamous Jose Canseco party, where McNamee said Clemens first broached the subject of using HGH. Clemens produced a receipt from a golf pro shop to prove he was playing golf and did not attend the party.

Canseco confirmed that in an affidavit. Well, Clemens' nanny said in an affidavit that he did attend the party.

It's just one more inconsistency. And one more reason Texas has one fewer legend.