"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankee Panky #38: Roger Radar

I typically don’t like to use this space as a ranting pad, but I’ve been observing a lot of things in the past 10 days that have bothered me, and I need to get them off my chest. First, though, allow me to rewind to my last post. I appreciate all the compliments, critiques, criticisms and suggestions for this year’s installments of the Banter. I apologize up front for the sporadic nature of the posts. Starting this week, I’m resolving to make Mondays the regular Yankee Panky day, barring a crowded schedule on my part, or my esteemed colleagues Alex and Cliff pre-empting the column for Breaking News alerts.

As for this week’s post, though I’m a bit hopped up about the media finding little else to talk about except “Days of our Lidocaines,” starring Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee, I’ll be sure to keep it brief and free of vitriol.

On to the blog …

Goose Gossage finally received his due last week, having been elected to the Hall of Fame with 85.8 percent of the vote. I was a big Goose fan; he was the first true “stopper.” His legacy is that future managers sought pitchers like him for their teams to ensure victories both in the regular season and the postseason. That impact on the game makes him a Hall of Famer, in my opinion.

But Gossage’s induction stunk of something right away. It was as if the voting members of the Baseball Writers of Association of America cut him a break to continue their crusade to “uphold the game’s integrity” by not voting for alleged performance-enhancing drug users. I’m happy Gossage is in, but I’m sure there’s a faction of writers who got into Goose’s Flying V this year, conveniently forgetting that he should have gone in jointly with Bruce Sutter two years ago. As for Jim Rice, I actually agree with the vote and consider him to be equal to Don Mattingly; great career, not long enough of a period of dominance. Hall of Very Good, not Hall of Fame. That’s what’s great about this game, though, is that you can debate this stuff until you get laryngitis. The BBWAA does exactly what we do, except they can mark a ballot that leads to a player receiving a plaque and on it, looking like Han Solo frozen in carbonite.

Many of you wrote me asking about minor league bits and team news. It occurred to me that I’d like to see some of that from the beat writers right about now, since pitchers and catchers report in four weeks. The occasional “Yankees still eyeing Santana” headline was sprinkled in, but the baseball universe wants to see this Roger Clemens situation resolved. Like the run to Super Tuesday, this may be a daily grind until the Rocket appears before Congress.

The “60 Minutes” appearance was laughable. Mike Wallace went from esteemed reporter emeritus to giddy baseball fan in 60 seconds. Edge of Sports’s Dave Zirin has a solid recap of the interview here. Wally Matthews took some jabs at Clemens also. Say what you want about Matthews, but in last Thursday’s column I think he accurately stated what most of us believe. 

There’s a duality of stupid going on. On “Real Time with Bill Maher” Friday night, Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi, who’s on the campaign trail, was asked about the media’s role in creating the candidates’ perceptions. His response, “You can send any s— up a flagpole and these people (the media) will f—ing salute.” He’s right. It’s a matter of media members presenting information without full facts. And we’re never going to know the full and complete truth, because there’s too much up for interpretation. The media are buying their subject’s garbage, and the majority of the public, it seems, fall in line like we live in some twisted version of Hamlin.

Reports have surfaced saying that other trainers disliked McNamee and didn’t consider him to be one of “their own.” Do we believe that? Should we? Brian McNamee knows exactly what went on between him and Clemens. So does the 354-game winner. When Clemens said, “Somebody’s got to tell the truth,” he was right. An erroneous report is released in the LA Times a year ago and we’re expected to exonerate Clemens. A tape of a vague, angry phone conversation between Clemens and McNamee is played and we’re supposed to choose sides.

Clemens hasn’t done anything to improve his standing in this case, or to sway public opinion to prove his innocence. The one thing the media has done well here is to allow the public to draw its own conclusions based on the reporting.

The only conclusion I’ve come to is that I want to read about baseball, not put Roger Clemens’ career into historical context because of the allegations against him.

Welcome to the 2008 season.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver