Roger Clemens has been added to the ranks of those linked to steroid use — despite his most recent denial Tuesday. This is hardly a surprise to those of us who have worked the steroid beat over the years. In fact, as the ghostwriter for Jose Canseco’s tell-all memoir “Juiced,” I can now reveal that serious thought was given to including Canseco’s recollections of golf course conversations with Clemens about steroids. At the time, we decided to focus on players Canseco injected — since those revelations would carry the maximum impact.
Being more right about PEDs, and sooner, than most of the rest of us, Kettmann is probably entitled to his victory lap. But as is the case with Clemens himself, discretion should form the better part of Kettmann's valor.
Why? Because while Kettmann doesn't mention it in his letter, in June 2002 he wrote an article in the New Republic in which he raked Canseco over the coals, calling him a traitor and a money grubber for his then-recently announced plans to write a tell-all book outing the players he knew to be juicing. The same book, it must be noted, that Kettmann himself ended up writing.
While the article now seems unfindable online (if anyone can find it please shoot me a copy), the tone was pretty unctuous. True, he was dead on about many things in that piece (he nailed the then-unknown Brian McNamee to a tree and was naming Clemens name over five years before George Mitchell did), but he wasn't exactly sober, measured, reasoned, or graceful about it. He labeled anyone who differed from his view on the subject a "weasel." Most preposterously, he blamed steroid use on "the Bill James school of sports analysis," essentially suggesting that the sabermetric observation that home runs are more valuable than hit-and-run singles actually encouraged steroid abuse. I wondered at the time* if Kettmann also believed that a criminologist's observations encouraged crime. I still don't know.
Certainly Kettmann was annoyed in that old New Republic piece, but that annoyance seemed to be based just as much on the fact that the story that summer focused on steroids rather than his own reporting on steroids. Indeed, just as he does in this letter to the editor, Kettmann took quite a bit of space to remind people that he was the first man to out ballplayers for taking steroids, not amateurs like Canseco and Caminiti.
But I suppose that's just quibbling, and I suppose congratulations are in order to Mr. Kettmann. And we can all provide them just as soon as Kettmann is done doing it himself.
Update: It's worth noting, upon 24 hours of reflection, that most of what stuck in my craw about this piece was the "see, I told you so" headline. It's also worth noting that it is almost always the case that the writer -- especially in the case of a letter to the editor -- doesn't write the headline. While I stand by my negative feelings about the New Republic piece from 2002, I would like to apologize to Kettmann for what may be an overreaction on my part.
*I fully cop to the fact that my 2002 piece bashing Kettmann was extraordinarily naive when it came to steroids, as was most of what I wrote that year. That doesn't change the fact, however, that Kettman's New Republic piece was fairly obnoxious.