Clemens has said he was shocked to find his name in the report, but that was disingenuous. Wracked with guilt, McNamee had reached out to Clemens to warn him, prompting Clemens’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, to send two investigators to question him before the report landed. McNamee talked to them for two hours, confessing everything that he told Mitchell. The conversation was recorded, unbeknownst to McNamee. (The tape has not yet been made public, but Clemens’s lawyers have turned it over to the congressional committee.)
After the Mitchell Report was released, McNamee continued reaching out to Clemens, even though it potentially jeopardized his cooperation deal with federal agents. In late December or early January, he sent an e-mail to Clemens asking him to call Brian Jr., who had had a blood test that week that showed an abnormality. When Clemens called, he didn’t talk to Brian Jr. Surrounded by lawyers and agents, the phone hooked up to a tape recorder, he spoke only to McNamee. Three days later, Clemens held a press conference and released the tape of that conversation to announce his defamation suit against McNamee.
Despite all the hoopla surrounding its release, the recording itself was strangely inconclusive, demonstrating McNamee’s emotional state but not much about the truth. Even Clemens’s lawyer admitted the conversation was “really, really weird,” with Clemens questioning McNamee about “why [he] did it” and McNamee pleading desperately with Clemens to tell him what to do, offering to go to jail to make amends.
Clemens’s denials hadn’t bothered McNamee, but revealing his son’s illness on national TV crossed the line. When McNamee’s wife, Eileen, saw the press conference, she began crying, infuriated at Clemens: “I can’t believe that son of a bitch!” she screamed to a neighbor. Soon, reporters were invading Breezy Point, and Eileen had to send the kids to the basement so they wouldn’t hear people banging on the door. McNamee “felt horrible,” says Piccione. “It’s scary for the kids.”
The incident also left McNamee even more volatile and confused. Maybe Clemens didn’t care about him in the same way. “I’m sure he was under the illusion that he was a friend of Roger’s,” says Owen Kelly, who recently took McNamee out for dinner to cheer him up. “I don’t think the public really understands how closely Brian worked with these guys.”
Since then, things have gotten even uglier, with Clemens’s lawyers unearthing details about McNamee’s Florida incident and McNamee fighting back by suggesting Clemens engaged in unspecified “extracurricular activities.” The he-said-he-said will culminate on February 13, when both McNamee and Clemens will be asked to testify under oath before a congressional panel on steroid use in baseball. McNamee is expected to talk about the unsavory details of the sixteen injections of steroids and human growth hormone he allegedly gave Clemens in 1998, 2000, and 2001 along with an abscess McNamee says Clemens developed on his left buttock. Clemens is expected to maintain his claim that the injections McNamee gave him were vitamins and argue that McNamee simply gave investigators a big name to get himself off the hook.
McNamee’s credibility could be an issue, although Pettitte has admitted he received HGH injections from the trainer. And as Jon Heyman, the Sports Illustrated reporter to whom McNamee previously denied Clemens’s steroid involvement, puts it, “Nobody in their right mind would pick this precise moment [to say], ‘Now I’m going to start lying.’ ” But it might be enough for Clemens to create doubt, have it all end in a cloud of unprovable suspicion.
In the end, McNamee has come to think of his loyalty as his worst character flaw. The cognitive dissonance of trying to have it both ways—avoid jail and remain loyal to Clemens—has left him shattered. “I know this is killing him and he is not himself,” says a friend. “He’s trying to hold himself together.”