A Pre-Trial Game Plan for Roger Clemens

Ashley McCown

Roger Clemens will get his day in court. It just won’t be until April 2012. After declaring a mistrial in July 2011, in early September U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton set a date for a new trial. 

Clemens has been steadfast in proclaiming his innocence, but you have to wonder if some part of him was hoping the case would be dismissed. Dismissal certainly isn’t acquittal in a court of law, but what about in the court of public opinion? He could have spun dismissal as a victory and gotten on with his life. 

Bleacher seat musings aside, Clemens is getting what he asked for: the chance to prove his innocence in a court of law. He wants to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame and he is willing to risk going to jail for the chance. If he is found guilty of lying to Congress, there is a very real chance he will do time. And then he can wave goodbye to Cooperstown for sure. Eventually, a player who did steroids will make it in the Hall of Fame (if one hasn't made it in already), but not a convicted criminal.

Right now, the Rocket is facing another six months of legal limbo before the trial starts, and his lips are sealed. Not by his own choosing, really. The judge has issued a gag order to remain in effect for both sides. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. When Clemens opens his mouth, he doesn’t always do himself any favors. Take this little pearl, for instance, from his pitching days (from Esquire.com): "If someone met me on a game day, he wouldn't like me. The days in between, I'm the goodest guy you can find."

Every day is a day in between for the Rocket now. He can’t talk about the trial, but he can talk baseball and help others learn how to play baseball and continue to do something good for baseball. For celebrities, politicians and athletes who have allegedly done wrong, I usually advocate for laying low, staying out of the limelight and letting some time pass. I have a different lineup in mind for Clemens. Instead of waiting things out in the bullpen, he should show us he is the “goodest guy.” Here’s how:

Show them the money
Clemens has a foundation—the Roger Clemens Foundation— that helps underprivileged, at-risk kids and those with special needs. The foundation has given to a range of charities over the years. All very nice, but he should go bigger and bolder in 2012 to have a major impact and leave a positive legacy.

Play ball
– Share his love of the game with kids and make it possible for them to learn how to play. Keep hosting those baseball camps and be there in person to connect with the next generation of players—while he can.

The big show
– In the movie Bull Durham, all Tim Robbins’ character cares about is making it to “the Show”—the majors. There are countless kids who can’t afford to go to a game, let alone the World Series. Clemens can make a pledge to send kids from New York, Boston, Toronto and Houston to the World Series.

This may seem like window dressing, like putting lipstick on a pig. It’s not. Like him or not, believe him or not, Clemens has a seminal opportunity before his new trial starts to do more than he already has; to do something that will have lasting impact so that if the trial doesn’t go his way, and he goes away, he can be remembered for more than being the guy who lied to Congress about taking steroids.

Step up to the mound now and go for it, Rocket. You have everything to lose.

Ashley McCown is president of Solomon McCown & Co., a Boston-based strategic communications firm. She can be reached on Twitter at @CrisisBostonPR.