There is something sad about this Roger Clemens, bloated and desperate, clinging with white knuckles to a legacy he can't possibly keep.
Granted, he is mostly just trying to keep himself out of prison at this point. He has to fight that fight. But it began with his legacy. Against a lot of evidence to the contrary, he wanted us all to believe The Rocket had not been artificially propelled, and he was so unconvincing in front of Congress that two years ago a federal grand jury charged him with six felonies.
Clemens was too self-involved, too stubborn, too short-sighted to see that the Steroid Era was just that -- an entire era. It wasn't just about him. If you were a powerful player for a long time, and you played between the late 80s and the mid-aughts, everybody was already suspicious of you.
Without using your Google machine, see if you know which of the following players used steroids, which were implicated, which weren't, which were proven, which admitted to it and which ones offered denials nobody believes: Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, Andy Pettitte, Mark McGwire, David Justice, Gary Sheffield, David Ortiz, Jason Giambi, Mike Piazza.
It's tough to keep it all straight, isn't it? The more time passes, the more they all get lumped in together as suspect contemporaries in an era when performance enhancing drugs were commonplace. That's about as forensic as most of us care to get.
(Clemens, if you need a refresher, was named in the Mitchell Report. It said he used anabolic steroids late in his career, and that this information came from his former trainer, Brian McNamee.)
Clemens could have denied he used, and most of the people would have still thought he did and held it against him forever. Or he could have admitted he used, and most of the people probably would have forgiven him, or at least made peace with his place in the Steroid Era.
This, after all, is an era defined by the asterisk. We will never know who exactly used performance-enhancing drugs and how much, so the accomplishments of the players whose careers aligned with the Steroid Era can only be evaluated against each other. That's not fair, but it's the best we can do. And Roger Clemens, who played during the Steroid Era against a lot of hitters and other pitchers who were on The Juice, was maybe the greatest pitcher of his time.
That's an imperfect legacy, but it's still a darn good one, and it's too bad Clemens didn't realize he didn't have to deny using steroids in order to keep it. Too bad Clemens didn't understand that he wasn't going to be able to change the way he was perceived. It was too late.
Too bad Roger Clemens failed to see that no one really cares about steroids. He can see it now. Jurors are falling asleep during his perjury trial. The public is ignoring it all together. The media have moved on to concussions and LeBron James and Tim Tebow.
Oh, if Roger could do it all over again, he would simply cop to having experimented with The Juice and that imperfect legacy would be intact.
But now look at him. His friends are ratting him out, and he has to sit there and squirm and hope he isn't proven a liar. "Give it up, Roger," we all want to scream.
I am not trying to convict Clemens here. That's what the trial is for. It's going to take a superhuman effort by his defense to convince me he didn't use PEDs, but I don't want Clemens to go to federal prison over all this. To put a baseball player in jail for lying about something he did to help him play baseball better seems like a pointless exercise of the American judicial system to me.
Rather, I wish Clemens had either just admitted to it, or found a way to not say anything at all.
Because in that case we would have seen him as a great baseball player who cheated during an era defined by cheating, and instead he's a sad old man yelling at a television that isn't even on.