Griffin: The Rocket can't save Roger Clemens
When Roger Clemens first joined the New York Yankees after back-to-back Cy Young Awards with the Jays, trying to follow a proven winner to his first World Series ring, he struggled to contribute, struggled to fit in with a clubhouse that was already full of star players. He was 14-10 with a 4.60 ERA in 1999. Finally after that first season, manager Joe Torre took Clemens aside and told him to just be himself. That was the problem. Clemens long before had lost the ability to be himself. He had become "The Rocket."
When Clemens was called before a House committee of congress in 2008, he was swarmed by autograph-seeking, glad-handing politicians prior to being seated and sworn in. What was he to think? Another glorified card show, right. In addition to The Rocket, Clemens was also now becoming Captain America. He let everyone know that his goal was to represent his country at the Olympics and he had already made trips overseas to visit the troops. He was a baseball icon and a patriot. He had long before given up the role of being Roger Clemens. Even his palatial family home near Houston was named Rocketland or something silly like that.
He must have believed that there was no way that this would happen, no way he would not be believed. After all, he was being contradicted by some weaselly, back-to-the-wall, former New York City cop, turned athletic trainer, turned steroid pusher, and of course, he was The Rocket.
Well, on Thursday, Clemens was indicted for obstruction of Congress, making false statements and perjury. He has been accused of lying to Congress about using steroids. If found guilty, he will likely do some jail time.
Why would he do it? Because his past is more important to him than his future. Because protecting his legacy as a future Hall-of-Famer was more important than playing a role in cleaning up the game and making it drug-free for the next generation of players -- which included his own sons.
Clemens was never comfortable being Roger Clemens. Legend has it that in Boston when he entered his favourite night spot, he insisted they play Elton John's hit Rocket Man to signal his arrival. At the Jays annual golf tournament with heavy-paying sponsors in each foursome, Clemens would ask for his own golf cart and park away from the others talking on his cellphone as they waited to tee off. In the clubhouse, after a start, The Rocket would emerge from the trainer's room with carefully rehearsed answers and when questions started to strain his playbook, he would just walk away and end it.
It will be the best thing for baseball and the best thing for Clemens if he is convicted for his alleged transgressions under oath.He should do some jail time as well. It would show a younger generation of players and some of his veteran contemporaries that the Steroid Era had better be over or they too risk hard time and it may snap Clemens out of his two-decade long fantasy that he was a character, The Rocket and was above the laws of other mere mortals.
Don't cry for The Rocket, but feel sorry for Roger Clemens.