Roger Clemens saved his best curveball for last.
“I did not take steroids, human growth hormone, or any other banned substances at any time in my baseball career,” he said Tuesday in a statement.
Yeah, well, during the time period in which he allegedly injected the illegal stuff into his buttocks, they were not yet banned substances.
Roger Clemens then finished with a screwball.
“I understand that Senator Mitchell’s report has raised many serious questions,” his statement read. “I plan to publicly answer all of those questions at the appropriate time in the appropriate way.”
Yeah, well, is there a more appropriate time than right now?
His legacy is in jeopardy. His spot in baseball’s Hall of Fame is in doubt. He has never been afraid of confrontation before. What is he waiting for?
Roger Clemens once challenged Mike Piazza to a fight in the middle of a World Series game in the middle of Yankee Stadium over a broken bat, yet now he won’t show that same fight to save his busted reputation?
Six days after the release of the Mitchell Report, the players cited there are acting as if they are still on drugs.
When given a chance to initially address the allegations before the report was written, nearly all of them refused.
Now, since realizing this document is not like some autograph hound who can be blown off with a sneer, some of them have decided to come forward.
On shaky legs, with darting eyes, using crooked tongues.
Andy Pettitte lied to this newspaper last year when he said he was clean. Now that he says he used HGH only twice, we’re supposed to believe that?
Twice? Any user of performance-enhancing drugs will tell you that nobody can feel the effects of such drugs if used only twice. A quick check of steroid and HGH websites shows that experts often recommend consistent daily use for 10-12 weeks.
Then there’s the Baltimore Orioles’ Brian Roberts, the plucky little player who succeeded only because he worked harder than anyone else. Or so we thought.
Last year he tried to protect that image by railing at an L.A. Times reporter who asked him about steroids. He later angrily claimed to other newspapers he was clean.
Even after the report listed Roberts’ name last week, his former teammate David Segui rushed to his defense, saying, “Leave him out of this. He has nothing to do with this.”
Oh yeah? Now Roberts has admitted he was lying. Now he says he indeed injected himself with steroids.
But he says he only did it once. Once?
It is hard to believe that someone who worked so hard on the playing field would abandon that ethic off the field. If you are desperate enough to break the law to build up your body, you’re going to quit after one meaningless injection?
It’s funny, but all of these admissions sound the same. It’s as if they’re not speaking from their heart, but reading from a script.
Two scripts actually. There’s the one-injection-to-overcome-injury script, and the two-shots-to-save-my-career script.
Hmm. Would it really surprise anyone if we learned that the players union printed and distributed those scripts?
Fernando Vina is my favorite story. A former player who works as an ESPN analyst, he’s one of those guys on those nightly baseball shows that often criticize steroid use.
Yep, Vina showed up in the Mitchell report. Yet he didn’t even address it, not even on ESPN, until he admitted his guilt four days after the report.
Think about it. If a guy who works for the media was reluctant to cop to the media, how much chance did the rest of us have?
Sportswriters have been criticized for not exposing this story earlier and, indeed, anybody who has spent any time in a clubhouse should be remorseful that we were all scooped.
But, contrary to the easy cliches dropped by some media columnists, this is not because we were too close to the sport.
It was because we couldn’t get close enough. Our questions were answered with lies, our reporting couldn’t put us inside the bathroom stall and there was no definitive test to prove us right.
Did I suspect Eric Gagne was on steroids? Absolutely.
But because I had no evidence of any sort, and because Gagne repeatedly denied drug use, would it have been fair to publicly make these accusations and allow these suspicions to affect my opinion of his Dodgers career? Absolutely not.
As it was, the Mitchell Report contained 195 references to steroid reports in the media. We have been writing about steroids for more than a decade. But lacking evidence, we couldn’t ethically do anything more.
This is why, now that the Mitchell Report is proving to be accurate, it is time for somebody to fill in the blanks.
We don’t need any more remorseful sound bites, we need a detailed confession. Just one. From anyone. We need one player to step forward, lose the script, and detail his drug use.
Where did he get them? How did he get them? Where did he use them? How often did he use them? How did it affect him?
We need to know how this could have happened so steps can be taken to prevent it from happening again.
Such a confession would be scary for the player, but I’m also guessing it would be safe. The confession would be such a positive step, Commissioner Bud Selig would be publicly pressured to reward the player -- and others like him -- with amnesty.
If any player is interested, you know where to find me.
I won’t be waiting up for Roger Clemens.
If he were truly innocent, he would have been fighting these accusations the moment they appeared. If he were truly remorseful, he wouldn’t have waited five days to address it.
Instead, overnight, he’s become just another aging pitcher trying to fool us with stumbling fastballs.
It won’t work. The jig is up. When will he realize it? When will any of them realize it?
Bill Plaschke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.