Clemens and Congress

Is it possible for Henry Waxman (D-CA)to look more buffoonish?  Wait, don’t answer that, I already know the answer.  Or how about Elijah Cummings (D-MD)?  Yes folks, this turned into a colossal waste of time, effort, and money.  Nothing, absolutely nothing was resolved.

For some sick, twisted reason, I watched most of the hearings.  I did fall asleep somewhere around 1:30, but from what I’m to understand, I didn’t miss much.  Like may fans and observers of Base Ball, I was hoping for some sort of definitive resolution of the whole Clemens situation, one way or the other.  We didn’t get it.

It began with the dismissing of Andy Pettite and Chuck Knoblauch from having to physically show up and testify.  Then came the “leaked” testimonies, setting the stage for people to expect Clemens to get nailed.  But then we find out that staffers and Congress people were talking with Clemens the day before the hearing, getting autographs and pictures taken.  Then the circus began.  Waxman was only missing his ring leader’s hat and loud coat.  Many others dutifuly played their parts.  What should have been a dignified proceeding was not.

Instead of getting a rational proceeding, what  we got was a lot of political machinations, some really strange testimony, and both Brian McNamee and Roger Clemens sticking to their guns.  It was interesting to hear some of the lines of questioning that the members of the committee took.  The questions ranged from the pointed to the absurd.  And there were a few that were never followed up on, and should have been.

First off, there was Dan Burton (R-IN).  He went off on Brian McNamee like a pit bull.  He was relentless in going after McNamee’s credibility.  He hammered McNamee repeatedly on his previous “faux pas” to investigators and prosecutors.  One got the distinct impression that while he may not have believed Clemens, he certainly detested McNamee more. 

Christopher Shays (R-CT) really should avoid these hearings.  Really.  He’s usually clueless as to what is going on, not only in terms of the issue, but in terms of the sport.  Shays also has a habit of only being around for his question time, and not for the rest of the proceedings.  He made exactly one point, which was to call McNamee a “drug dealer.”  McNamee kept saying it was just Shay’s opinion, but agreed with Shays on every point but what to call him.

Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), while giving the expected platitudes to a former Yankee (as Richard Deitsch put it “I didn’t know Suzyn Waldman was in Congress”), obviously felt it was more important to go after a “big name,” than to get to the truth of the matter.  She was almost salivating of being able to take down a “wealthy white guy” in such a public, and publicized forum.  She did score with her questions concerning Randy Hendricks, and his role in informing Clemens of the Mitchell investigation’s desire to interview him.

Stephen Lynch (D-MA) scored well.  While obviously more interested in nailing Clemens, he did his homework, and was one of the few who were prepared for this hearing.  The testimony of the Blue Jay’s team doctor in 1998, and the abcess Clemens’ had, was damaging to Clemens, but not insurmountable.

Mark Souder (R-IN), was less concerned about Clemens specifically, but in the larger issues at stake.  While he didn’t communicate that properly (the fanatsy league comment), he did score with likening the Mitchell Investigation and the Congressional hearing as to a case involving cocaine dealers.  His disdain for McNamee showed through a little too much, which dampened his impact.  He failed to follow up on a question about the role of the MLBPA’s role in not giving Clemens information about the Mitchell investigation wanting to speak with him.  He could have gotten far more into the core of the issue had he, or some other member followed up on that.

The rest fell  into line alongpartisan lines.  Democrats went after Clemens with much gusto, while the Republicans went after McNamee, at time with some heavy artillery.  I’m not sure why this happened.  If anything, one would have thought that the Democrats would have backed up a member of a powerful and active union, rather than siding with a fallen cop.  One would have thought the Republicans would have gone after Clemens more, and attacked the union more.

Not to be outdone, Henry Waxman (D-CA), had to shine as a rabid weasel.  First off, as I said, he was the ring leader of the circus, and did little to add or restore any dignity to the proceeding.  His insistence on confrontation and “fire works” just hastened the downward spiral.  Then he drops the first legitimate “bomb,” but not the one he thought it was.  He brought up the issue of Clemens’ former nanny, and the process of the committee getting in touch with her.  This lead to a lovely little bit of grandstanding not only by Waxman, but Clemens’ attorney’s, Lanny Breuer and Rusty Hardin, as well.  The spat was actually legitimate, but with everything amped up (pun intended), it just became cartoonish.  Harvey Birdman would have had more decorum.  The final straw, was literally the final straw.  As Waxman was wrapping things up (4.5 hours later), he got into it again with Clemens, arguing over Andy Pettite’s deposition.  Of course this followed his “apology” to McNamee for the way he was treated by some members (read Burton).

But what of the two “stars” of this, McNamee and Clemens?  Well, it was pretty much a wash for both.  As nothing was resolved on anything, were back to status quo antebellum.  Neither did well in responding to questions, or coming across as “honest above reproach.”  They both had their good moments, but for the most part, both did poorly.

McNamee obviously has credibility problems.  He has a pattern of lying, and has questionable motives for his admissions.  Dan Burton (R-IN) hammered him on this incessantly.  He did not come across as believable on my questions, and looked extremely nervous while under oath.

Clemen’s probably came off this worse than McNamee, but he probably won’t face perjury charges as had been speculated.  While he did not handle either the nanny affair or his wife’s statement well, he was OK on the rest.  He did waffle on the Canseco party somewhat, but the Committee did not pick up on that (intentionally or not).  There are three things which will severely hurt Roger: 1. His wife and her injection.  This one is going to be a real stickler; 2. Andy Pettite’s deposition.  This is what really got things going.  Roger addressed the claims, but it wasn’t convincing.  If he goes to trial, this will be a key piece of evidence; 3. His contact with his former nanny prior to the committee interviewing her.  He should have just let his lawyers handle that rather than having personal contact.  Even if he did nothing more than say Hi and How are you, it still creates an impression of impropriety. 

Clemens got some bad legal advice I think through out this whole affair.  He would be well served to dump not only Hardin and Breuer, but Randy Hendricks as his agent.  More so if any of the insuations made about them are true.  Someone should also look into the MLBPA failed to properly notify players that they had been asked to speak with Sen.Mitchell.  It should also be questioned as to why the Union was running interference for the players, and potentially “selectively editing” who did and did not get notified. 

Roger Clemens, guilty or not, may have been set up for this.  Not by Mitchell or MLB, or even Brian McNamee, but by the MLBPA.  Why?  Because they knew he’s fight it, and had the money to do so.  A successful defense by Clemens would throw the whole Mitchell report into doubt, giving the Union plenty of ammunition.  But this may backfire badly on the Union, especially if things continue to hang in the air for Roger, or if he does go down.

For those interested, you read the live blogs of the proceedings from:

Richard Deitsch

Jayson Stark


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