Rocket Roger takes Hill

KEN FIDLIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

This is the day every true baseball fan has waited for all winter. Yes, boys and girls, this is the day that pitchers and catchers report to Room 2154 of the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill in Washington to deliver their sworn testimony.

The crack of the gavel. The smell of old leather, or maybe of fear. And then that magic moment arrives when the man in the blue suit calls out "Do you solemly swear ..."

Could Abner Doubleday (another baseball myth) ever have been more proud of the grand old game than we are today?

As it turns out, there's only one pitcher, Roger Clemens, and one catcher, Brian McNamee -- he wore the tools of ignorance for the St. John's University Red Storm before he traded them in for a cotton swab and a hypodermic needle -- on the docket today for the House Oversight Committee's hearing on steroids in baseball.

But that's more than enough high drama. This is no game. The committee has cleared the playing field of all the peripheral players. Andy Pettitte, Clemens' former teammate and training partner, was granted his wish not to testify and that in itself is a serious blow to Clemens' hope of exoneration.

In this realm, a perjury indictment is always only one half-truth away and, apparently, Pettitte couldn't in good conscience risk saying under oath the things that Clemens wanted to hear.

Besides, it has been confirmed by at least one committee member that Pettitte, in a deposition last week, already provided testimony that supports McNamee's claims that Clemens was a big-time juicer in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Regardless, you can expect a passionate, aggressive defence by Clemens today as he tries to bull his way through this personal crisis in the same fashion he bulled his way to victory so many times on the mound.

He will hammer at McNamee's credibility and try to drive home the fact that McNamee only threw Clemens under the bus to save his own hide from prosecution. He will try to spend a lot of time talking about the Blue Jays party at Jose Canseco's house in 1998 at which McNamee contends Clemens talked with Canseco about going on a steroid program. Clemens will contend that he was not even at the party, thus undermining the foundation of McNamee's allegations.

McNamee has said that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone on many occasions and says he has old syringes and gauze with traces of steroids mixed with flecks of Clemens' blood, though the chain of control of that physical evidence is shaky at best, because McNamee says he stored them in a beer can in his garage.

A crucial piece of evidence could be supplied by Pettitte in absentia. McNamee has told investigators of a training session in 2002 at Clemens' home when Pettitte asked him "How come you don't give me the same stuff you give Roger?" meaning human growth hormone. According to published accounts, Pettitte verified McNamee's story to investigators.

Clemens maintains that the conversation between he and Pettitte was about medication not performance enhancing drugs.

Kirk Radomski, the former New York Mets clubhouse attendant who admits having supplied dozens of players with performance enhancers over many years, was also cancelled as a witness today. To avoid jail time, Radomski turned state's evidence and was George Mitchell's primary source in producing his December report on PEDs in baseball.

In an interview published on the ESPN.com website, Radomski maintains that the names published in the Mitchell Report are just the tip of the iceberg.

"The bad thing about the Mitchell report is there are so many other names out there that they missed," he said. "Am I the only source? No."

All the others, including the 70-odd names invoked by Mitchell, should be thanking their lucky stars for Roger Clemens, however. Because of him, the rest have all become utterly invisible.

This is no longer about PEDs in baseball. It is about PEDs in Roger Clemens. Did he? Or didn't he?

The rest is all just background noise.

HEARING THIS, HEARING THAT

- The full committee hearing on "The Mitchell Report: The Illegal Use of Steroids in Major League Baseball, Day 2" is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Roger Clemens, Brian McNamee, and Charlie Scheeler, a lawyer who helped produce the Mitchell Report, are expected to testify.

- Clemens told Yankees teammate Andy Pettitte nearly 10 years ago that he used human growth hormone, Pettitte said in a sworn affidavit to Congress, The Associated Press learned yesterday.

- The Associated Press obtained a sworn affidavit in which Jose Canseco said he never has seen Clemens "use, possess or ask for steroids or human growth hormone." The affidavit is dated Jan. 22.

- Yesterday, Clemens was making the rounds one last time. He met with five Congressmen over a four-hour span, after talking with 19 on Thursday and Friday.

- Clemens will not be a Mark McGwire at the hearing today. "He IS here to talk about the past," Clemens' lead lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said yesterday. On March 17, 2005, when McGwire testified before the same committee, he avoided answering questions.


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