Roger Clemens is used to playing hardball, so it came as no surprise that the first reaction out of his camp when he was busted in the Mitchell Report was to throw a high, hard one inside to try and knock down Brian McNamee.
It didn't work, largely because Clemens was hiding behind his lawyer when he did it, and no one believes anything attorneys have to say anyway. Next came another denial in an online video that was not only met with almost universal scorn but turned into an amusing parody with some creative editing.
Now Clemens goes before the nation Sunday night on ``60 Minutes'' in his latest attempt to explain everything. He may play hardball, but his buddy, Mike Wallace, likely will serve up softball questions.
Tune in anyway, because this is where it really gets interesting. To have any hope of public rehabilitation, Clemens must move past simply proclaiming himself innocent and ignorant and go after the man who made the charges against him.
But trying to discredit McNamee won't be easy. It's a giant gamble for Clemens, one that possibly could lead to answering questions in forums not nearly as appealing as a ``60 Minutes'' set.
And McNamee doesn't seem to be in any mood to take one for the team.
The news that McNamee now has a noted New York lawyer who won't be scared to play a little hardball of his own had to be troubling to the Clemens' camp, even as they wrapped up the ``60 Minutes'' taping and headed off to a family vacation in the Bahamas.
How McNamee can afford Richard D. Emery on a trainer's salary is a question for another time. But he's on board, and the civil liberties lawyer made it clear right away that Clemens and his equally high-priced attorneys better step carefully if they don't want to end up in front of a judge themselves.
Clemens, it turns out, isn't the only one with a reputation to protect.
``He's at the edge of a cliff, and he's going to have to decide whether to back away or jump,'' Emery said Monday in a telephone interview. ``He'll be putting his head in the noose of a profoundly powerful civil case, and could also potentially be putting himself in a very serious perjury situation. If he wants to be that foolhardy, be my guest.''
Clemens seems to be following a scorched earth policy in a desperate, and likely futile, attempt to clear his name. A similar strategy worked for fellow Texan Lance Armstrong, whose threat to sue anyone who ever intimated he did something illegal to win all those bike races in France quieted any chatter about what he did to keep in such good shape.
But Clemens faces something Armstrong never had - an accuser who not only had no reason to lie about shooting the pitcher up with steroids but who faced prosecution from the feds if he did lie about it. And don't forget that Clemens' close friend, Andy Pettitte, basically admitted that what McNamee said about him was true.
More bad news for Clemens is that he can't win a ``he said, he said'' battle with McNamee. It's too late for that because most of the people who need convincing are already convinced that he was juiced.
Even fellow pitcher Curt Schilling already has said Clemens should give up the four Cy Young awards he won since 1997 unless he can refute the charges. To do that, Clemens must do more than say he didn't know what was being shot into his rear end. That hasn't worked for Barry Bonds, and it didn't work for Rafael Palmeiro, among others.
Don't be surprised if you hear Clemens tell Wallace he thought all he was getting were B-12 vitamin shots, just like Palmeiro. Do be surprised if Wallace asks why those shots were given in hotel rooms and restrooms, not in a doctor's office.
In the end, no matter what Clemens says it won't be enough unless he throws McNamee under the bus. Judging from the fact he's already got investigators out trying to dig up dirt on his former trainer, that's likely - defamation suit or not.
A lawsuit by McNamee could force both to testify in court under oath. Too much protesting by Clemens could prompt one of two congressional committees to call both as witnesses.
If Clemens is truly innocent, neither should deter him. Let him raise his right hand and testify under threat of criminal charges, and let's see where the truth leads.
Until then, he can appear on ``60 Minutes'' every week, and he'll still be considered a cheat in the court of public opinion.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at

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