02/14/08 10:00 AM ET
MLB must move beyond hearings
Accountability and education keys to rebuilding baseball
It featured one of the game's greatest pitchers fighting desperately to save his reputation.
It all came under the umbrella of a congressional hearing on Wednesday titled: "The Mitchell Report: The Illegal Use of Steroids in Major League Baseball, Day 2."
The hearing, in fact, had little to do with the overall use of steroids in baseball.
It had everything to do with the charges of the use of steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) by the famed pitcher Roger Clemens.
In the end, as he had since the beginning, Clemens strongly denied any use of performance-enhancing drugs in the same forceful manner he showed when he was on the pitcher's mound.
"I have never taken steroids or HGH," Clemens stated under oath. "No matter what we discuss here today, I am never going to have my name restored."
Clemens is right, in that his name will always be linked to baseball's investigation of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.
Looking at Clemens before the congressional hearing and one is convinced of one thing -- he never, ever will change his firmly stated position.
It mattered not that there were members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform who simply refused to accept Clemens' statements. "It's hard to believe you, sir," said Committee member Elijah Cummings (D-Md).
Clemens' chief opponent on this day was his former trainer Brian McNamee.
McNamee has the appearance and carries himself as a mild-mannered man, but he was up to the task of squaring off against his former friend and client.
"I have helped taint our national pastime," McNamee said. "Make no mistake. When I told Sen. [George] Mitchell I injected Roger Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs, I told the truth. I told the truth about steroids and human growth hormone. I injected those drugs into the body of Roger Clemens at his direction. Unfortunately, Roger has denied this and led a full-court attack on my credibility. And let me be clear, despite Roger Clemens' statements to the contrary, I never injected Roger Clemens -- or anyone else -- with lidocaine or B-12."
Like Clemens, it would seem obvious McNamee will carry his views on the subject to the end of time.
It could be that the federal government will get involved in this debate, but from the standpoint of Major League Baseball it is time to move on and to learn from this drama that has taken away the attention from the game itself.
What is really lost in all of this is what the hearing was supposed to be about -- the illegal use of steroids in Major League Baseball.
It was Sen. Mitchell himself who made the plea to have baseball look forward and not be trapped in the past, as Congress was on Wednesday.
There wouldn't be a debate about Clemens' possibly using performance-enhancing drugs if baseball had countered the problem with the strongest possible drug-testing program.
There was no logic or reason to have McNamee inject Clemens with anything -- Clemens claiming he had received lidocaine and B-12 injections as opposed to McNamee's charges. McNamee wasn't a recognized member of the medical staff for either the Toronto Blue Jays or New York Yankees when he and Clemens were together. Baseball's procedures and records in this area should be without dispute.
The television audience that tuned in to watch Wednesday's hearings saw a show that jumped all over the place, and the questions, at times, seemed more politically aligned than probing in search of the truth.
What was missed by the audience was some of the most emotional testimony involved in the background of these hearings.
That testimony came in the form of depositions that were given by former Clemens teammates Chuck Knoblauch and Andy Pettitte prior to the hearing related to their own use of HGH.
Knoblauch left his interview with congressional lawyers with his 3-year-old son in his arms. He said it was important to be open and honest and he wanted his son to be with him. He told congressional lawyers that as a Major League player, he had been well informed about the dangers of gambling, but that the issue of performance-enhancing drugs didn't get the same attention.
Pettitte gave a deposition that revealed he had used HGH on two occasions beyond what was mentioned in the Mitchell Report. "In 2004, when I tore the flexor tendon in my pitching arm, I again used HGH two times in one day out of frustration and in a futile attempt to recover.
"My dad had been using it," Pettitte said in his deposition, describing his father's heart condition. "He ended up bringing me two syringes over to my house. And you know, I injected myself once in the morning and once at night. I did it for that day. And to this day, I don't know why."
One has to know that it took tremendous courage for Pettitte to mention his father in all of this.
"I have to tell you all the truth," Pettitte had said in his deposition. "I have to live with myself. And one day, I have to give an account to God and not to nobody else for what I've done in my life."
In years to come, when I think about what was revealed at Wednesday's hearings I will think about Andy Pettitte. He wasn't present, but in my mind he stood taller than anyone else.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. His book -- "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue" -- was published by SportsPublishingLLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.