On a day that belonged to Rickey Henderson, the federal government took the first steps toward putting Roger Clemens in jail, proving the existence of alternate universes. The Man of Steal is on his way to Cooperstown while the Rocket is sweating out the Justice Department’s next move.
According to ESPN.com, the feds have convened a grand jury to determine whether Clemens committed perjury during testimony to Congress last year. He’s vulnerable on seven different sworn statements, including the whopper, that he never took steroids or HGH.
Clemens, of course, is solely responsible for his ruins. It was he, not his lawyers, who chose to appear on “60 Minutes” and tell one outrageous story after another, practically daring the government to come get him.
Clemens’ stonewalling hasn’t just drained his bank account to pay the legal bills, it’s emptied a once-limitless reservoir of good will in the baseball community, too. It wasn’t so long ago that The Rocket’s induction into the Hall would’ve been a thunderous slam-dunk; if Henderson crashed through the gates with 94.8 percent of the votes on Monday, Clemens figured to do even better on the 2013 ballot.
Although the two superstars were just that — deities among the game’s mortals — Clemens was everything Henderson was not. The great right-hander loved the game, or so we thought. He loved the clubhouse culture.
Henderson? He loved himself, or anyone who was willing to join him in a hand of poker. Just ask the 1999 Mets, who were shocked to discover Henderson and Bobby Bonilla playing cards in the clubhouse while the season was ending in a heart-breaking Game 6 loss to the Braves in the NL Championship Series.
The entire Mets’ squad was on the top step of the dugout in the 11th inning as Kenny Rogers walked home the winning run. Henderson, however, was nowhere to be found, getting his revenge on Bobby Valentine for an insult earlier in the Series.
The manager had replaced Henderson in the eighth inning of Game 4, summoning Melvin Mora — after Henderson already had taken the field. Payback came at the Series’ most dramatic moment, while Rogers was throwing ball four to Andruw Jones, sending the Braves to the World Series.
Henderson and Bonilla never saw any of it; they weren’t in the dugout in the 10th inning, either, as Armando Benitez blew a 10-9 lead. Instead, the two were busy shuffling the cards, which infuriated the Mets. One veteran said, “Guys were screaming and crying after (Jones’ walk). Then they walk (in) and see a card game? The guys wanted to take a bat to their heads.”
Somehow, Henderson lived down his day of infamy.
Of course, the feds’ investigation of Clemens is only at the earliest stage. The convening of the grand jury doesn’t mean Clemens has been or will be indicted.
But he’s a step closer to prosecution, and much, much farther away from Cooperstown than he ever thought possible.
You wonder what thought will cross The Rocket’s mind in July, when Henderson is giving his acceptance speech. That would’ve been Clemens’ ceremony in another four years.
Today, that journey has been blocked, perhaps forever. While Henderson moves onward, upward, Clemens is swirling downward, suffocating behind a wall of lies and arrogance. It might be too late to escape.