02/13/08 7:07 PM ET
Doubts linger about Clemens' story
Pettitte's deposition backs McNamee's side of argument
"No matter what we discuss here today, I'm never going to have my name restored."
The hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform featured, as you knew it would, the persistent allegations of Brian McNamee that he had injected Clemens with performance-enhancing substances and Clemens' rigorous denials of these charges. But at the end of the day, as much as you might want to believe that a performer of Clemens' status achieved his greatness through completely conventional means, there were more lingering doubts than ever about his side of the story.
It was one thing when the allegations were coming only from McNamee, a former trainer for Clemens. But it was another when a deposition from Andy Pettitte weighed in on McNamee's side of the argument.
Pettitte said in a sworn statement that Clemens told him in 1999 or 2000 that he had used human growth hormone. Clemens said in the Wednesday hearing that this didn't happen. "I think Andy has misheard," Clemens said. "I think he misremembered."
Pettitte further said that in 2005 Clemens told him that what he meant in that earlier conversation was that his wife, Debbie, had used HGH. Clemens said on Wednesday that he did not remember this conversation. But there is no dispute about the fact that Debbie Clemens was injected with human growth hormone by McNamee, thus adding just one more unpleasant facet to this increasingly frustrating story and doing the Rocket no good at all.
Pettitte's testimony is a particularly difficult development for Clemens' case. It is one thing for Clemens to be accused by McNamee, who had no public stature prior to this controversy. But both Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch have acknowledged that McNamee's charges that he injected them with HGH, as reported in the Mitchell Report, were true. Here, you have Pettitte, a close friend, a training partner, a frequent teammate, testifying that Clemens had said that he used HGH. This did nothing for Clemens' credibility, either.
"The person that I believe most is Mr. Pettitte," said Committee member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
"It's hard to believe you, sir," Cummings said to Clemens. "I hate to say that, you're one of my heroes, but it's hard to believe you."
During the hearing, inconsistencies were detailed in the previous statements of both McNamee and Clemens. McNamee was obviously less than truthful about his connections to performance-enhancing drugs prior to his statements made to federal investigators and his subsequent allegations against Clemens that appeared in the Mitchell Report.
Faced with the conflicting testimony, several Committee members indicated that they didn't know what to believe. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), listing McNamee's previous public statements about having nothing to do with steroids or HGH, said: "I know one thing I don't believe, and that's you."
For a time, the hearing appeared to be headed in a partisan direction, with Republicans attacking McNamee, and Democrats going more aggressively after Clemens. "The other side seems to be focusing on Mr. Clemens," said Tom Davis (R-Cal.), the ranking Republican on the Committee.
The hearing ended after more than 4 1/2 hours of elapsed time. But the underlying issues remained. There could be further federal investigations into this matter. There could be a perjury charge forthcoming, since the one continuing and obvious factor in all of this is that somebody is not telling the truth. But for the moment, the issue of the credibility of Clemens and McNamee remains before the court of public opinion.
The Committee chairman, Henry Waxman (D-Cal.), made it fairly clear during his closing remarks where he found the greater credibility. Waxman took the unusual step of apologizing to McNamee for some of the comments made to him by Committee members.
"I thought that Mr. McNamee was very credible," Waxman said in an interview after the hearings.
During the closing remarks, Waxman alluded to Pettitte's testimony as a reason to bolster McNamee's credibility. Clemens interrupted, more than once, and Waxman gaveled him into silence, saying: "This is not your time to argue with me."
In summarizing the day's events, Waxman later said: "The only reason that we had this hearing today is that Roger Clemens insisted upon it." One of Clemens' attorneys later argued against this conclusion, but one way or another, this was an opportunity for the public to make up its own mind about where the truth rested.
What Clemens has insisted upon is his innocence, in a series of highly public events. The problem is that we are at a point in the history of baseball where the repetition of a claim of innocence, even by a major star of the game, is not automatically enough to sway the majority of the public.
In this most public of venues, Clemens once again vigorously and consistently declared his innocence. But on the other side of the argument, the steady stream of doubts about that innocence was not lessened in the least by the revelations from this hearing. Barring some stunning revelations on his side of the issue, no, his name will not be easily and completely restored.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.