Hey, Rocket, I triple-dog-dare you to tell the truth!

January 20, 2008 |

The reason most people aren’t buying the drivel that Roger Clemens is selling isn’t because he’s gotten bad public relations advice or because the most dominant pitcher of my generation has seemingly said all the wrong things at all the wrong times (for the record, both are true).

The reason people don’t believe Clemens’ vehement denials that — despite what his former trainer has told federal authorities and Major League Baseball fact-finder George Mitchell — that he’s never used steroids or performance enhancing substances is because Clemens doesn’t have a good track record at telling the truth.

I’ve got personal experience on this subject.

Back in 1993, when I was in my first season covering the Orioles for the AP, Clemens showed up in the Red Sox clubhouse at Camden Yards one Monday with his pitching hand bandaged. Turns out he had been bitten by a dog. And when a star pitcher gets bitten by a dog, it’s news (even though every reporter has been told that “dog bites man” is not a legitimate story).

Here’s the skinny as Clemens gave it to us that August afternoon. He was riding down Interstate 83 at 6:30 a.m., when he spied a dog on the highway. He pulled off, assuming the dog had been hit, and wanted to move the injured animal to the side of the road. In that process, he was bitten on the right thumb. He went to Johns Hopkins Hospital for treatment, received a tetanus shot, but stitches were not required. The dog was put down and later tests for rabies came back begative.

As far as Clemens was concerned, that was the end of the story. Especially since he wasn’t going to miss his next start in the rotation.

When the reporters gathered around him started peppering him with questions, the likeable, animal-loving Clemens growled and snarled like a mangy mutt. When I asked him what I felt was a logical question — what, pray tell,  was he doing driving on I-83, returning to the team hotel at 6:30 a.m.? — “The Rocket” abruptly ended the interview. He walked away, muttering something about how he had tried to be forthcoming only to be (if you’ll pardon the expression) bitten in the backside.

Sound familiar? Everyone’s against Roger. Roger’s tried to be truthful, but no one believes him. Roger is forthcoming, but Roger gets burned. Funny how the same scenario is now being repeated. And if you think he’s going to stand in front of a congressional hearing next month, think again. I’ll bet he comes up with some excuse — probably proffered by his smooth-talking lawyer, Rusty Hardin — to bail out of the hearing. My money is on the fact that, since he’s suing his former trainer for besmirching his character, Clemens isn’t at liberty to answer questions concerning a case currently under litigation.

It’s sad, but then again, I guess you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, can you?