Hits and misses
Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci joined in SI.com's live blog of Wednesday's Congressional hearings featuring Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee. Below are excerpts from Verducci's commentary as the hearings unfolded.
2:26 PM ET Finally Asking the Question
Finally. Elijah Cummings is the MVP of the hearing.
Straightforward, with no grandstanding, Cummings stepped up and finally asked the most important question to Roger Clemens: Why would Brian McNamee tell the truth about Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch but lie about Clemens, especially when Pettitte, by Clemens' own testimony a honest man, backed McNamee's story?
"Congressman, I have no idea," he said, before devolving into a rambling discourse on Pettitte's friendship with him.
Cummings came back again. "How do you explain that?" Clemens again stumbled, asking why Pettitte didn't tell him when he used HGH, which was not important to the question at hand.
Finally, Cummings slammed the door on Clemens. "It's hard to believe you, sir," Cummings told Clemens. "You're one of my heroes. But it's hard to believe you."
2:15 PM ET Poster Child
Virginia Foxx (R-NC) made it clear that she would rather not be at the hearings, that Congress shouldn't be involved in baseball matters. "I think we've been playing gotcha games and I don't agree with that," Foxx said. Then Foxx proceeded to prove beyond a doubt that she truly didn't belong there. She showed a poster of Clemens in four different photographs for four different teams (Boston, New York, Toronto, Houston), the exact dates of which she had no idea. "You appear to me to be about the same size," she said. "It doesn't appear to me that your size has changed much." Great. Now Foxx can tell us whether players are using PEDs just on body type in photographs. It's exactly that kind of sloppy eyeball detective work that we should have left behind a decade ago.
1:52 PM ET Crack in the Armor
Roger Clemens, the famous competitor, finally cracked. Clemens had kept his emotions in check throughout the day, but finally gave in when he was asked again about turning his back to the Mitchell investigators. Clemens this time didn't put the blame on his agents. No, he blamed Bud Selig for not tracking him down to give him a heads up about the report. "Bud Selig could have found me," said Clemens, who seems to think that pitching in the World Baseball Classic and All-Star Game gives him the benefits of any doubt. 'He could have found me. I'm an easy person to find.' It was the first time Clemens showed real anger. And he is absolutely wrong. There was nothing Selig could have or should have done. A procedure was put in place, via collective bargaining, that Mitchell was obligated to go through the players association if he wanted to contact any of its members. Mitchell was to notify the union of the player he wished to talk to and the appropriate team, based on the years involved in the subject matter. Mitchell had no other avenue. And Selig, by commissioning an independent investigation, was obligated to remain outside of the process. He had no business contacting any player or interjecting himself into Mitchell's activities -- and you can darn well know that the union would have rightly hit the roof if Selig went around the back of the union and Mitchell to contact players. Clemens' anger at Selig is misplaced, and a convenient 180-degree turn from his morning testimony that his agents did him wrong.
1:31 PM ET House Party
Tom Davis (R-Va.) has made it clear that he is in Clemens' corner. After the recess he opened by bringing up the nanny issue as it regarded the Canseco luncheon. Davis was treading lightly around the subject, but suddenly Clemens let it drop that maybe he did stop by Canseco's house. After all the denials, Clemens basically said, "Well, yeah, it's possible I could have stopped by Canseco's house, maybe dropped off the family, swung by after golf and before going to the ballpark...." Hmmm. How did Davis follow up on that admission? Well, he didn't.
12:46 PM ET Nanny-gate
Chairman Henry Waxman ventured into very dangerous waters when he seemed to be strongly hinting about witness tampering when Team Clemens did not deliver Clemens' nanny to the committee in a timely manner, and in fact met with her before she spoke to the committee. Clemens and his lawyers had every right to speak with her. But Clemens gave an insight into the entitlement status of professional athletes by the way he reacted to the committee's request for the nanny's name and contact number. "I did y'all a favor," Clemens protested. A favor? A congressional committee asks you to perform a duty just a few days before a hearing and it's a "favor" to comply with that request? Woo boy. What was the other option, telling Congress to get lost?
12:42 PM ET A question of motives
Two and a half hours into the hearing and still none of the Congressional members have asked the key question: Why would McNamee be telling the truth about Pettitte and Knoblauch but make up whole cloth the testimony about Clemens? We've been asking the question from day one: What would be McNamee's motivation for making this up about Clemens? The question should be put to Clemens.
12:37 PM ET Agents of disaster
One of the saddest underlying elements to this story is how players put their careers and reputations blindly in the hands of the players association and their agents. Clemens made a major mistake in choosing not to talk to Senator Mitchell. That mistake is so obvious even now to Clemens that he actually called out his longtime agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks, for doing a lousy job in advising him.
It's the first time I can recall anything but total support by Clemens for his agents. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) smartly brought the issue to the forefront when she pointed out inconsistencies in Clemens' story about why he did not cooperate with Mitchell. Maloney said Clemens told 60 Minutes he was advised by counsel not to talk to Mitchell. But in his deposition Clemens six times claimed that he was not aware that Mitchell even wanted to talk to him.
"I had no idea that Senator Mitchell wanted to talk to me," Clemens told the committee. So what's the deal? Maloney wanted him to set the record straight. "I was never told by my agents-slash-attorneys," Clemens said under oath.
"Never told?" Amazing. Here Mitchell wants to talk to Clemens about steroids -- a clear signal that his professional reputation is on the line -- and the union and the Hendricks brothers don't even tell him? Who's working for whom? 'Would you say your agents did you a disservice?' Maloney asked. 'I would say so,' Clemens said. You think?
12:10 PM ET Wasting time
Credibility is an important theme in this hearing. And there's nothing like immediately blowing your credibility when you make reference to one 'Jose Can-SEEK-o,' as did Paul Kanjorski (D-PA.). Not only does Kanjorski not know how to pronounce Canseco's name, but he obviously has no clue how unreliable a character is Canseco. Remember, Canseco wrote in his book about repeated discussions he had with Clemens about steroids, and now he's claiming he never did. And the luncheon at Canseco's house -- whether Clemens was there or not -- is rather unimportant when matched against all other testimony and evidence. It was wasted time. Memo to Kanjorski: not a good idea to hitch your line of questioning to Jose Canseco.
11:59 AM ET B-12 Be-Troubling
Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA) was a star of the last congressional hearing when he pushed baseball on therapeutic use exemptions. And the congressman came up big again when he showed that rather than get involved in grandstanding, he went out and did his homework to be prepared for the hearing. Lynch and his staff studied an MRI report from Clemens' days in Toronto, regarding an abscess, and consulted with medical experts.
In one case Lynch redacted Clemens' name and had a medical expert examine the MRI report. The doctor's findings show that Clemens' buttocks problem appeared not to have anything to do with B-12 shots or a strain, but were more consistent with steroid injections. "Given the physical evidence, [it] seems consistent with what Mr. McNamee is saying," Lynch told Clemens. Dr. Ron Taylor, the Toronto physician, told Lynch that he gave "close to one thousand B-12 shots" and never had such a complication. Asked about it, Clemens basically called out Taylor as either being wrong or incompetent. "If he gave me a bad shot he gave me a bad shot," Clemens said.
11:45 AM ET And the award for Grandstanding goes to...
Dan Burton (R-IN) sounded naive about why McNamee would keep the syringes and gauze pads. Burton, coming across as a B-grade actor trying to act tough, and occasionally unable to keep his facts or line of questioning straight, apparently thinks it's impossible for someone to work for an employer and simultaneously maintain a level of distrust. Hello? Happens all the time.
And what was McNamee to do, tell Clemens, "Hey, I have a gnawing feeling that someday you might throw me under the bus to protect your own name, so that's enough for me to give up my only gainful employment?" Burton was also hung up on the "lies" that McNamee told the press. O.K., you're telling me a United States representative knows nothing about the practice of telling "lies" to the press? Please.
The issue isn't what McNamee and Clemens told the press. It's what they're saying under oath. Burton clinched the Grandstanding Award of the Day.
11:30 AM ET HGH discrepancy
John Tierney (D-Ma) repeatedly challenged the credibility of both McNamee and Clemens. His probing of Clemens was the most pointed. Clemens seemed unable or unwilling to explain why he testified three times that he never spoke to McNamee about HGH, but then later, and only when prompted on his wife's HGH use, did he say, Well, yes, I did talk to McNamee about HGH. "That's the inconsistency," Tierney said. Clemens, at one point turning to gain advice from counsel, never did give Tierney a satisfactory explanation that could reconcile the discrepancy.
11:21 AM ET Injecting a graphic turn
The disconnect between the stories of McNamee and Clemens took a graphic turn under the questioning of Tom Davis (R-VA) Davis referred to sworn statements from McNamee that Clemens bled through his designer pants after getting a shot in his buttocks, prompting Clemens to make a subsequent habit of carrying Band-Aids to prevent similar incidents. Clemens? He did not recall the incident happening. McNamee also confirmed what has been suspected ever since the playing of that awkward phone call between McNamee and Clemens: that the trainer suspected Clemens was up to something clandestine in that phone call. He clearly didn't trust Clemens. "I realized it was being taped and someone might be listening," McNamee said. So why didn't McNamee just blurt out that he was telling the truth? "I was afraid of hurting Roger Clemens," he said.
11:07 AM ET The Pettitte Conundrum
So much for Congress' reputation for treating stars with kid gloves. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the leadoff hitter, opened his time by reminding Clemens that he was under oath and making sure Clemens understood what that meant. The moment was chilling in its abruptness and what it implied. And Cummings came right at Clemens with the closest thing to a smoking gun that exists: the statements of Pettitte. Cummings quoted Pettitte on why he was forthcoming in his deposition: "I have to tell you all the truth and one day I have to give an account to God and not to nobody else what I've done in my life." So Cummings, after establishing Pettitte as an honest man, asked Clemens, "Do you think Mr. Pettitte was lying?" Said Clemens, "I think Andy has misheard." And Clemens later characterized it as "Andy misremembers."
Clemens walked as far as he good up to the line of calling his friend a liar. And Clemens' logic fell apart under questioning regarding his friendship with Pettitte. It was Clemens' position that they were so close that if any one of them would have used HGH they would have discussed it with one another. But Cummings smartly pointed out that Pettitte in fact did use HGH and did not tell Clemens about it. And for those of you who like to read body language, will somebody please get Clemens some lip balm? The poor guy is going to lick his lips raw by the time this hearing ends.
10:35 AM ET You Asked For It
Anyone who thinks Congress has no business hauling Clemens into their arena should have been paying attention to the revelation made by chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) at the start of the hearings. Waxman said he was ready to cancel the hearing and issue a bipartisan report, apparently flummoxed by the completely divergent stories being told by Clemens and McNamee. But Waxman said Clemens' attorneys pushed him to make sure the hearings went off as scheduled. Their position was that Clemens needed this hearing, that it would have been unfair to Clemens "without giving Clemens the opportunity to testify in public." Bottom line: The Rocket asked for this.
10:07 AM ET No Truth in Numbers
The Mitchell Report is really what's on trial here, and it's already taken a hit in terms of its comprehensiveness. McNamee now claims that he injected Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs even more times than what he told Mitchell. And now there's word from Andy Pettitte that his story about using HGH only in 2002 -- confirming the assertion in the Mitchell Report -- is also incomplete, with Pettitte saying that he also turned to his illegal helper in 2004. It's easy to assume that the Mitchell Report only scratched the surface, and those players who have given the partial admissions are being dishonest. The preferred disclaimer has been, "I only used HGH, not steroids, and only to recover from (fill in the injury here)." Right.