Steroid Probe: Is Clemens Throwing Balls or Strikes?

Testifying before Congress under oath, New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens said he never took steroids, even as he trainer he gave the drugs to the athlete. Sports analyst Bill Wolff sorts through the conflicting statements.

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ALISON STEWART, host:

It really is the story that everybody's talking about - yesterday's congressional hearings on doping in baseball. There was a lot said, little determined, for sure. To recap: Roger Clemens insists he never took steroids or human growth hormone. His former trainer, Brian McNamee, says he injected Clemens himself. Clemens's friend and former teammate Andy Pettitte says Clemens admitted to him he used the stuff. Clemens says Pettitte misremembers. It was covered heavily, taken live on all the cable news networks, including the one where the BPP sports analyst works - former ESPN producer, FOX Sports on air guy and current BRYANT PARK player, my husband Bill Wolff's on the line. Hi, Bill.

BILL WOLFF: I've been promoted to player.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Yes. That's it.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Player.

STEWART: So, Bill, let's play hi-low. What was the high point of the hearings yesterday for Clemens, and what was the low point?

WOLFF: For Clemens?

STEWART: Yes.

WOLFF: Okay. From the Clemens perspective, the high - I think when you played the Dan Burton - Representative Dan Burton sound from his scolding of Brian McNamee the accuser, that tape went on. And Burton went on to say in dramatic, theatrical tones, what happens to Roger Clemens's reputation? I see no evidence that Roger Clemens did anything wrong. And you're here accusing him, and how does he get his reputation back? He's a Titan baseball, and you, sir, the accuser - said Burton - you're a liar and I don't trust a thing you say. So there was some rigorous defense of Clemens, which took the form of assailing the character and veracity of Clemens's accuser by Dan Burton. And I thought that was probably the moment that Roger Clemens looked best, because the accuser was made to look worst.

STEWART: What was the low point for Clemens? When was he…

WOLFF: Well, Elijah - Representative Elijah Cummings cornered Clemens about the testimony of Clemens's very good friend Andy Pettitte. Now they're best friends, workout partners. They followed each other around Major League Baseball. Pettitte went to Houston from the Yankees, Clemens joined him. Pettitte went back to the Yankees, Clemens followed Pettitte. They're best friends…

STEWART: And Pettitte's a real clean-cut guy, right?

WOLFF: Well, that is his reputation. That certainly is what everybody thinks of him. He's a very religious guy and a very soft-spoken guy, and is perceived to be - and Clemens testified that Pettitte is - a truthful, an earnest guy and a genuine guy. So, at least in the melodrama, as we understand it - I'm sure there's much more depth to all of these characters then we'll ever know. But in the melodrama we're observing, Pettitte is the - is perceived to be the truth teller. Yeah. And that's why the low point was, I think, for Clemens, when Representative Elijah Cummings asked Clemens, why would Andy Pettitte lie when he says that he spoke with you, Clemens, about your use of human growth hormone and your admission to Andy Pettitte that you had used human growth hormones? And Clemens, upon repeated inquiry, really had no answer until he came up with the quote that Andy Pettitte "misremembered" the details - inventing a word, I think, and defending himself. That was a low moment when Clemens just did not have a good answer for the panel.

STEWART: How did Brian McNamee end up coming off, since he is sort of the lynchpin to the entire argument in the Mitchell Report?

WOLFF: Well, to those who think Roger Clemens has done what he's accused of doing, McNamee come off as a guy under oath exposing him. I think, objectively, McNamee came off as a liar. McNamee has had repeated incidences of not telling the truth to investigators on this subject. On his role in steroid distribution administering, McNamee is not a truth teller. And I though he came off looking very bad. If not for the testimony of Any Pettitte, who is - who came off looking like a - sort of a contrite truth teller, if not for Pettitte's testimony, I think Clemens would have won the day in terms of image, because I thought that McNamee came off very badly.

STEWART: And it was also very dramatic, because they were sitting next to each other.

WOLFF: Oh, unbelievable. They - Clemens, who I guess - this is pure speculation - wants to smack McNamee's face, was sitting not five feet from McNamee the entire time. And in between them was a representative of the Mitchell committee, the - George Mitchell had investigated steroid use. And so there's this fellow who might be the impartial investigator guy, and he's sitting right in between McNamee and Clemens. And, of course, it's a jam-packed hearing room, and they speak into this cavernous room, and the voices are booming. And it is as dramatic as any courtroom setting you've ever seen. It was unbelievable drama.

STEWART: Now George Mitchell had said he wanted his report to help baseball move forward. Is this congressional investigation helping or hurting that goal?

WOLFF: I think it's hurting that goal, because the findings are ambiguous. It's still not clear who's not telling the truth, Andy Pettitte or Brian McNamee. And so for as long as the conversation among observers is what really happened with Roger Clemens. And as long as Clemens is being dragged through the mud with no resolution - that is, that we're unable to say whether Roger Clemens did this terrible thing and he should be punished for it. And we're not able to say, oh, he certainly didn't do it. He should be exonerated and we should all move on.

As long as they're still arguing about it, I think baseball is stuck in its spotty past. They need some clarity about what happened. and I don't think, given McNamee's bad record of lying to investigators and given these charges against this huge star, I don't think they're reaching any clarity. And I think that - it runs counter to the Mitchell committee's hope that baseball can mover forward. Bad for baseball, I would say.

STEWART: BPP analyst, my husband, Bill Wolff. Hey, by the way, Happy Valentine's Day.

WOLFF: Baby, I'm yours, and I hope you'll be mine.

STEWART: Yeah. That's good. Yeah.

WOLFF: Ah, fantastic. It's official. I'm going to hold you to that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Thanks, Bill.

Hey, stay with us. You're listening to THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT on NPR News.

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