Failure to Launch

As Roger Clemens continues his crusade to be the Last Innocent Man on Earth, one can’t help but think what his former trainer, and now accuser, Brian McNamee, feels about all this. In the past 48 hours, Clemens has called McNamee a “liar” and a “drug pusher.” Clemens then cynically, and rather grotesquely, played an audiotape for the assembled press of a telephone conversation between the two in which McNamee talked about his sick child.

If Clemens thought the tape would exonerate him, as his smirking face at yesterday’s news conference indicated, he is mistaken. At no point in the call did McNamee back off the allegations. (In fairness, though, Clemens didn’t admit to anything either.) It only revealed what everyone already suspected: that McNamee is hopelessly devoted to his pal, the Rocket, and that still didn’t stop him from telling federal investigators what he knew.

The reaction from McNamee’s lawyer: “It’s war.”

McNamee did finally talk yesterday. He couldn’t summon the awesome power of celebrity softball tosser Mike Wallace, but he talked nonetheless, and in an interview with’s Jon Heyman, McNamee reacted to Clemens’ press conference with a mix of incredulousness and sadness.

It also revealed the sad tale of a jock hero-worshipper who, rather unbelievably, still hoped the two could be buddies. He evidently forgot the first lesson of pro jock-normal human relations: McNamee was never anything more than hired help, employed solely to make Clemens look good.

McNamee speaks fondly about his successful pairing with Clemens; apparently, he hasn’t quite let go. There are signs that he’d like their old relationship back. Clemens revealed on 60 Minutes that McNamee emailed him for fishing tips days before Mitchell’s findings were divulged without hinting what was to come, an assertion that McNamee didn’t deny.

Throughout the interview, McNamee made lame excuses for himself and his role as injector to the stars. This is an unseemly part of the steroid culture that mushroomed around baseball in the 1990’s that included personal training gurus, magic powders, and painkillers of every sort. These were the stock in trade of the medicine men, like McNamee and Greg Anderson, who trailed baseball players like early 20th Century sideshow carnies. And Clemens signed up for all of it.

It doesn’t matter if you want to believe that Clemens was taking shots (without a prescription and injected in apparently medically-incorrect body parts) or if you buy the Barry Bonds—I-didn’t-know-what-I-was-taking-taking—defense. You can’t deny that Clemens, like hundreds of baseball players from that era, chose to associate themselves with the culture.

McNamee did say one very interesting thing in regards to Clemens when the subject of a lie-detector test was raised.

“I think he’s the one guy who could probably beat the test,” McNamee opines. “He might actually believe that he’s telling the truth.”

That would explain an awful lot.