More Clemens chatter

What follows is a roundup of updates, analysis, and media reaction from across the country on the Roger Clemens-Brian McNamee saga.

  • Sports Illustrated’s John Heyman has an exclusive interview with the Rocket’s former trainer McNamee, who stands by his story but noted that Clemens was not a steroid abuser:

    And Roger was in no way an abuser of steroids. He never took them through our tough winter workouts. And he never took them in spring training, when the days are longest. He took them in late July, August, and never for more than four to six weeks max … it wasn’t that frequent.

  • The New York Daily News has McNamee and his lawyers bitter over the taping of his phone call with Roger Clemens:

    “What does (Clemens) do, he calls him back with his lawyer in the room and a tape recorder going,” McNamee attorney Richard Emery told the Daily News last night. “He wants to play that game, he’s going to get buried. I have no compunction about putting him in jail.

    “This is war.”

    “He’s angry that the information about his son was manipulated in that fashion,” said Earl Ward, another McNamee attorney. “The original text message to Roger said, ‘My son is sick, can you call him at home?’ Brian was not even living there. He had no intention of talking to Clemens. (Clemens) never did call his son.”

  • Daily News columnist Mike Lupica writes that recording the conversation was the latest misfire from Clemens:

    Mostly you heard McNamee, over and over, asking Clemens, “What do you want me to do?”

    At no point did Clemens ever say the following: “Tell Senator Mitchell and tell the government you lied when you said you injected me with steroids and HGH.”

    What McNamee, who is weird enough himself to still come looking to Clemens for approval, does say at one point is, “The truth is the truth.”

    Clemens must have thought this conversation, which came across looking like a clumsy set-up, would somehow persuade people that he is the one telling the truth and that McNamee is the one lying here. If anything, though, this recording, as odd and rambling as it was, seemed to help McNamee more, because as needy as he sounded, he never changed his story.

    There was all that time, 17 minutes, for him to admit to Clemens that he lied, that he did exactly what Clemens on “60 Minutes” said he did, which was tell this huge and terrible lie about Roger Clemens, give Clemens up to the government, to save himself.

    Only McNamee never did.

  • The New York Post salutes Roger on the back cover today:

    New York Post, Jan. 8, 2008

    (New York Post)

  • The Post’s Mike Vaccaro writes that the McNamee recording lacked the goods:

    What I heard was the voice of a man who was given the keys to the kind of exclusive palace available only to the very rich and the very famous, who was actually allowed to call Roger Clemens “friend,” and has now had that all taken away from him.

    Maybe it’s the voice of a man with a sick child and a ruined career, too, who at the very least dabbled in some highly illicit behavior and who now listens daily to his former friend lash out at him with venom in his voice and menace in his eyes.

    Think of that as you listen to the pathetic sound bytes of a broken man, talking to the star he once idolized, who also happened to be one of the most intimidating athletes who ever walked onto a playing field. Think about how daunting it was to be Barry Bonds or Mike Piazza or Derek Jeter staring down Clemens. Now think of what it’s like to be Brian McNamee.

  • Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner chimed in on Clemens last night as well:

    “I thought that the press conference spoke for itself,” Steinbrenner said last night outside Legends Field at the Yankees’ spring training complex. “I thought the media commentary after the press conference was over was a little harsh. Too much rush to judgment in this country. As far as whether he’s telling the truth or not, I have no clue. But I’m not going to say, well, he’s lying, like everybody on TV did after he was done.”

  • The New York Times’ Richard Sandomir took in the media circus yesterday:

    This was live, raw, sour Roger, the one you get in a foul mood, and more riveting than the comparatively polite Clemens who appeared opposite Mike Wallace a night earlier on “60 Minutes.”

    Here was the great, brush-cut Rocket character, filled with denials about the accusations by Brian McNamee, his former personal trainer, and chesty indignation bordering on intimidation. There was his wisecracking lawyer, Rusty Hardin, who sounded astonishingly like Jerry Jones, and passed Clemens a note saying, “Lighten up,” as if they were in junior high math.

    There was the 17-minute audiotape of last Friday’s Clemens-McNamee phone call, which proved little, offered nonsense worthy of the Marx Brothers and made McNamee sound sympathetically tragic.

    And there were the e-mail messages from fans that inexcusably popped up on ESPN2, one of which read: “Roger Clemens is a criminal and a cheat. Plain and simple.” So much for the presumption of innocence that Clemens is seeking.

  • Alan Schwartz of the New York Times writes that the phone recording revealed the frayed remains of a friendship between the pitcher and the trainer:

    As the phone call played and little information was revealed, the audience was left mostly listening to a friendship fracturing in real time.

    “I don’t know why you did it,” Clemens said at one point. Soon afterward, McNamee replied, “You treated me like family. From Day 1, I was family to you. I’m glad to hear your voice.”

    With no true bombshell for the news media and fans to dissect, the lasting legacy of the phone call became not what was said, but what was not.

    “I didn’t do this, Mac,” Clemens told McNamee.

    “Fine,” McNamee replied.

    Later, McNamee said, “I can’t open up to you the way I want to — and I know you can’t.”

  • Over at, Lester Munson writes that Clemens’s proactive lawsuit is both propaganda and profile:

    The detailed description of Clemens’ baseball career is very uncommon in a defamation lawsuit. Clemens wants everyone to remember how great he is. In a lengthy description of his first 20-strikeout game in 1986, it includes a quote from his manager: “I watched perfect games by Catfish Hunter and Mike Witt, but this was the most awesome pitching performance I’ve ever seen.” The suit doesn’t name the manager, keeping the focus on Clemens. (For the record, the manager of the Red Sox in 1986 was John McNamara.)

    It even reminds us of the statement Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette made in 1996 when Duquette failed to re-sign Clemens and let him go to Toronto. Duquette famously said he wished Clemens well in the “twilight of his career.” Just in case anyone has forgotten, the lawsuit reminds us that Clemens won the Cy Young and the pitching triple crown in his first year with the Blue Jays.

    When he won only seven games for the Astros in 2006, the suit makes sure we know it was because of “low run support.” It may be the first time in the history of American jurisprudence that “low run support” has made it into a legal document.

  • McNamee told New York Newsday on Monday that he never should have got involved with steroids:

    “I should have just given the information and walked away,” McNamee said, referring to steroid use. “I crossed the line of what my job was, to protect these guys at all times.”

  • Newsday’s Neil Best writes that Clemens has created a compelling character with this spectacle and that McNamee was considering an appearance on ESPN yesterday, but backed out:

    McNamee considered firing back in an appearance on ESPN yesterday afternoon but backed out. (He did speak to Sports Illustrated Sunday night and to Newsday yesterday afternoon.)

    Why blow off ESPN? Two people familiar with the change in plans said McNamee told the network he was advised not to go on TV by the feds with whom he has cooperated.

    Based on his nervous, scattered demeanor on that call with Clemens, McNamee probably made the right decision, and he might yet have trouble matching wits with Clemens before Congress next week. That doesn’t mean McNamee is lying. But he now knows he is facing a guy who still throws heat.

  • In Roger’s hometown of Houston, the Chronicle’s Richard Justice writes that McNamee now is the one who sounds desperate:

    Was Brian McNamee asking Roger Clemens for money? That’s certainly how it sounded.

    How do you like your star witness now, George Mitchell? If Clemens had made an offer, would McNamee have changed his story?

    He sounded desperate enough to do or say just about anything, telling Clemens he has no money, no job and a very sick son.

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