Year after year he peddled the same garbage, Roger Clemens was so dominant for so long because he simply outworked everyone. It played to the nation's Puritan roots, made Clemens out to be this everyman maximizing his skills through singular focus, dedication and a commitment to drinking carrot juice, or something.
It's all gone now, the legend of Rocket Roger dead on arrival of the Mitchell Report; one of the greatest pitchers of all time, his seven Cy Youngs and 354 career victories lost to history under a pile of lies and syringes.
Clemens was injected with performance-enhancing drugs and human growth hormones by his former trainer starting in 2000 and continuing many times through the years, trainer Brian McNamee told George Mitchell in great detail.
Baseball has its white Barry Bonds.
The sport has been waiting for the other shoe to drop on the 45-year-old Clemens for years. What he did defied not just age, but belief, and if there is one thing we know about commissioner Bud Selig's sorry era, it's that if something seems too good to be true, it is.
The smoking gun comes from McNamee, a former New York Yankees employee who used to work as a personal trainer for Clemens and his buddy Andy Pettitte, who is also cited in the report. McNamee is also a witness in a federal investigation and spoke to Mitchell and federal investigators under the penalty of perjury. The details are in Mitchell's 400-plus page, 20-month, $20 million report released Thursday afternoon.
Clemens refused to meet with Mitchell, according to the report. "In order to provide Clemens with information about these allegations and to give him an opportunity to respond, I asked him to meet with me; he declined," Mitchell wrote.
If McNamee is wrong and Mitchell ran with it anyway, then Clemens can sue the former Congressional leader, Major League Baseball and his drug-dealing former trainer for about a billion dollars.
This report, painstakingly investigated and detailed, may be a witch hunt to cleanse Selig's soul, but it isn't operated by fools. It’s extremely unlikely Mitchell and MLB would set itself up for such risk.
No matter what the defense that emerges, Clemens will struggle to ever win in the court of public opinion.
Which leaves baseball fans with the gut-punch reality that the generations' greatest hitter – Bonds – and greatest pitcher – Clemens – are nothing but drug-enhanced cautionary tales.
It is Clemens and his arrogance through the years that makes this one so distasteful. Just like Bonds, he relished in his greatness, seemed to mock all the other mortals who couldn't keep up with his workout regimens, his off-season drive, his freak of nature physical abilities.
He liked to convey that maybe anyone could do this, if they just were as tough as the Texas Con Man.
CLEMENS AND STEROIDS
• Jonathan Littman: McNamee's puny credibility good for Clemens (Feb. 13, 2008)
• Jeff Passan: Clemens, McNamee takes hits in hearing (Feb. 13, 2008)
• Dan Wetzel: Clemens shelled by Congress (Feb. 13, 2008)
• Jeff Passan: Hearings: Untruth or consequences (Feb. 12, 2008)
• Steve Henson: Clemens drama worthy of "Sopranos" (Feb. 11, 2008)
• Dan Wetzel: Innocent or stupid (Feb. 11, 2008)
• Jonathan Littman: Clemens-McNamee duel has BALCO roots (Jan. 8, 2008)
• Tim Brown: Telephone tap dance is unpersuasive (Jan. 7, 2008)
• Tim Brown: Clemens drowns in hopelessness (Jan. 6, 2008)
• Jeff Passan: Clemens to testify under oath (Jan. 4, 2008)
• Tim Brown: Who to believe (Jan. 3, 2008)
• Dan Wetzel: Denials by proxy make Clemens look worse (Dec. 18, 2008)
• Dan Wetzel: Clemens is no different than Bonds (Dec. 13, 2008)
And just like Bonds, you have to wonder why it was ever necessary. Clemens was an all-time great back in the 1980s and early 1990s, when he was presumably clean. He had three Cy Youngs and a MVP by 1991, when he was just 28. He didn't need to cheat to become rich and famous.
Maybe it was ego, maybe jealousy, maybe insecurity. It hardly matters now that his deal with the devil just came painfully due.
There is a forgivable element to some of the other names. Baseball is a global game now, which is why there are too many factors involved – a chance to leave third-world poverty for cash-flush America – to ever end the lure of doping.
Clemens has no such excuse.
The only surprise here for anyone paying attention was that Mitchell actually caught him.
For years Bonds supporters have pointed the finger at Clemens as a sign of a media (and racial) double standard. Their guy was getting crucified daily, while Clemens was getting standing ovations and new contracts.
But until now there was never a credible link to performance-enhancing drugs. There were rumors, broad-based speculation and a tenuous mention in the Jason Grimsley affidavit. But Bonds was caught up in a federal investigation into BALCO, a prison term for Victor Conte and a mountain of other evidence.
Call it Clemens' good fortune, but there was only so much you could say. Not any longer.
Anyone who spent years spewing contempt at Bonds needs to do the same to Clemens, because there is no difference between them.
They are just two guys who had it all, foolishly went for more, and have now lost everything.
Welcome to America's pastime. Pass the peanuts and Cracker Jack.
- George Mitchell