Roger Clemens granted a rare interview on Tuesday morning so that he could try to fight back against the publication of "American Icon," the new book about his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner visited with "Mike and Mike" on ESPN Radio and said that the book was "completely false" and the actions of people "crawling up your back to make a buck."
The interview was short, less than 15 minutes, and Clemens didn't have anything particularly new to say to questions asked by Mike Greenberg or Mike Golic. He said it was "impossible" that the federal investigators had drug paraphernalia with his DNA and residue of performance-enhancing drugs because he never had Brian McNamee inject him with such things. He maintains that Andy Pettitte "misremembers" a conversation about human growth hormone, yet claims that he and Pettitte still talk and that he's never asked him why he would "misremember" a conversation to Congress.
That's the thing about Clemens' answers: Whenever it gets stickier than just calling McNamee a liar, he loses his way. How could you talk to Pettitte and the fact that you've called him a liar never come up? It strains any credulity. He did a similar dance when Greenberg and Golic asked him about his defamation lawsuit against McNamee being largely dismissed. Clemens sounds very confident when he's making his studied denials, but in those other moments he sounds like he's not even sure what's going to come out of his mouth next.
The most interesting part of Clemens' approach is that he knows how hard it will be for any court of law to prove that he used steroids, so he's just trying to concentrate on winning the PR battle. He started the interview with a convenient interruption from one of his kids so that he could be on air telling him how he'd take him to school in a moment. He talked over and over again about his charity work, all the batting practice he throws to kids and all the speeches he gives about the dangers of steroids.
Yet, for all those talks, he refused to condemn other players who have admitted steroid use. When asked about the Hall of Fame, he pointed to his statistics as being enough for inclusion but refused to answer a follow-up about how voters should consider players who used steroids. If they're so bad and so wrong, shouldn't those who use them be punished?
One quote in particular seems to capture Clemens' approach to dealing with these allegations.
"My family has a history of heart conditions. My brother had a heart attack in his late 40's. My step dad died of a heart attack. It would be suicidal for me to even think about taking any of these dangerous drugs. It goes against what I talk about to kids of all ages about it."
Not sure what his step dad's health would have to do with anything, since they aren't related and all, but it's all part of the same diversion. Clemens wants everyone to think of him as a good ol' country boy who loves his flag and his family and that he's being unfairly persecuted by jackals who are looking for their own personal gain.
It's a strategy that's worked in this country, and it should be noted that Clemens made more than one reference to a new PR guru, and it could work for Clemens again, at least among enough people for him to have viable career and lifestyle options for the rest of his life. But there was nothing on Tuesday that's going to change the minds of the majority of people who already think he's lying about his history with performance-enhancing drugs.