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Baseball would benefit from a spanking in back of the courtroom

January 06, 2008|By TIM ROWLAND

As a general thing, I frown on lawsuits. Too many times they are little more than an attempt to cash in on some perceived slight - no matter how slight.

But this lawsuit has to happen. Someone needs to sue somebody. Doesn't matter who gets sued or who does the suing. Just sue, baby.

Baseball fans, who have been jerked around by baseball brass for a decade, can unite in rooting for the Roger Clemens steroids accusations to end up on a court of law where - unlike the Mitchell investigation -subpoena power, testimony under oath and the threat of jail time for lying all come into play.

Let's watch them all squirm; they've all earned it.

I lost all sympathy for baseball when it became apparent that Raphael Palmeiro, one of my all-time favorite players, had fooled me.

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Roger Clemens? Give me Roger Daltrey: I won't get fooled again.

So for me, the burden of proof is squarely on Clemens. A stern, Palmeiroesque, "I didn't do it" tonight on "60 Minutes" won't be enough. Matter of fact, it won't be enough if he were to drop his pants, bend over and show us a big ol' tuchus clean of needle marks, although I admit it might be a start.

Clemens was implicated by his personal trainer, Brian McNamee, who said he routinely injected the pitcher with dope during his stints with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees.

Clemens posted a video clip on the Web, saying these injections didn't happen. If he says the same thing on national television, McNamee's attorney says he will sue for "damaging McNamee's livelihood."

Yeah. Manufacturing arguably the best right-handed pitcher since Walter Johnson - no one wants that on his resume.

McNamee's no good guy either. So he wants to go to court to prove, once and for all, that he personally and repeatedly besmirched the dignity of America's national pastime?

I'd be more willing to bet that he is hoping to sue in the name of a big cash settlement before anyone's dirty laundry has to be aired in a public courtroom.

But Clemens can hardly settle can he? Not if he doesn't want to implicitly admit guilt. Oh, I suppose he could go the route of a Web site post, saying that he is settling only to save his family the trauma of a protracted legal proceeding. And probably the media will get a big dose of the blame along the way.

But after all that baseball fans have been through, after all the lies they've already been told, who will believe him?

He'll take his place in history right next to Barry Bonds as one of the greatest triumphs of the American pharmaceuticals industry.

If Clemens is clean, he should welcome a lawsuit of one kind or another. But the justice system is a whole new ballgame, so to speak. It's witnesses, phone calls, bank records, sworn testimony. Without any documentation such as canceled checks - and McNamee's attorneys admit there is none - it gets down to a he-said/he-said. One guy's lying, one guy's not. See if you can guess who it is.

I'd watch that. But the greater point is that all of baseball would watch. It would see the discomfort of the witness stand and the pain of a courtroom setting. It would see other players such as Clemens' friend and admitted McNamee client Andy Pettitte dragged into the muck. Dozens of fringe players named in the Mitchell report like Nook Logan or Jay Gibbons might be thinking, "If I'd had any natural talent in addition to the juice, this could have be me."

And clean players might ask themselves whether it's worth the risk of "experimentation," a "B-12 injection" or "help getting over an injury."

In cleaning up baseball, fear will be a useful tool, because drug testing is for nothing. Human growth hormone is still undetectable, and baseball has provided us with this unhealable wound: If players think they can get away with something they will not refrain out of good conscience.

So only the naivest of fans believe baseball has cleaned itself up.

Me, I'd get blood samples from everybody and throw them in the freezer next to the Haagen-Dazs in anticipation of the time that HGH will be detectable to science. Maybe it never will, but it creates that fear.

I don't know much other than what I've read about Yankees' slugger Jason Giambi. But I know what I saw with my own eyes. I saw him get huge. Then when drug-use rumors swirled, I saw him deflate. When the heat was off I saw him get big again.

Who knows, maybe he's just into fad dieting. Or maybe it's that fear of being caught is inversely proportional to drug use.

If Clemens goes to court, Major League baseball will take notice. And it will be afraid. Unlike baseball commissioners, judges don't look the other way in the face of unpleasantness. Unlike union reps, juries don't stonewall facts. As a matter of fact, if Clemens goes to court, the only person in baseball who shouldn't be nervous is Clemens. If he's clean.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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