Clemens was making more than $8 million a season in New York, which translated into a portfolio of expensive body parts: As physics go, the first 50 miles per hour of a pitch comes from the power of his legs ($4 million); the back and the shoulder generate the next 20 miles per hour ($1.6 million); and finally, the arm, elbow, hand, and wrist, 30 miles per hour (for a combined $2.4 million). In effect, Clemens made McNamee the CEO of his body, anointing him with the power to scream at him during workouts (“Suck it up!”) and control his diet, from the contents of his power shakes to the dryness of his steaks. By then, according to the Mitchell Report, McNamee had become plugged in to a steroid-distribution circuit and was introducing human growth hormone (HGH) into Clemens’s diet. HGH would help Clemens recover more quickly after strenuous workouts and innings on the mound.
Other players, seeing how Clemens valued McNamee, sought him out. Soon, pitcher Andy Pettitte, who revered Clemens, too, became a regular workout partner with him and McNamee. “It was definitely a good relationship,” says C.J. Nitkowski, a former pitcher for the Houston Astros who went to St. John’s and was also invited to train with Clemens and McNamee. “Those guys loved him as a trainer.”
But McNamee’s growing sense of confidence—some would call it cockiness—as Clemens’s trainer put him into a heated dispute over training techniques with the Yankees’ pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyre, manager Joe Torre’s old friend. As time went on, McNamee’s intensity rubbed Torre the wrong way, too. It hardly mattered. Clemens wanted him around, and by 2001, McNamee was part of the Yankees’ traveling entourage.
During the off-season, Clemens would invite McNamee to stay in the pool house at his lavish Houston estate so that they could continue their training sessions. On breaks from their workouts, McNamee would bat and catch with Clemens’s sons. He and Clemens joked that McNamee was his Kato Kaelin.
McNamee was in awe of Clemens. “He saw Roger as this enormous figure,” says a friend. “He adored the guy. There was this extreme level of reverence.” And McNamee’s relationship to the pitcher made him important, too. “McNamee got off on being the guy that Clemens deferred to,” says Pat Jordan, a veteran sportswriter who spent time with the two men in 2001. “The ‘greatest pitcher of our generation blah blah blah’ would have to ask McNamee what he could have for dinner, and McNamee got off on it. He was officious about it. He was pissed off I was intruding on their intimacy.”
McNamee’s friends say the relationship wasn’t one-sided. Clemens was generous with McNamee, donating memorabilia to a charity auction for his diabetic son, Brian Jr. The boy, now 10, was obsessed with him, and Clemens would call him when he was feeling ill, or show up to have his picture taken with his Little League team.
By then, McNamee had begun to parlay his connection to Clemens into business opportunities, selling nutritional supplements, weight belts, and vitamins. In advertisements, he called himself Dr. Brian McNamee, Ph.D. (He’d earned a doctoral degree from a mail-order college to beef up his credentials as a trainer.) He bragged that his workouts were so intense that he paid for liability insurance in case Clemens was injured. Such was his need to take credit for Clemens’s success that he went out of his way to rebut an op-ed in the New York Times that called for baseball to come clean about steroid use among record-breaking players. The story didn’t mention Clemens, but McNamee responded with a letter titled “Don’t Be So Quick to Prejudge All That Power,” which called the article an “insult” to behind-the-scenes guys like him.
Back in Breezy Point, McNamee was a minor celebrity. His neighbors hit him up for autographs and free tickets. He was a guest on radio programs, and he developed relationships with reporters at Sports Illustrated and ESPN. He was a made man.
“There are status rewards to being loyal to them,” says Owen Kelly, a college friend who played ball with McNamee. “Put those in the corner with the type of person that Brian is and you have the culmination of what happened to him.”
It is what it is, and it’s not good. And I want it to go away. And I’m with you. I’m in your corner. I don’t want this to happen. But I’d also like not to go to jail, too.
There are strange events in McNamee’s history: ugly rumors, exaggerations, half-truths, gaps in the narrative. McNamee has claimed recently that he was hospitalized for stress and offered seven figures to appear on TV. Neither is true. When McNamee said George Mitchell hugged him after he finally told him he had injected Clemens, his own lawyer had to admit it “didn’t happen” that way.