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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Everybody Hates Roger

First things first: The Mets beat the Pirates without particularly breaking a sweat, and in Pittsburgh, no less. Unlike Greg, I’ve never been to PNC. I’d love to go someday. Last summer, I was even fantasizing about going this summer. And I would, except for not having enough money or time, and the fact that horrible things tend to happen to the Mets when they’re there. (Here’s an anguished post to that effect from last summer.) For a night, though, it was all good. The Mets hit early and often, Mike Pelfrey was pretty good despite throwing up between innings, and the kids not only got to play but played pretty damn well, with Ike Davis and Josh Thole and Ruben Tejada and Bobby Parnell and semi-kid Chris Carter all contributing. Doesn’t mean we won’t all be boarding the Retread Express again tomorrow (Destination: Nowhere!) but we can always hope.

Anyway, that was tonight. But during the day, I was walking around with a smile on my face for a different reason.

Let’s pause here a moment.

One of the many great things about baseball is it’s a way to teach my kid about values. Not the on-the-field variety, though that’s important too, but how to be a decent fan. Why you applaud, albeit reluctantly, when the other guys make a great play. Why you don’t cheer injuries, or say you want So and So to die or get a D-cell to the head or have anything else injurious befall them just because they’re a member of Team X. You know, basic civilizing stuff. Sometimes that spirit even gets communicated in a blog post. Which is a good thing.

This, however, isn’t going to be one of those blog posts.

I have hated Roger Clemens for a long time, even before that thing happened that you’re also thinking of. I hated him for spray-painting his initials in our bullpen (after asking out of Game 6). I hated him for his ludicrous, unprofessional tantrum on the mound back in 1990. I hated him for being the embodiment of the modern mercenary athlete. I hated him for being a headhunter who hid behind the skirts of the designated hitter. I hated him for the relentless cloud of self-aggrandizement that he generated around himself. I hated him for his basic douchiness — who the fuck names all his children after a scorebook notation for a strikeout? I hated him for his elemental phoniness — Clemens lived in Ohio until he was a teenager, and his Ornery Texan act is bullshit. I hated him for his uniquely awful combination of painful stupidity and enormous self-absorption. (Though I don’t hate him as much as Bill Simmons does — witness this epic takedown, one of my favorite pieces of sportswriting.)

And then, well, you remember. Mike Piazza owned Clemens so thoroughly he deserved to have his name tattooed on the Rocket’s ass. In June 2000, he’d blasted a grand slam to dead center at Yankee Stadium off Clemens, part of a no-doubt-about-it ass-kicking (nine runs over five innings) that ended with Clemens getting booed off the mound by whatever was left of Mook Nation. The next time they saw each other was a month later, for the nightcap of a split doubleheader, one game at Shea and one at Yankee Stadium. (The day game wasn’t fun either: The Yankees won behind Dwight Gooden, and Yankees coach Lee Mazzilli coaxed an interference call on Todd Zeile out of some rookie ump. All that was missing to make our sense of betrayal complete was Tom Seaver making his way through the stands personally slapping each Mets fan across the face.)

Anyway, Clemens’ first pitch to Piazza in the nightcap hit Mike square in the NY on his helmet. It wasn’t a fastball between the numbers, or one meant to send a hitter stumbling backwards. It was a head shot fueled by embarrassment and animal rage, one that could have ended Piazza’s career if it had been a couple of inches lower. The sight of Piazza lying in the dirt, semi-conscious, remains one of the most horrifying things I can remember as a Mets fan. And the aftermath was infuriating, starting with Glendon Rusch’s pattycake payback off Tino Martinez’s rear end. The Mets did win the next night, with Todd Pratt playing the entire game red-faced with rage, but Piazza didn’t go to the All-Star Game, Joe Torre made fatuous excuses for his pitcher, and all of us were left dreaming of payback.

And so of course they faced each other in the World Series — and Clemens, having seemingly gone insane, fielded Piazza’s broken bat and fired it into the catcher’s path. Being upright this time, Piazza was able to take umbrage at that, asking Clemens repeatedly what his problem was. He didn’t get much of an answer, and Clemens didn’t offer one in postgame interviews either, babbling about competitiveness and emotions. Joe Posnanski uses that as the opening of a great examination of how Clemens’ brain works, if I may stretch the definition of “brain” and “works.” This was John Franco’s take: “I think he knew what he was doing all along, but I’m sure he’s going to come up with an excuse again. Just like last time.” (By the way, God bless John Franco.)

Clemens wasn’t ejected. With the Mets down 1-0 in the World Series, fisticuffs were ill-advised. And karma stayed her hand. The Mets lost the World Series to the fucking Yankees, with Piazza making the final out. Two years later, Clemens came to Shea Stadium and the Mets beat him. In fact, he pitched horribly — Piazza took him deep, as did Shawn Estes, and Rey Ordonez scampered home with a run when Clemens neglected to cover home. But our exaction of vengeance turned into a bag-on-the-head moment. The assignment of hitting Clemens with a pitch fell to the luckless, hapless Estes, who looked like he might cry by the 25,000th time he was asked what he would do. At the big moment, Estes wound up, threw, and … well, the ball went behind Clemens. Clemens looked angry but also faintly amused, and Bobby Valentine made a fool out of himself in the dugout demanding another shot at vengeance until Franco told him to knock it off. As victories go, it was weirdly hollow.

If you’ve been around these parts a while, you know all this. I’m just trying to get you back in the right frame of mind. If you’re agitated, seething, maybe have some spit flecks on the monitor, then I’ve done my job.

Anyway, Clemens pitched for the Yankees through the end of 2003 and was all but fellated by fans everywhere (including, to my disgust, in Fenway Park) on his hideous retirement tour. Then he unretired to pitch for the Astros through a series of craven, ludicrous pro-rated deals that included not having to go on road trips when he wasn’t going to pitch. Piazza, ironically, was his catcher in the 2004 All-Star Game, and on some level I remain deeply disappointed that Mike didn’t sucker-punch him on the mound. Clemens retired again after 2006, then showed up in George Steinbrenner’s box in May 2007 and told Yankee Stadium he was coming back, with Suzyn Waldman practically having an orgasm. Happily, he was pedestrian in 2007 and finally retired for good. He’d proved mortal in the end, with his legs no longer able to stand up to the demands of being a power pitcher, but he walked away with 354 wins, seven Cy Young awards, two World Series rings, a date with Cooperstown and my fuming that he’d never paid a price for any of the vile things he’d done or been. I knew I’d have to hear about him for the rest of my life as the embodiment of the tough pitcher, intense competitor, gamer, winner, etc. It was all completely sickening and awful and it made me want to scream.

I am capable of being remarkably vindictive, and if in October 2007 you’d asked me to arrange a three-year plan in which terrible things would happen to Roger Clemens, I’m sure I would have been very creative. But even if you’d allowed me my wildest flights of fantasy, I doubt I would have come up with this:

* Clemens gets named 82 times in the Mitchell Report, thanks mainly to interviews with Brian McNamee, a former Yankees trainer and “strength coach” with a decidedly checkered past. Among the tidbits: McNamee injected Clemens in the buttocks at the pitcher’s SkyDome apartment, Clemens referred to his buttocks as his “booty,” and he developed an abscess on the aforementioned booty from a bad injection. (Yeah, I know there are PED accusations about Piazza, too. This isn’t one of those Being Logical posts.)

* Clemens hires a lawyer, the noxious Rusty Hardin, and begins a ludicrous tour of media outlets denying everything. He makes a fool of himself with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, then files a defamation suit against McNamee. Every furious denial and tongue-twister explanation does more to connect “steroids” and “Roger Clemens” in everybody’s mind.

* Emails between Clemens and McNamee reveal, to nobody’s particular surprise, that Clemens can’t spell (“my sister are pissed about this dumb ass arcticle”). Besides referring to a Los Angeles Times reporter as a “dushbag,” he signs his emails “22.”

* Clemens holds a mildly insane press conference in which he and Hardin play a tape recording of a rambling phone conversation between Clemens and McNamee. Clemens looks pleased with himself while the recording plays, obviously thinking he’s some kind of simian Nancy Drew, and completely misses the fact that McNamee isn’t backing away from his story in the least. The tape doesn’t convince any listeners, but it apparently convinces McNamee that the Rocket isn’t to be trusted. He decides it time to hand the authorities syringes and gauze he claims to have saved from injecting Clemens.

* Clemens, after being repeatedly given the chance to reconsider, appears before a Congressional committee with McNamee and denies everything. To say he isn’t particularly convincing is an understatement; it’s downright amusing to watch him stumble through testimony, throw his own wife and late mother under the bus, and sort of realize — to the extent that Roger Clemens is capable of realizing anything — that you can’t intimidate members of Congress by throwing baseballs at their heads.

* In his big day before the Congressmen, Clemens is deep-sixed by testimony offered by no less than Andy Pettitte, who testified under oath that Clemens told him about being injected by McNamee with HGH. Pettitte admits his own PED use, corroborating a big chunk of McNamee’s story. He seems genuinely agonized about what he did, telling investigators that he doesn’t want to talk about it, but “I have to live with myself. And one day, I have to give an account to God — and not to nobody else — of what I’ve done in my life.” Clemens is left to stammer that Pettitte “misremembers.”

* Clemens’ testimony is so convincing that Congress recommends that the Justice Department investigate whether he lied under oath.

* The Roger Clemens Institute for Sports Medicine decides it needs a new name.

* The Daily News reports that Clemens had an affair with country-music singer Mindy McCready, whose biggest hit was “Guys Do It All the Time.” But wait — the affair began when she was 15 and Clemens saw her singing in a karaoke contest in a Florida bar. As Hardin screams about another defamation suit, McCready is asked about the story and says she can’t refute any of it. The only good news for Clemens is McCready later says they met when she was 16, not 15, and the relationship didn’t become sexual until she was 21, thus elevating Clemens’ conduct from criminal to just really, really creepy. The McCready revelations are followed by a string of reports of other extramarital affairs that’s not quite Tiger Woods-worthy, but still pretty jaw-dropping.

* McNamee wins round after round against Clemens in court, with the Rocket continuing his hysterical jihad despite looking more and more stupid and spending more and more money.

* A federal grand jury indicts Clemens for making false statements to Congress.

Wow. I suppose I might have wished for Clemens to also be revealed as an Al Qaeda supporter, but other than that, I really couldn’t have asked for a more complete humiliation, with the added bonus that a lot of the damage has been self-inflicted. Clemens could have fessed up to, say, a mistake in coming back from injury. He could have told a carefully selected 10% of the story. He would have been briefly chided, forgiven, and then lauded again. Instead, he has aimed both barrels at his own feet over and over again, blasting his own reputation to bits. He’s become the crazy uncle of the steroid era, the tinfoil-hat relative everyone’s embarrassed by and doesn’t want to have over to the house.

Clemens left baseball as a Hall of Famer in waiting; while I’m sure he’ll get in one day, it won’t be for a long time, and when it happens it’ll be with an invisible but endlessly debated asterisk. He left baseball as a combination of John Wayne and Walter Johnson; now, he’s that guy who got infatuated with an underage country singer and made a fool out of himself denying a mountain of evidence and suing people. Will people remember that he was a great pitcher? Sure — and, much as I hate to admit it, they should. But they’ll also remember the rest, thanks in large part to Clemens’ own crazy behavior.

And they’ll think, “Man, was that guy ever a dushbag.”

14 comments to Everybody Hates Roger

  • Andee

    All I can say is, if he was stupid enough to think he could get away with denying everything, maybe he really did “think it was the ball” after all. Like you said, it wouldn’t have taken a whole lot to get people off his back, but even that much he couldn’t be arsed to do. What a dope.

  • Dave

    Like anyone else reading this site, I will only be completely satisfied when this Neanderthal is assigned a number and an orange jumpsuit and instructed to break that pile of big rocks over there into little rocks. Michael S. Schmidt, writing in this morning’s Times, isn’t so optimistic though, he sites a Bush Administration (figures) attorney who explains the argument Clemens’ attorney is likely to make to have the case dismissed, Congressional authority, federal oversight, etc. Now I’m no lawyer, but if that’s the best they can do – it doesn’t matter if he lied because they never should have asked – then I’m still pretty optimistic. And it’ll be interesting to see if the same fate awaits this despicable jerk that Man Mountain McGwire faced on the day he figured he’d get his first-ballot induction phone call. I’m guessing it will…a bunch of lawyers will get richer keeping him out of jail, but the court of public opinion doesn’t care about the legal head fakes. It’ll throw the book (or broken bat) at the bastard.

  • Inside Pitcher

    Thank you Jason. That was eloquent, thorough and brilliant.

    What a dushbag!

  • James Allen

    It’s amazing how an unchecked ego can be a guy’s biggest enemy. Why, after the Mitchell Report, he didn’t just issue a simple written statement questioning the veracity of the report and the credibility of the main witness (not altogether unreasonable positions to take at the time) and then lay low for like a few years, I have no idea. Even if he won all his legal manuevering it wouldn’t mean a damn thing. That horse is out of the barn and far far far away. The taint’s there, always will be, better to just chill and wait for time (and further information) to be more forgiving. Oh well, couldn’t happen to a nicer guy I suppose. Fuck him.

    That said, I don’t think he belongs in jail simply for being a lying douchebag (and the concept that congress, the biggest bunch of lying scumbags on the face of the earth, hates being lied to themselves, is just so much ridiculous bullshit.)

    • Miss Prissed

      “It’s amazing how an unchecked ego can be a guy’s biggest enemy” – well said James. Lots of things are ridiculous bullshit, and most douchebags don’t merit a jail sentence for being liars. I’m sure you would agree. Oh yeah, that’s what your post says.

  • GregH

    Heaven: Me on the mound with 100 mph cheese, and Clemens forced to bat against me four times in the game. If he makes it to four without a concussion, that is.

  • Eddie C 41

    Jason, well said. I often wonder if we could’ve turned that 2000 series around by a benches clearing brawl. The ’86 team would’ve sent him out of Shea on a stretcher.

  • dak442

    I am still optimistic Justice decides to make an example of him. And it might be very difficult to justify Marion Jones (? the track lady) going to prison and not Roidger.

    In any event, it’s just fantastic that Clemens won’t sully Mike’s day in Cooperstown in 2012. Imagine that cockroach seething as Mike makes his speech. Of course, Mike will be too classy to make snide remarks, but that’s what we’re for.

  • Let’s not forget, that even his wife had to admit that she got a shot of HGH in the tuchas while posing for some queertastic Sports Illustrated piece in a bikini.

    Right, but Roger himself is clean and it’s all a BIG CONSPIRACY.

    What a dush.

    • Right, and remember he threw Debbie under the bus for that one, saying he didn’t know McNamee shot her up with HGH. Nope, didn’t know about Pettitte, didn’t know about his own wife, didn’t know about anything. It was all B-12 and lidocaine and working hard and throwing gas, Congressman. Sure, Roger. You keep saying that.

  • Tom in Sunnyside

    I could have seen the dushbag still getting into the Hall of Fame if the steroid accusation never got farther than the Mitchell Report. However, if he winds convicted of lying to Congress in his testimony on steroids then he is toast. Pete Rose has a better chance of getting in. Shoeless Joe Jackson has a better chance of getting in and delivering an acceptance speech some future July weekend in Cooperstown. Mario Mendoza has a better chance for giving us the “Mendoza Line”. There’s a better chance of a joint induction of Eddie Gaedel and Nelson de la Rosa to comply with a federal lawsuit over Equal Opportunity.

    A friend called it when Clemens announced he would testify: Rusty Hardin walked his client to jail. It wouldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. If Hardin had an ounce of legal sense he would have fired his client rather than let him testify.

    Oh, and my Yankee fan friends absolutely despised Clemens until he put on the pinstripes. Then he could do no wrong. If Clemens had beaned a player in Yankee Stadium the way he did Piazza, but with a Red Sox or Blue Jays hat they would have been across the street at the courthouse swearing out a deposition while the memory was fresh.

  • When Clemens came back with the Yankees in 2007, my Dad emailed me to say he felt sick. I told him, “at least now when he gets busted for steroids, he’ll get busted as a Yankee.”

    This is a consolation prize that gets sweeter every time he shoots himself in the foot, because whenever he’s in the headlines these days, ESPN always shows him pitching in pinstripes.

  • Vin

    I felt the exact same way as you about Clemens for a long, long time. He is, along with John Edwards, probably my best example of Being Right About Someone, and I have no qualms about admitting that I take pleasure in his demise. He’s a despicable human being, and pampered, idiotic doofus.