Clemens faces tougher road than Bonds
With a healthy Chris Carpenter, the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals might have beaten the Boston Red Sox and prolonged The Curse. If Duaner Sánchez hadn’t separated his shoulder in that taxicab accident, the ’06 New York Mets might have won the pennant. And if Justin Morneau had been healthy during each of the past two postseasons, A-Rod still could be looking for his first title.
Sometimes, the guys who don’t play can determine the winner. That is true in baseball. And that is true in the courtroom, too.
Greg Anderson was the pivotal player in the Barry Bonds trial, and he never picked up a bat. Anderson, the home run king’s longtime personal trainer, probably knows the identity of each steroid Bonds used. Most of Bonds’ steroid-related conversations — assuming, wink-wink, that they occurred at all — would have been with Anderson.
If Bonds lied under oath about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, Anderson was the man who could prove it. But Anderson refused to testify in the matter of the United States of America v. Barry Lamar Bonds. So he was placed on the disabled list — prison, in this case, albeit temporarily.
Bonds won in court Wednesday — at least, as much as a convicted felon can. He was found guilty of obstructing justice, but the jury couldn’t reach a verdict on three perjury counts. Bonds might escape jail time. For his efforts, Anderson was named Burlingame Syringe Manufacturers Association Player of the Game.
You know what they say about Anderson: He’s a special talent. Just by sitting in the dugout as a pinch hitter, he controls the other manager’s moves.
Which brings us to the upcoming Roger Clemens trial — and his former trainer, Brian McNamee.
If American jurisprudence held spring training, the scouts would be raving about McNamee’s bat speed and wondering about the damage he might inflict on right-handed pitching this summer.
Unlike Anderson, McNamee intends to play. And that could be a game changer when our Fallen Baseball Heroes miniseries resumes this July.
The Bonds verdict will have no direct impact on Clemens, but it merely reemphasizes the importance of a superstar witness in proving perjury — which is always a slippery charge.
And not only is McNamee expected to serve as a witness, but he has a prior relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Federal officials granted him immunity in exchange for his testimony about steroid distributor Kirk Radomski. McNamee is safe from federal prosecution, as long as he tells the truth. With him, those have been the ground rules for years.
McNamee named Clemens as a steroid user in the Mitchell Report. He testified before a 2008 Congressional hearing that Clemens used illegal performance-enhancing drugs. We can expect more of the same this year.
Clemens’ testimony before Congress — on the same day as McNamee's — represents another key contrast with the Bonds case. Bonds loathed testifying before the grand jury, hence the dismissive and incomplete answers that helped lead to Wednesday’s guilty verdict.
Clemens, on the other hand, said publicly he wanted to testify under oath, as a way to clear his name. He wasn’t subpoenaed. He wasn’t required to testify. But he voluntarily took the oath, anyway.
Apparently, he wasn’t convincing enough: Clemens faces six charges in federal court — obstructing the U.S. Congress, two counts of perjury and three counts of making false statements to federal officials.
“Perjury is always difficult to prove,” said G. Marcus Cole, a Stanford Law School professor. “In the Bonds situation, the prosecutors gave it their best shot. They tried to show the effects of steroids. They tried to show that any rational person would know they were on steroids. But that’s as close as they could come to showing actual knowledge.
“The Clemens case has a different dynamic: One of those two guys was lying in front of Congress. The facts are going to corroborate one story or the other. If the prosecutors can show that Roger Clemens was lying, or demonstrate that he knowingly didn’t recount the facts accurately, then their case is going to be easier (than the one against Bonds).”
Clemens’ decision to testify before Congress might go down in history as one of the boldest and/or most foolhardy PR moves in sports history, depending on the outcome of his trial. We know this much: If Clemens really wanted the chance to tell his side of the story, he will absolutely get it.
But, unlike Bonds, he’s not the only star of the show.