In this week’s Metro column, I note the ignominious end of Roger Clemens’ storied career. A virtuosic performance has worthy of the big screen has rapidly degenerated into a tawdry television drama. Two thumbs way down.
And though much ink and many pixels have been devoted to whether or not Clemens used steroids, whether he “seems guilty,” the PR of filing a lawsuit, what that tape was all about, and how Andy Pettitte must feel about all of this, it’s basically all been speculation. Leave it to Baseball Prospectus to actually look at the particulars of his lawsuit.
This is the article I’ve been waiting to read. After all, the Mitchell Report only had teeth because of the BALCO trial. By filing a lawsuit, could Roger Clemens be opening up a whole new can of worms? I suppose that depends on the particulars of the case. From BP writer Derek Jacques:
A claim of defamation (usually broken down into slander for spoken statements and libel for statements made in writing) accuses someone of saying or writing something untruthful that is then “published” to a third party, for the purpose of injuring the reputation of the person making the claim. Because a statement can’t be defamatory if it’s true, the truth of the allegations McNamee made against Clemens is the main issue of the suit. The question is simply whether or not McNamee injected Clemens with steroids and HGH in 1998, 2000, and 2001.
Defamation is a notoriously hard case to prove. In this situation, the allegations are all about the actions of two men alone in a room together with no other witnesses, and likely no physical or documentary evidence to connect or divorce them from what McNamee says they were doing. Clemens will face an uphill climb making his case, both because he bears the burden of proof and because he has to prove a negative—that an event that McNamee doesn’t tie to a specific date and time didn’t happen.
Clemens lamented during his 60 Minutes interview that people were treating him as “guilty before innocent,” instead of innocent until proven guilty. Ironically, filing this lawsuit puts the burden of proof right where he didn’t want it: on him.
And for those who were hoping that the Mitchell Report would close the door on the steroids era and let our beloved sport heal, the Clemens lawsuit effectively crushes those dreams:
Before this matter reaches trial, there would likely be months, perhaps years, of preparation, discovery, and depositions. If you give skilled litigators enough time to dig through someone’s life and financial records, all sorts of interesting and unexpected things can happen.
In other words, yes, the seal has been broken on a new can of worms. The only remaining question: is it a can of harmless earthworms, a can of annoying ringworms, or a can of fearsome Mongolian Death Worms?