A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
No Gray Area
ARIZONA — Nobody knows Roger Clemens’ vulnerability like Dave Stewart. Nobody got into Clemens’ head and rendered him defenseless quite like Stewart, the former A’s ace who was 9-1 in starts opposing Clemens.
Now the world is seeing a little of what Stewart saw, a man who rarely got beaten suddenly struggling to save face, irritated for not being able to keep his reputation intact.
Clemens didn’t get his way against Stewart, and he’s not getting his way now, and Stewart doesn’t seem surprised at all. In fact, he doesn’t understand why fingers weren’t pointed sooner at Clemens while Barry Bonds was gaining status as the Steroid Era’s poster child.
“As a black man, looking at it through my eyes, you have to understand maybe race is the reason nobody wanted to look at Roger like they looked at Barry,” Stewart said when reached by phone Thursday. “In years past, when all the speculation was on Barry, I said maybe you need to look at Roger as well.
“It’s unjust people were looking only at Barry. They were exactly the same. The exact same creature.”
Both already were Hall of Fame-bound when looking for an edge in their mid-30s, a time when players usually are on the decline or retired. Both escalated their careers and played at the highest level into their 40s. One was a pitcher who would win seven Cy Young Awards, the other a hitter who would win seven MVPs. One was in the National League, the other the American League. One was in the West, the other in the East.
And, of course, one was black, the other white.
According to “Game of Shadows,” Bonds’ steroid use began after the 1998 season. He won four more MVP awards, one when he was 40, and broke Henry Aaron’s career home run record at 43.
According to the Mitchell Report, Clemens was first injected with steroids by Brian McNamee in ’98 – shortly before Bonds’ introduction – and won another three Cy Young Awards, including one at age 42.
Stewart was reminded of a major difference, a reason fingers weren’t pointed at Clemens. Bonds had a paper trail with the BALCO case. Clemens didn’t.
“Roger was creeping below the radar, and no one wanted to take a sincere look at him, but what more evidence did you need than the man who shot him up?” Stewart said. “Nobody even dug into it or made an assumption. You heard rumblings about Barry long before the investigation without hearing anyone bringing up Roger’s name.”
Stewart said he watched Clemens’ Feb. 13 performance on Capitol Hill, where he denied under oath he used steroids and human growth hormone. Thursday, it was revealed the FBI launched an investigation into whether Clemens lied to Congress.
As in the Bonds case, the feds may try to nail Clemens for perjury.
“He threw everybody under the bus. Everybody’s dirty but Roger,” said Stewart, referring to the hearing. “Baseball has something to do with that, too. Baseball let him get away with crap so long. When he threw the bat at (Mike) Piazza in the (2000) World Series, that should’ve been punishable by a suspension, and nothing happened.
“Now we see Roger actually buying what he’s saying. He has dealt with an unrealistic situation so long and has a hard time thinking he really did anything wrong. He could probably pass a lie-detector test.”
Stewart never was afraid to speak his mind on Clemens, stemming from their one-sided duels on the mound. Clearly, Stewart resented Clemens for receiving so many accolades while repeatedly losing to his nemesis. Stewart won 20 games four straight years (1987 to 1990) but never got a Cy Young sniff.
In those years, Stewart was 7-0 in games when matched with Clemens. Overall, he was 7-1 in the regular season and 2-0 in the 1990 American League Championship Series. Clemens’ record against Stewart was 1-8, his only win coming in their first showdown, in 1984 when Stewart pitched for Texas.
From there, Clemens’ most notable meltdown came in Game 4 of the ’90 ALCS. With his Red Sox about to be swept and on the verge of another loss to Stewart, Clemens went berserk in the second inning, charged plate umpire Terry Cooney and got ejected.
Clemens let down his team at a vital moment rather than accepting defeat, and Stewart now sees Clemens caught in a similar dilemma, making life harder than necessary on himself and acting as his own worst enemy by taking his case to Congress.
“The best thing Roger could’ve done is shut up and let it go away, and it would’ve gone away,” Stewart said. “People want to believe everything Roger projects himself to be, and this would’ve blown over. Now if they find out he did HGH and steroids, he’ll never go to the Hall of Fame and he’ll be proven one big liar who tried to pull a scam on everybody.”
For the record, Stewart was asked if he ever used steroids or HGH.
“Me? Hell no,” he said. “I never thought about it. I retired at a normal age and had aches and pains you’re supposed to have. For a guy who came out of nowhere to win 20 four years in a row, it was very important for me to not allow anything or anybody to take that back from me.”