Clearing the Air on Clemens

I almost put up a post similar to this one last week, but I didn’t think it was necessary. I thought it was clear how I felt about the Clemens-McNamee situation. However, since that time the blog comments indicate that I need to clarify my position on Roger Clemens’s guilt/innocence regarding the steroid charges made by Brain McNamee.

I do not know if Clemens is innocent or guilty of the charges. I remain agnostic on the issue, and this upsets people who have already made up their minds that he is guilty. I am not in the tank for Clemens: I have no connection to Roger Clemens that ought to make me care one way or the other. I ask that you please view me as a skeptic who has higher standards (I do not intend “higher” to mean “better”) for reaching conclusions. There are several conflicting accounts of past events, and I think it is proper to wait until I have more information before reaching a conclusion. And until the accuser demonstrates guilt, I assume that the accused is innocent, but under suspicion. As I see it now, I don’t think that Clemens will be indicted for perjury; and even if he is, given the current evidence I think it is unlikely that he will be convicted. These beliefs are subject to change as more information comes out.

While my posts have generally been supportive of the Clemens side, that is because the general presumption in the media is that Clemens is lying. It is easier to find evidence against this presumption when many people who comment publicly on the topic support McNamee. For example, Pettitte gives Clemens “misremembering” theory more credit than Rep. Elijah Cummings suggests, Pettitte’s own statements do not fully support McNamee’s accounts of events, and the statistical record is not as damning as some believe. Other people are saying or writing things with which I disagree, and I am merely pointing out why I disagree. Without the prior statements to the contrary, I would have no need to make my comments.

So please, let’s tone it down with the comments. I am willing to hear contradictory evidence and engage in debate; but, simply labeling me a Clemens apologist isn’t going to accomplish much. State what is wrong with what I have posted or move on. Also, for those of you submitting multiple comments under different aliases—I see your IP address when you submit comments— please stop doing so. This behavior is inappropriate.

12 Responses “Clearing the Air on Clemens”

  1. Mrs. Baseball Economist says:

    I have the good fortune to be happily married to the baseball economist. I do not know much about baseball except you hit the ball, run around and can get your face painted. Whenever they sing the national anthem, all I can think of is Lt. Frank Drebin masquerading as Enrico Palazzo. If you don’t get that, you must not know much about baseball in the movies. Having said that, there is one thing I do know: all my husband does all day long and all evening, thanks to wireless internet, is FREAKING STEROIDS RESEARCH. He works in a department with, get this, EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGISTS! Holy crap, can you believe it?? He helps clean the kitchen while replaying and replaying and freaking REPLAYING Clemens’ testimony online. I have to keep moving this 5 zillion page xeroxed copy of the Mitchell Report off the chair so I can sit down. As I sit here, every flipping tab on the computer is baseball-related. And for those of you who think he is nothing but a disillusioned fan guess what? We got rid of satellite. Know what that means? The Braves games that used to come on every night during the spring and summer AIN’T HAPPENING THIS YEAR. Thank goodness for internet stats.

  2. Donald A. Coffin says:

    Bill James (on his new web product, Bill James Online) has a fairly long piece taking Clemens’ side. One of his points is that batting average on balls in play for Clemens has fluctuated widely in recent seasons, and that, more than anything else, is a very good explanation of what’s happened to (for example) his ERA. And most analysts think fluctuations in BABIP are a result mostly of luck.

  3. The Zoner says:

    “As I see it now, I don’t think that Clemens will be indicted for perjury; and even if he is, given the current evidence I think it is unlikely that he will be convicted.”

    I was listening to SI’s Lester Munson (legal expert) and he thinks he will indeed be indicted for perjury. Clemens also tampered with a witness. But I do applaud your stance on desiring more evidence.

    Simply put, there are nothing but bad things coming down the road for Roger Clemens.

  4. K-Funk says:

    I get the impression that sabermetricians love to be contrarian, and thus they like to argue that steroids aren’t beneficial, or that there’s no evidence that players did steroids, etc., etc. I think this contrarian streak sometimes prevents them from being objective.

    And JC, I have to admit that every time I read your blog, I’m reminded at how you were “speechless” at how incredibly idiotic the Braves were to trade Andy Marte. I know everyone’s entitled to be wrong every now and then, but still. :)

  5. mike says:

    While I disagree with much of what you write about Clemens, I will give you credit for consistency. If I recall correctly, you also believe that the government has a weak case against Bonds.

    I suspect Bonds’ indictment may put additional pressure on the DOJ to charge Clemens. They may fear calls of unfairness or racism should the Clemens case not be presented to a grand jury.

  6. Roger says:

    Glad to see that some people believe in Innocent until proven guilty. The evidence against Clemens is very weak, and people should give him the benefit of the doubt.

  7. Bob says:

    “I ask that you please view me as a skeptic who has higher standards (I do not intend “higher” to mean “better”) for reaching conclusions.”

    Are you sure you don’t think they’re “better” standards? I mean, if high standards aren’t any better than low ones, and you know this, then you don’t need high standards. And if you don’t need them, why keep them? But if you do think your high standards are better, then you ought not to be ashamed about saying so. I think that one parenthetical phrase was dishonest, but the rest of your statement seems even-handed to me.

  8. Gavin says:

    I think Clemens is guilty. I guess I don’t see why McNamee would risk breaking his plea deal by lying, where Clemens stands to lose a lot by telling the truth.

    That said, however, I am glad that you’re taking a substantiative and comprehensive look at the issue. Please keep doing so.

    Also, I recommend the public outing of any sock puppeteers.

  9. uncle ran says:

    JC/Mrs BBE

    Read the two articles this am in SI.com via CNN

  10. JC says:

    Dishonest?

    I was trying to be polite in saying that I don’t think my standards are objectively better than anyone else’s. By trying to avoid a false conviction, you necessarily increase the probability of having a false acquittal.

    Type I and Type II errors

  11. John McCann says:

    While there is a chance that Clemens has not taken any PED’s, there is also a chance extraterrestrials are advising our world leaders.

    I’m not all that bothered if he did take PED’s, tons of others did too, and he still a HOF pitcher.

    I think the problem is, IF he did take the drugs, then his “deny until you die” approach, and the “how do you accuse me” act really would rub people the wrong way. Plus his lawyers are really A-holes.

    Any player accused would be better served to take a lower profile “Innocent until proven guilty, let’s allow this to play out.” tack and not wag their fingers.

  12. Agree with K-Funk, I’m seeing more and more statistically minded people waving the “steroids aren’t necessarily bad” flag these days. I think it’s important to have folks that are willing to take the contrary stance.

    But I will also admit I’m starting to just flat out disagree with more and more of what I see here. I really enjoyed the book, but some of the posts I’ve seen here lately make me want to go back and reread it with a new, more critical eye.

    This is probably a good thing.