THE NEWBERG REPORT — JANUARY 8, 2008

The four most unpopular positions I’ve taken in the nine years I’ve done this:

1. Rookie Michael Young deserved to be the everyday second baseman.

2. Rusty Greer, a few years into his big league career, was no longer a very good defender.

3. Alfonso Soriano wasn’t a good fit.

4. Roger Clemens could play for my team any day.

I really wanted to believe Clemens on “60 Minutes” Sunday night and during yesterday’s press conference, but the minute he kicked off the Mike Wallace interview by insisting, indignantly, that he didn’t deserve this sort of treatment after all he’s done for the game of baseball, I found myself turning on him. Innocent or guilty, he lost my allegiance with his Rogercentric huff. His natural, inherent ability to throw a baseball the way so many of us wish we could (yes, he works freakishly hard — but those genetics factored in) has put more than $170 million in salary alone in his family’s pocket. Baseball has done plenty for Clemens.

ESPN’s Rob Neyer put it best: “[I]f the Rocket really does want to defend himself, change the minds of a lot of people, it sure would help if he’d learned at some point to come across as something other than a spoiled, petulant millionaire who thinks he did something for baseball. Rather than the other way around.”

Exactly.

While not totally analogous, the way Clemens has come across the past couple days reminded me of the celebrity self-importance that Ricky Gervais’s character slammed in his genius, vitriolic, self-deprecating soliloquy at the end of the “Extras” series finale (which I mentioned briefly in last Thursday’s report). It’s three minutes of gold (though with language that’s not safe for work or with your kids in earshot), and worth your time:

I’m sort of fighting an instinctive urge to want Roger Clemens to turn into a train wreck. There’s an impulse to want to see him suffer through this, but that’s not where I am. I want to see Clemens beat this rap, not because I’m still a fan of his but because I’m tired of the black eyes baseball seems to have a monopoly on lately as far as pro sports are concerned.

I do hope Clemens is not guilty. But less for his sake at this point, more for the game that’s made him important. For Clemens to fall wouldn’t be good for baseball, which is what matters most.

As far as the man himself is concerned, I’m just having a hard time getting past his obvious inability to accept that the game is bigger than even the most gifted among the players who are fortunate enough to play it.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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