King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Clemens and McNamee: Before it all went wrong, why was a superstar trusting his career to a guy like that? Plus: Jesse Barfield on kids these days.


Salon Staff
February 15, 2008 4:00PM (UTC)

What's really striking about the relationship between Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee isn't that it's turned ugly, but that it lasted so long.

McNamee is a hustler/hanger-on right out of central casting, yet he somehow became the personal trainer for two of the best pitchers in baseball, Clemens and Andy Pettitte, fairly late in their careers, with not much in the way of qualifications. And he hung around for years.

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He's a former cop, he took some correspondence courses on nutritional science, he said he had a Ph.D., which it turns out he got from a diploma mill. He must talk a good game when he's not under oath in front of a congressional committee.

But doesn't Clemens have a sniff test? If you look at Brian McNamee and Roger Clemens standing together, which would you guess is the strength coach and which the one who's being whipped into shape? Looks backward, doesn't it? At least Barry Bonds' hanger-on/medical advisor, Greg Anderson, looked the part.

That happens in pedagogy. A few generations' worth of great hitters, from George Brett to Frank Thomas, were schooled by Charley Lau, a former backup catcher who wrote a book called "The Art of Hitting .300" after doing so in the big leagues precisely once -- the year he went 6-for-12.

But you'd think a guy like Clemens, whose fortune, fame, reputation and place in history all depend on what he does with his body, would make damn sure of the qualifications of a person he entrusts that body to.

I don't let just anybody touch my computer. And it's replaceable.

"I'm a trusting person," was Clemens' hapless line at the hearing Wednesday. Maybe he is, maybe that's part of a pattern of dissembling. But putting his trust in a fast-talking ex-cop seems to be par for the course for our heroes. The more we learn about the drug culture in professional sports, the more we hear about athletes turning for medical advice to each other or to whatever lowlifes have ingratiated themselves into the clubhouse culture.

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These guys literally have ways and means to get advice from the best professionals in the world in nutrition, exercise and medicine and what do they do? They ask the shortstop. Or his friend, who minored in exercise science at A&M, or at least read a book on acupuncture once. Or says he did.

At some point -- perhaps, oh, after McNamee, by his own later admission, lied to police in a rape investigation -- you'd think Clemens would think to himself, "Who is this guy I'm trusting my career to, anyway? I mean really."

He could have hired the world's best private eye to find out. He probably just asked Scott Brosius.

In my day, the old guys were OLD [PERMALINK]

Jesse Barfield, the former cannon-armed outfielder, is now a TV analyst for the Toronto Blue Jays. In a preseason column on the CBC Web site, he writes that outfield defense, which he notes is a big part of what fans remember about him, is a lost art.

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"What happened, you might ask?" he writes. "Well, when I was playing, two of our outfielders almost got into a fight in spring training because one of the guys took too long to get off the field when he took his fly ball. The next guy up collided with him because he was loafing. We took it seriously and went at it hard. See, his lack of effort could have caused an injury."

Keep in mind that Barfield played way back in the days of train travel, baggy flannels and black-and-white newsreels. He retired in 1992.

"It's so rare now to see someone thrown out at the plate from the outfield or trying to stretch a single into a double," Barfield continues. "Like I've always said, 'Offence brings the fans to the ballpark, and defence sends them home happy!'"

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I bet Barfield, who's from Joliet, Ill., hasn't always said "offence" and "defence." And couldn't it be that it's rare to see someone thrown out at the plate from the outfield or trying to stretch a single into a double because baserunners have gotten smarter about running into outs against all those fundamentally sound, hardworking, accurate-throwing outfielders?

Maybe not, though I'm not convinced it's become all that rare to see guys thrown out on the bases anymore.

But here's what's really interesting to me about what Barfield has to say:

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I've now lived long enough to see guys go from being kids the old-timers say don't appreciate the game or care about fundamentals to being old-timers who say the kids don't appreciate the game or care about fundamentals.

That's some kind of rite of passage, isn't it?

I'm pretty sure another one's coming: Barfield, 48, has less than four years on me. Soon enough the guys complaining about the kids today not having the work ethic we used to have in the old days will be younger than I am.

Sigh.

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I'd just like to say for the record that in my experience people younger than I am kick ass. The more recently they were born, the more ass they kick. Also: My work ethic sucks and I don't have any respect for anything.

And: Computers. They're neat.

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Vacation [PERMALINK]

This column will be off next week, returning Feb. 25.

Previous column: Mr. Clemens goes to Washington

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