Clemens’ excuses too hard to believe

Roger Clemens is lying. It’s an opinion I wouldn’t mind proven false. It’s a better ending that way. Better for all the kids who wear his jersey and anyone who still clings to the idea that greatness in sports can be achieved without the assistance of a syringe full of perilous liquid. Better for anyone not named Brian McNamee.

This is where it ultimately leads. That is, who do you think is more credible: the famous athlete or insolvent trainer? Congressional hearings and defamation suits aside, Clemens’ name being splattered all over the Mitchell Report and the apparent lack of physical evidence from the guy who inserted the needles will eternally cast some level of doubt on both men.

I’m just finding it impossible to trust the one who is secretly taping telephone conversations.

Here are seven reasons — one for each of Clemens’ Cy Young Awards, justly or otherwise — why I think he’s the best choice to star in a “Liar, Liar” sequel.

1. The basis for McNamee going “Sammy the Bull” and snitching about injecting Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone over a three-year period.

McNamee had a fairly compelling motive to be truthful: his freedom. There is no greater incentive than avoiding steel doors being slammed shut behind you. Immunity from jail is the definitive trump card. To suggest McNamee would be honest about injecting Andy Pettitte with HGH but lie about doing the same to the pitcher’s teammate, friend and training partner makes as much sense as Clemens insinuating on “60 Minutes” that a prolonged lawsuit against McNamee would make even the smallest dent in that cavernous valley he calls a bank account.

2. I own no faith in a person who has spent a major portion of his life celebrated in the public domain and is swearing to tell the truth, but whose eyes constantly shift sideways, who gulps between each sentence, who purses and licks his lips when speaking, who seemingly needs to store more water than a camel for a 15-minute TV interview.

Clemens was either not completely straightforward with Mike Wallace or was afraid the 89-year-old anchor was about to pass out and might need to be resuscitated.

3. The last time we heard anything about baseball players getting B-12 vitamin shots, Rafael Palmeiro was making a fool of himself in front of Congress, insisting he believed it to be the substance injected into him by then-teammate Miguel Tejada.

The good ‘ol B-12 cliche has become so repeated in baseball, it’s a wonder Crash Davis didn’t tell Calvin LaLoosh to make this his standard interview response: “I’m just happy to be here … we gotta play it one day at a time … I’m really looking forward to all those B-12 shots.”

4. Do you know who answers a question about taking a lie detector test by immediately doubting its accuracy? A guy who has been tirelessly prepared by his attorney to craft an excuse in the (gigantic) chance the polygraph needle shoots off the paper as if it were the Northridge earthquake.

5. I can buy the “hard work” line when someone sheds 30 pounds over months of treadmill runs and stomach crunches and not eating after 6 p.m. I can’t when those whose entire lives are devoted to scouting baseball players and evaluating performance agree an athlete is finished at 34, only to watch him then win several more Cy Youngs in a time period that includes his working out with McNamee. But that’s just me.

6. Of course Clemens gives a damn about the Hall of Fame. Of course he cares about his legacy. Of course he is worried about what this scandal will cost him in endorsements and how future generations will judge his career. It’s that kind of pursuit of excellence over decades that defines the best players.

Problem is, the more he screams and whines about not getting the benefit of the doubt, the more he angrily and arrogantly defies all claims about steroids, the more he comes off as a guy being proactive not out of a sense of candor, but fear.

7. It didn’t exactly rival Linda Tripp’s finest work, but one thing that came from Clemens secretly taping a conversation with McNamee is this: I believe the trainer even more now. Emotionally spent. Devastatingly sad. Has lost everything in the world.

And yet not once did he come close to recounting claims of injecting Clemens with steroids and HGH.

Roger Clemens is lying. It’s an opinion I wouldn’t mind proven false, but I won’t hold my breath in the meantime. Do that long enough, and I just might need to start popping Vioxx for the pain. Or at least get a shot of lidocaine in the butt.

Ed Graney’s column is published Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. He can be reached at 383-4618 or egraney@reviewjournal.com.

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