Tuesday, October 03, 2006

How different are Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds?

The Major League Baseball playoffs begin today. The Houston Astros eliminated from playoff contention Sunday, could have caused MLB officials a great deal of trouble if the Astros had won the National League’s Central Division. Sunday, The Los Angeles Times reported – Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and former American League most valuable player Miguel Tejada of the Baltimore Orioles were among the six current and former major leaguers named by former Arizona pitcher Jason Grimsley for having used performance-enhancing drugs. The other former and current major leaguers allegedly named by Grimsley where Brian Roberts, Jay Gibbons and retired outfielder and first baseman David Segui. Segui previously told ESPN he was one of the players Grimsley named. He is the only retired player of the six players Grimsley named.

There are some very interesting connections between the allegations being directed at Clemens and those that have been directed at Barry Bonds.

Grimsley told the Justice Department he had used steroids, amphetamines and other drugs throughout his career, which included playing for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Angels, before his career ended in Arizona. Grimsley named names to IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky. Novitzky was the lead federal investigator in the BALCO investigation in the alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs by Barry Bonds, Marion Jones and other athletes linked to former BALCO founder Victor Conte. It isn’t a coincidence that Jeff Novitzky is directly connected to both cases.

Novitzky is an interesting character. His ‘real’ motivations raise a number of very red flags concerning his objectivity. Jonathan Littman, a San Francisco based writer wrote “Gunning for the Big Guy”, which appeared in Playboy in April 2004, well before “Game of Shadows” was published. “Gunning for the Big Guy” was the first expose on the alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs by Barry Bonds and other elite athletes.

According to Littman, Novitzky, a former college basketball player (6’7”, attended San Jose State on an athletic scholarship) that blew out his knee while playing college basketball, had what appears to be an intense dislike of Barry Bonds. A pretty strong argument can be made that Novitzky’s failure as an athlete, served as the catalyst for his preoccupation with Barry Bonds. Novitzky who has built his reputation digging through the garbage of those he was investigating, (one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure must be part of Novitzky’s belief system), saw Victor Conte’s garbage as his ticket to bringing down Barry Bonds.

Novitzky has never spoken with Littman or any member of the media about the BALCO/Bonds investigation or his role with the Grimsley investigation. However, at least three members of Novitzky’s BALCO investigation team did speak with Littman including Iran White (real name Ronnie Gerald Allen). White was the member of the investigation team that went undercover to assist Novitzky in his investigation of Bonds.

According to Littman, for reasons that aren’t clear, Novitzky “seemed to have an unusual interest in the ballplayer.”

Novitzky seemed bothered by Bonds’ size and likely his success as an athlete. Working on his own initially, Novitzky discovered enough evidence against BALCO that agents from California's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement became interested enough to assist Novitzky in his efforts. Federal agents deal with many cases, but it seems ironic Jeff Novitzky is the one common link between the Bonds and Clemens cases.

Clemens is arguably the greatest pitcher in baseball history. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens pitched Friday night for the Astros losing 4-1 to the Atlanta Braves. In a career that has spanned 23 seasons, Clemens has won a remarkable 348 games pitching for the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and the Astros.

The key to Clemens longevity has been directly linked to the commitment he made years ago to his workout and conditioning program. Between pitching starts Clemens lives in the weight room consumed by a four-day ritual that he's convinced has kept his elite-caliber fastball in the mid to upper 90s, and has actually prolonged his career.

In a profile of Clemens while he was still a member of the Yankees, ESPN’s Bob Klapisch reported that, Clemens was "a freak of nature". The comment was offered by Pettitte it wasn’t meant as a joke or even a figure of speech. That's because, Clemens doesn't just work out; he's obsessed with exercise, and proudly says, "my only day off is the day I pitch."

But unlike most major-league pitchers, who run (a little) or lift weights (even less), Clemens has devised a system that keeps him both strong and quick, combining power-lifting for the lower body, light-dumbbell work for his rotator cuff and agility drills that would probably make more sense for an NFL linebacker.

Clemens admitted to Klapisch his philosophy may be unorthodox, but he believes in the development for side-to-side strength, as well as balancing skills that a pitcher requires to keep his fastball intact. Andy Pettitte became one of Clemens disciples when they where teammates with the Yankees. Former Yankees trainer Brian McNamee is named in the Grimsley indictment. McNamee is a personal strength coach for Clemens and Pettitte.

"Roger's the one who taught me that the better shape you're in, the better you'll throw the ball," Pettitte told ESPN’s Klapisch. "If I've had four good workouts between my starts, I take that confidence to the mound with me. How can it not help me to think that way?"

How committed is Clemens to his fitness program -- the bones of the workout consist of two days of lower-body lifting, one day for the upper body work and four cardio sessions. All four workouts are framed by abdominal drills, he says, the equivalent of 750 sit-ups.

Both Clemens and Pettitte did their best to deal with the media onslaught that followed Sunday’s Los Angeles Times report.

“I just think it’s incredibly dangerous to sit out there and just throw names out there,” Clemens told The New York Times, before the Astros lost to the Braves, 3-1, in Atlanta to end their season Sunday. “I haven’t seen it, nor do I need to see it.”

“I’ve been tested plenty of times,” Clemens said. “My physicals I’ve taken, they have taken my blood work, and I have passed every test. Again, I just find it amazing that you can throw anybody out there.”

“I haven’t done anything,” Pettitte said. “I guess reports are saying I’ve used performance-enhancing drugs. I’ve never used any drugs to enhance my performance in baseball before. I don’t know what else to say except to say it’s embarrassing my name to be out there.”

What exactly has Roger Clemens done? What can be proved? Is Roger Clemens being tried, convicted and sentenced in the court of public opinion? What exactly is different from the allegations directed at Barry Bonds and the charges leveled at Roger Clemens? One can make a strong argument Clemens hasn’t been linked to the BALCO scandal (yet) and Bonds is at the center of that controversy?

The media has treated Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens very differently and that has nothing to do with Bonds being an African American and Clemens being white.

The media may not like Barry Bonds but it has nothing whatsoever to do with the color of his skin. The media’s intense dislike of Bonds has everything to do with Bonds’ personality, and the media’s distain for Barry Bonds the person. Interestingly while Clemens ‘talks’ to the media, his reputation isn’t anything like Bonds. Barry Bonds persona is arrogance, Clemens a good old Texan. Both have sons, Clemens son plays professional baseball. Both Bonds and Clemens share one other important issue when it comes to the use of performance-enhancing drugs, both have been tested numerous times and both have never tested positive for anything!

The media explosion in the aftermath of the release of “Game of Shadows” was unprecedented. Few if any sports media types ever suggested Bonds was innocent, even though he had been found guilty of nothing. The media has been steadfast in their defense of San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams who wrote “Game of Shadows”.

Fainaru-Wada and Williams are going to jail for 18 months for failing to reveal who leaked sealed Grand Jury testimony to the two reporters. Fainaru-Wada and Williams directly profited from the sealed grand jury information they obtained. They aren’t being sent to jail for reporting the information but for failing to reveal their source(s). Bad enough they profited for the information, worse by revealing sealed grand jury testimony how much confidence will anyone have in future grand jury’s?

When Barry Bonds and others testified before the Grand Jury they did so in the belief whatever they said would be held in confidence. Fainaru-Wada and Williams didn’t break that trust, whoever revealed the sealed information is guilty of breaking the public trust. The media have consistently targeted their anger not at the justice system but at Barry Bonds.

On July 23 The New York Times published a poll indicating a sample of 50 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America told The Times there is little if any chance Mark McGwire the first of the ‘infamous four’ eligible for election in January will receive approval of 75% of the ballots. To be eligible to vote for enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame, journalists must be members in good standing of the Baseball Hall of Fame for at least ten years.

In a poll of 50 writers who are eligible to vote for the Hall as 10-year members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, only eight said they would vote for McGwire, a former first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Oakland Athletics. Twenty-six said they would not vote for McGwire and the other 16 were undecided. The Times acknowledged 50 represents but a fraction of the total eligible voters (a record 520 ballots were filled out this year when Bruce Sutter was elected).

The infamous four: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa. Palmeiro tested positive on August 1, 2005 – ending his career. The gang of four has all hit more than 500 home runs in their careers and Bonds next year will establish a new career home run mark.

How can any member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, vote for Roger Clemens but not support Barry Bonds Hall of Fame election? Hypocrisy aside it would be fundamentally wrong and morally reprehensible if both players weren’t treated the same way. And what happens is the allegations against Clemens are proven but there isn’t any conclusive evidence against Bonds. Is Roger Clemens in and Barry Bonds out of the Hall of Fame?

The use of performance-enhancing drugs by professional athletes and in particular the North American athlete isn’t going away. If anything reports Monday from a drug symposium being held in Lausanne, Switzerland illustrate how big a challenge the sports industry has in the coming years.

"The situation in the nutritional supplement market has worsened and the risk of inadvertent doping is increasing," said Hans Geyer, a researcher at the Cologne Doping Control Laboratory in Germany.

"It's absolutely catastrophic, even criminal in some cases,'' Geyer said at a three-day anti-doping symposium, organized by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

“In the BALCO affair people have admitted they have been systematically cheating the system. In Athens, people escaped and went to hospital to prevent any action against them. Others are using instruments to manipulate the system and produce false urine,” IAAF (track and field) vice president Arne Ljungqvist said. “All this shows a need for a change and also certainly an acceptance, I would guess, by the legal community in certain situations.”

There might be solutions but none of those answers do not include treating two men accused of the same action differently. It’s time to move forward, look for solutions and learn from history. History is supposed to teach us not to make the same mistakes again, not to treat Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds differently because we might like Roger Clemens more then we like Barry Bonds.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: The New York Times, ESPN and the Associated Press